I received an email today from a gamer.

He wanted to give me some helpful tips about MARS:

“I just wanted to mention something about Mars, the roleplaying game of planetary romance. For a long time I didn’t really take it seriously as a game I might like to play. The reason? The name suggests that it is a RPG equivalent of a so called “chick flick” because of the reference to “planetary romance”. I have a feeling lots of other men may have the same first impression. I know a lot of other men aren’t particularly interested in that theme.

I noticed you’ve been promoting it a lot and, I infer, that it hasn’t sold terribly well. This might be the reason why.”

I pointed out to this chucklehead that Planetary Romance is the established name of the genre; that MARS is selling quite well (our best-selling product this year and its only been out for 2 months); that publishers promote products — that’s what we do; and lastly, that his aversion to the word “romance” is somewhat immature, and really doesn’t speak well of him.

Naturally, I’ve received the expected reply that he was “only trying to help”, that I’m a big old Meanie-head, and that he’s going to have “nothing to do with me or my products ever again.”

I don’t think he quite grasps the fact that a customer who has problems with the word “romance” because it reminds him of OMG ICKY GROSS GIRL STUFF EWWWWW!!!1!!1! is really not the sort of customer that I want.

Then, of course, I’m struck by the realization that there are probably more gamers that are like him than ones who aren’t.


25 Replies to “FunnySad”

  1. “Then, of course, I’m struck by the realization that there are probably more gamers that are like him than ones who aren’t.”

    Only until he/they grows up and discovers girls…

  2. Was said chucklehead (a) American, or (b) over the age of 30? While I’ve encountered the term “planetary romance” I’ve never seen the term used outside of the US, and I can’t remember the last time I saw it appear on a book. Probably a John Norman Gor book was the last thing I saw.

  3. The issue is not the unfamiliarity with the term, but the fact that “romance” was apparently undesirable for its “so-called ‘chick flick'” implications.

    I can understand someone not being familiar with a fairly obscure genre. I can’t understand (or tolerate, truthfully), gender-role immaturity.

  4. This man must be strapped down and forced to read Jane Austen and the Bronte Sisters. Just tell him it’s Hemingway and it’ll be alright.

  5. So if, as you suspect, there are more immature gamers of his ilk than mature ones, does it follow that you’d rather not have them playing your games than court the demographic?

  6. I appreciate your take on this and I think a lot of it has to do with a common lack of familiarity with the genre.

    I spent a decade working in retail bookstores, so I had a good number of people (some of whom could be classified as idiots) ask me a lot of stupid questions. My boss at Barnes & Noble had some time to work with the management staff and we talked about how a customer complaint can also be an opportunity. The person that’s telling you something may not always be terribly articulate, but often they’re providing you with a chance to sell them something, and all they’re looking for is validation of what criticism they’re offering.

    How I would address this: I would thank the guy for taking the time to contact me, and explain that I think I know how the term might have provided confusion and point him to the wikipedia page on planetary romance, which explains the elements of the genre. I would probably also send him a link to a sample .pdf of “Mars”, so he could check it out for himself or a small discount coupon on the title or something.

    It’s a very small industry, and word of mouth is an incredibly useful tool.

    I’m definitely not trying to second guess you or say you did the wrong thing or tell you how to run your business. I’m just offering another perspective.

  7. A long time ago, I decided that I wouldn’t write games for people that I wouldn’t want to have in my own game group. The term I used was “I write games for people who ‘get it’, not for those who don’t.”

    Or, to quote the translation of the motto of Hogshead Games: “Life’s too short to deal with fuckwits.”

    If that means that I am, by this decision, cutting myself off from a larger demographic, then so be it.

  8. That’s a creative choice, and more power to you for having the conviction to do that. What you lose in profits you gain in integrity. Pity the politicians haen’t worked that one out.

  9. As I said above, it wasn’t the unfamiliarity that I took issue with — it was the immaturity. Romance=ick girl stuff.

    Yes, word of mouth can be useful — but then again, common wisdom via word of mouth is that I’m an internet ogre and I cannot easily count the number of people who have screamed OMG BOYCOTT!!! to me.

    And yet….

    I’m one of the top PDF publishers, and one of very few small publishers (PDF *or* Print) who can do this as my sole income….so apparently word-of-mouth regarding quality product trumps word-of-mouth regarding me being a meanie-head.




  11. It’s not always about integrity, though. In my experience, it’s about joy.

    In this industry, we’re just not going to be paid what our time is worth. We’re not. No matter who we cater to. So, the best thing we can do is ensure a little enjoyment out of what we do – and one of the best methods I’ve seen for that is avoiding the temptation to sell a couple more copies of a book by dumbing it down and catering to the chuckleheads. It’s not worthwhile.


  12. Bingo. Exactly right.

    If I’m already going to be appealing to a niche, it might as well be a niche that I *like.*

  13. I get joy from gaming as a hobby, but I make way more money in my day job.

    I spent the last 2 years negotiating for a game licence to kick off a new business, but at the end of the day the numbers didn’t stack up.

    I guess I was lucky to get a decent job early on, but I just couldn’t afford to do what Gareth does. Not comfortably. And certainly not without courting markets I wouldn’t want to game with.

  14. well, if your going to pick holes… Theres also a /she amd /boys missing too. But I was trying to be nice and suggest that the vast majority of people grow up and discover the gender of their choice and in doing so a change in perspective is likely to occur.

    We always have to make exceptions for people like George Bush jnr.

  15. How is this gender role immaturity, though?*

    If someone doesn’t feel interested in playing, say, Blue Rose (they might be more of a Warhammer-flavory person), and they base their game selection on this, then how is that gender role immaturity?

    *This is a request for clarification, not an attempt to imply that it isn’t gender role immaturity.

  16. Perhaps he would prefer “Sword and Planet”?

    Planetary Romance is probably my favorite genre. We’ll be publishing a significant chunk of the sub-genre’s major works over the course of the next two years, and with a John Carter movie in development, I think this “obscure” little genre isn’t going to stay obscure for long.

    We called “Iron Lords of Jupiter” a planetary romance game back in the Polyhedron days, and it was one of our more popular mini-games. There is a real hunger for this type of adventure story out there, in my view.

  17. I recently tried to pitch a Sword and Planet game to the videogame developers I work for; it went fine, and then the issue of genre came up – I mentioned that the genre was on the rise (what with Pixar expressing interest in the John Carter franchise and all) and was called Sword and Planet or Planetary Romance. Similarly, a room full of boys got all uncomfortable that this might be like a film their girlfriend would “make” them watch, and enthusiasm fizzled.

  18. Just let me get this completely and utterly straight…

    “O Hai, th titel of yr game makez it look liek teh suck. An u hav bin talkin bout it lots, so mustn’t b sellin'”

    “Actually, selling very well thanks. Name of game do not mean what you think it means.”

    “Fuck you”

    … Yeah, that’s a demographic to chase.

    I also fail to see how making games that rock and sell is somehow a “brave” move, compared to making games that compromise, suck, and probably don’t sell any more.

    But I have buckets of stupid today. So meh.

  19. “Infamy is as good for business as fame.”

    As a former employer of mine put it… “It doesn’t matter WHAT they call you, as long as they CALL you.”

    And I’m sure there’s a solid demographic out there who like “meanie-heads.” Afterall, how many times have we all really, really wished we had the guts to just cut loose on someone who we thought really deserved it? Being a nice guy all the time can give you ulcers. :)

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