In August I played a game of Dogs in the Vineyard with my friends Jenskot and Forager. For reasons of mutual convenience we played in the lobby of the Citigroup Center and over the course of four hours five people came up to us, very curious about what we were doing. (We also got chased out of the building by security.)
We tried our best to explain–“It’s like a movie, kind of”–and may have persuaded a particularly interested young woman to go home and buy a copy of Dogs. People were friendly, curious, and they had no clue this kind of thing even existed. There were several other D&D 4e players at the venue, and clearly whatever we were doing was very different to on-lookers.
This led to some speculation on NerdNYC, and we started to dream big. In New York, there are these gourmet lunch trucks that drive around the city, using Twitter to meet up with customers. Naturally our thoughts turned to buying a truck and forming a roaming lunchtime gaming squad, using grants for funding etc. (This is so awesome, but it is so far in the future after so much work, that we might as well forget about it.)
This led to a conversation with my girlfriend:
ME: . . . So me and Jenskot are kicking around ways to game with non-gamers.
GIRLFRIEND: Yes, your Outreach to Investment Bankers idea. It’s silly.
ME: It’s not so silly.
GIRLFRIEND: You are never going to have a truck driving around New York.
ME: We could write a grant!
GIRLFRIEND: Are you going to have Gandalf parallel park for you?
ME: . . . The truck is not the important thing. Right now we’re trying to think of venues were we’d meet lots of interested non-gamers.
GIRLFRIEND: What about senior centers?
ME: ? ? ?
GIRLFRIEND: They’re playing Wii now. And the ones at Lyman’s Orchard were playing Apples to Apples. So maybe they’d like to play your kind of games.
ME: . . .
GIRLFRIEND: You could volunteer, they would like the company. You could go on family visit days and teach them something to do with their grandkids. I mean, that’s just one example. There are all kinds of populations you never seem to think about, who might be into your games.
ME: ! ! !
GIRLFRIEND: You better give me credit when you talk about this on the Internet.
Anyway, this is a long way of saying, our group and our extended friends are actively doing field research on public interest in gaming. The first step in getting our Gamer Truck is figuring out public demand for it! Or rather, even if we never get the truck, we want to do some out-reach on behalf of gaming in general. Tonight we’ll be playing Zombie Cinema and, if we have time, How to Host a Dungeon (about which more later, when their website’s not broken). We’ll be playing these games as “bait” to lure new people into the hobby.
Here’s why this is relevant to Old School games: we are old. Already, a huge chunk of “our” history is lost, and we owe a lot of thanks to the hard work of guys like James Mishler, RandallS, and James Malizewski in helping to recover our heritage in this silly hobby.
Unless we bring in new blood, however, all of that work will be for nothing. So our gang of players is testing what works to get more people into role-playing in general, and from there, try to see if anyone’s into Old-Timey Dungeons & Dragons – because we think that it deserves to be part of the future of gaming, as well as its past.