What RPGs Could Learn From Pro Wrestling

In the 19th century wrestling was a big deal. People loved watching a good match. Towns would have their local champions and these champions would battle for the best in the region.

But wrestling had a big problem. Sometimes a match would take hours to finish, maybe even days. This meant that people would eventually lose interest in a match and stop paying to see the next match.

The guys that organized these matches didn’t like that. Even if you have a wrestling fan, you don’t know if they’ll show to see the next match. You don’t know if they’ll keep paying you.

RPGs have a similar problem. They usually take a long time to play. Even if someone likes RPGs, they may not have time to invest in reading a new game. They may not have the time to sit down and play through a session. They may find parts of the game fun but would like to get to the good stuff.

So what did wrestling do? They made the matches shorter. They encouraged wrestlers to use the moves that really got spectators attention.

How did they make the matches shorter? Well, that’s where this gets weird. They lied, they fixed the matches, they even have a word for it. Kayfabe, meaning keep it fake. It’s why the WWF changed to the WWE. It isn’t about a match to see who’s the best wrestler and hope that it entertains spectators. It’s about a match that pretends to see who’s the best, to make sure that spectators are entertained.

In some ways that’s a much more technical endeavor. You have to know what people want and give them more of it. You have to pretend you’re doing one thing (combat) and while you’re doing another (acting out a story).

So how can RPGs do that? I’ll write about that tomorrow.


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