The Dungeons & Dragons Guide to Social Media (a preview)
I’ll be posting the rest of this tomorrow night, after I present it to SEMPDX. If you’re in Portland, stop by and say hi.
[tooltip content="This is just a preview. When I put a presentation together, I find myself constantly dismantling/rebuilding it, right up to the last minute. So what I end up with tomorrow night may be totally different than what I write here. This blog post rambles. It roams. It's utterly random. But it helps me focus and get my thoughts together. And I'm always interested in feedback.
"]A brief disclaimer[/tooltip].
This post rambles so much I figured I’d better give you a quick outline:
- How I met my wife (and learned that nerdy games had become cool)
- How D&D became respectable (not)
- And now, social media
- The rules
How I met my wife (and learned that nerdy games had become cool)
My wife is cool. Dawn dresses cool, acts cool, eats cool. She knows how to describe wine. She’s been places like Australia. She can dance (really well). She’s just… cool.
I am not cool. I eat food because otherwise I’d die. I can’t tell great wine from vinegar. While I’ve been to Israel and Italy, I spent my time there gawping like one more feckless American tourist. I dance like someone rammed a cattle prod somewhere unspeakable. And, I play Dungeons & Dragons. As well as Ars Magica, Warhammer 40k, Battletech, Star Wars Role Playing and a host of other games so obscure even other gamer nerds look at me like I’m insane.
All of this matters, a lot, because I wouldn’t have had a chance in hell of meeting her, never mind marrying her, except that we met on a bicycle trip in Spain. It was a perfect environment: I was far, far separated from Dorky Ian. From Dungeons & Dragons playing Ian.
But we kept dating after the trip. I’d fly up to Calgary every few weeks. After the third trip, I realized I had to tell Dawn my Secret: Once a week, I got together with friends and pretended I was a spell-slinging wizard, or a warrior noble from 40,000 AD.
I figured once I told Dawn, she’d drop me like a dried turd. However, with a shocking sense of clarity I realized hiding gaming— an activity that had occupied 6,100 hours of my life to date—wasn’t a good foundation for a healthy relationship. So I took a deep breath and confessed.
Dawn didn’t throw me out of her condo. She didn’t even avoid eye contact or punch me in the liver.[tooltip content="She has a blue belt in Karate. See? Cool."]*[/tooltip]
She was intrigued. She told all her friends about me and my gaming weirdness. The next time I was in Calgary, they all wanted to know: Did I really play D&D?
And they weren’t asking it the same way you’d ask “Do you really have radiation poisoning?” They were interested.
Somehow, somewhere along the way, being a ‘gamer’ had become something other than a reason for people to give you a wedgie.
How D&D became respectable (not)
The truth is, role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons are still the realm of fringe weirdos like myself and Wil Wheaton.[tooltip content="He's cooler than me, of course. But still a weirdo."]*[/tooltip]
D&D has wormed its way into mainstream consciousness, the same way a lot of nerd culture has in recent years.
It happened because nerd culture started bringing the game to them, with movies (like Lord of the Rings) and video games (like World of Warcraft). Everyone’s become a consumer of gamer culture, like it or not.
And now we come to social media
[tooltip content="I call it 'internet social media' because social media's been around since we were hitting each other with sticks"]Internet social media’s[/tooltip] on the same trajectory, only faster. The folks who saw the rise of gamer culture coming have done pretty well for themselves. While it may feel like social media is old news, it’s not. For all those internet muggles out there, it’s just barely getting started.
If we can figure out how to bring social media to them, instead of making them come to it, we might do pretty well for ourselves, too.
Here’s how I think we do it:
- Don’t be a Troll. I can only explain this one in person.
- Be the Dungeon Master.
- Make it safe. Social has to happen wherever the customer wants to be.
- Make numbers the framework, not the wallpaper. All of the ranking systems inherent in social media will have to become invisible.
- Build an economy. Still figuring this one out.
- Become a little cynical, because social media, like D&D, requires a unique combination of cynicism and make-believe.
- Build a Monster Manual: Make it easy to tell who the enemy is.
- Learn the language.
- Set the mood.
When I started writing this as a blog post, it felt like a good idea. Now I feel like I just loudly farted in a crowded elevator.
Feel free to exit at the next floor. I’ll be posting a completed version of this tomorrow.