Grabbing People’s Attention

You have ten seconds. That’s it. Take any longer and they’re gone. It’s true of nearly anything now a days. If someone is going to read your blog, play your game or listen to your podcast.

People generally make some snap decisions based on what they can see to evaluate if something is worth their time. The decisions they make aren’t always logical ones either. For books and board games one of the things people subconsciously do is to weigh the book or box. They don’t even know they’re doing it. Board game makers will tell you, if they pick it up and the box feels too light, the person will decide that the game is not worth their money as if the bulk of a game defines how fun it will be. I’ve noticed people do this with books. A heavy book impresses people.

Online, people can’t weigh your blog but they still use some illogical measurements to evaluate it. For one, color is a big factor. While there is the readability factor, even when that isn’t an issue people will reject a site with a color scheme they don’t like. It’s like a person’s preference for color defines the merit of their writing.

What this means for GMs

Thankfully, if a person already plays RPGs, a lot of the work of grabbing their attention is in those three little letters R P and G. They know what you’re talking about and all you need to do is tack on a few more words “Star Wars”, “Mouseguard” or “The Artifact” (okay, not in the same league) to grab their attention. But what about someone who hasn’t played before? How do you grab their attention? I think this is one of the most difficult sales pitches out there. You have to deliver why RPGs are fun in ten seconds or they’re not sold.

Sometimes if someone hangs around for an hour (usually more) they start to pick up on the fun but getting that initial sales pitch right is viciously hard. Usually pictures are good for conveying larger amounts of information in short amounts of time. After all a picture is worth a thousand words (try saying a thousand words in ten seconds). This is exactly why board games have pictures on the box and books have pictures on the cover. They’re part of that ten second sales pitch. Flipping through a book with pictures can help but there’s a hang up. Hit a picture the person doesn’t like and you may loose the pitch. If they see one flaw that bothers them, you’ve lost them.

We’ve all heard the “It’s like being the people in the book/movie.” pitch. I don’t think I’ve ever had someone say “Ooh yeah, that sounds like fun!” to that pitch. Almost universally that pitch doesn’t work. Added to that, playing an RPG is a slow and often complex process. Explaining how to play as a sales pitch is guaranteed to confuse a potential player.

So what is to be done?

Be enthusiastic, not overly so, just enough that you convey that you enjoy playing. Knowing the person you’re introducing to Role Playing helps because you’ll know what they like but can also be a pitfall because they likely won’t link what they like with the game until they’ve played it.

Role Playing is a social game and is probably best explained that way. It’s a time to really enjoy being with your friends. Sure there are people that play with strangers but most of the time players are introduced by friends.

Role Playing is also a time to be creative. You have to be careful with that thought because a lot of people don’t think of themselves as creative and may mentally shut themselves out of being able to play.

RPGs are also a very deep rabbit hole and I think that people can sense that. They also seem to be afraid of doing it “wrong”, not realizing that most of us do it wrong in some sense or another. I think it’s important to reassure them that a big part of a successful game is when the players work together which makes everyone at the table want them to do well.

How would you explain it?

In the comments, give it a shot! See if you can explain role playing in a new and exciting way. It has to fit within 10 seconds! The answer that is judged to be the best will get a free copy of The Artifact RPG Economy (the B&W version) mailed to them!

Deadline is by Gen Con Indy. Multiple entries by the same person are allowed.


Filed under GM Advice

12 Responses to Grabbing People’s Attention

  1. Ten seconds of speech? I’m sorry, but I don’t that’s enough time. According to Wikipedia, the average fluent English speaking adult can fully comprehend only 300 words per minute. That would make it 50 words in 10 seconds. Even if we pretended that we all spoke as fast as the fastest English Language speaker (637 words per minute), and pretended that the listener could understand (which they probably wouldn’t be able to) that would only give us 106 words in which to convince others. I suggest putting a limit of 300 words – one minute of speech.


    • Loc

      I don’t expect a dissertation. A sentence or two is the idea. We always expect to have minutes, when all that people are giving us is enough time for a tagline. Get the tagline right and they’ll give you minutes. Get it wrong and anything you say after that is a waste of breath. I admit it’s not easy or I would have come up with it already.

      • So, 50 words? I’m not going to convince you otherwise, eh? Okay – I’ll give it a try.

        “Movies, Video Games, Television, Books – what do these have in common? They are all multibillion dollar industries that tell stories – and we pay a premium price for them. There is an alternative, more interactive than video games, for pocket change! Let me tell you about role playing games…”

  2. Something like this?

    It has silence at the beginning and end (since some players and encoders like to truncate the stream early), but the content is right around 10 seconds. Still might need to tweak the levels a bit. I have one or two less rushed slogans to record if it’s allowed.

    • Loc

      It’s even got the enthusiasm built in. 🙂

      The audio is a nice bonus but to anyone else looking to enter, it’s not required.

  3. Re-posted from
    * A book, a few friends, a handful of dice, and limitless possibility.

    * Some people play for a couple of points and bragging rights. Others gamble for a few dollars. When we play, we save worlds.

    * You take the blue book – the story begins, you wake up in an unknown star-ship, and believe you’re near Centauri Prime. You take the red book – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the Labyrinth goes. (Yes, this paraphrased from “The Matrix”)

    * Because you can’t but “last of their kind transhuman space-pirate destined to topple the empire” on your actual resume.

    * Batteries, lag, network outages, our style of role-playing has none of that.

    * Sixty dollars spent on videogames grants you twenty hours of staring at a screen, shouting at people you’ve never met. Sixty dollars spent on RPG materials means months of adventures with your best friends.

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  5. Might as well add a few more so the list doesn’t seem so threadbare.

    If you want to go anywhere and be anything, all you need is a few rules in your head and dice in your hand.

    Its like being the star of your own movie. With no props, script, budget, or back end scale compensation rights. (OK, You might not be Alec McGuninness, but you can still have fun.)

    Good stories end when you close the book. Great stories continue when you open the book with friends.

    Thrives on Thursday, Smugglers Saturday, Mercenaries Monday – but heroes all the time. RPGs make the world a better place, one roll at a time.

    Critical thinking, resource management, probability, asset optimization, strategic movement, negotiation – skills for real life, and skills for players. Make yourself a better person, one die at a time.

    The first rule is have fun. The rest is just details.

    Rule number one is enjoy the game. Rule seven-hundred fifty-eight has something to do with four-slice toasters, but it probably won’t come to that.

    If you don’t find it awesome, you just simply haven’t found the game that fits you yet. Keep trying, there is an RPG for you out there.

  6. Dan Houser

    You’ve been shot in the arm by federal agents, you’re on the top of a tenement slum, and they’re just about to break down the roof access door. What do you do?

    The young man in your arms is unconscious, but thankfully your superhuman abilities may get him to the hospital in time…when a fire breaks out between you and the ER. What do you do?

    I roll dice, and I find out. That’s a role-playing game.

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