Know your audience

18th May 2009 – 8.37 pm

Larísa over at the Pink Pigtail Inn is concerned about the marginalisation experienced by gamers when discussing weekend activities, pointing out that any description of a successful weekend in World of Warcraft would cause non-gamers' eyes to glaze over in stark contrast to similar weekend stories by people with 'regular' activities. I disagree, and consider it more a matter of scope.

It may be that people can talk about their football matches, rounds of golf, or theatre performances, but if they go in to too much detail, whether it is about every poor decision made by the referee, how their swing changed over the round, or tedious backstage gossip, their listeners' eyes will just as quickly glaze over unless they too share the passion of the pastime. Just so with World of Warcraft. In any subject there is a general amount of information that can be discussed and a level of politeness that one can expect from friends and colleagues without any prior knowledge on their part.

Think about an activity you know nothing about and ask yourself how you would react if a colleague talked to you at length about it. It's possible you would show interest, even if you're feigning it a little to be socially polite, just as it is likely that your eyes would glaze over because of a lack of comprehension. If you can tell a good story you have an advantage, otherwise keep it simple and offer a broad picture of what you have been up to. You may be surprised just how interested people can be in any activity that makes their friends or colleagues happy.

It is true that if you try to explain that you got a gem with +23 spellpower from a daily fishing quest, that this is a rare find as a reward and how much gold it can sell for on the auction house, you really shouldn't expect anyone but other WoW players to be interested. However, in understanding this it becomes possible to craft a more general anecdote about gaming, making it as simplistic as possible such that your enthusiasm and positivity can make it relevant and interesting. Generate a more abstract level of detail and focus on how it made you feel or what the consequences were, the personal aspects that any empathising person can relate to.

Essentially, you need to know your audience. If they are gamers, particularly if they know the game you play, you can go in to a fair bit of detail about your fabulous speed run through an instance. But if you are dealing with others it is unfair to expect them to show interest in obtuse, jargon-heavy subjects. And don't feel unduly ignored just because you play computer games and others don't. The fact that there are so many unconventional gamers playing social games like World of Warcraft shows that you are not alone. Just moderate your enthusiasm until the right time and place.

I can assure you, everyone either has to withhold the specifics of their personal adventures or risk boring others stupid, just as they can also share general information about their hobbies and expect a warm reception from anyone with an ounce of social skills. But the worst thing you can do is start with the perception that no one is interested as it will affect the delivery and come across poorly. Be as happy and enthusiastic as we all are about our games and, with time, friends and colleagues will end up asking us whether we finally got that last boss down without having to start the conversation ourselves. Just don't forget to listen and show and interest in them too!

  1. 4 Responses to “Know your audience”

  2. Once I tempted fate and boldly said, "Last night I led a fleet of 30 other persons in a battleships battle but sadly we lost and 7 of us were killed" and it was true. It went better than expected!

    By Mohenna on May 19, 2009

  3. How can people not be interested in epic space battles! I'm glad it worked out for you.

    I think MMORPG players have an advantage in that our stories of fun and excitement generally involve collaborating with other people, lending a social element.

    By pjharvey on May 19, 2009

  4. Know your audience. Hmm so true. Even though this post is over a year old it's as relevant then as it is today. And really a very well thoughtfully written post as well.

    People who play the same games cam very much share same or similar interest or to learn of details of events of game. I no doubt spend an ungodly amount of time reading lots of blogs for different reasons. What I do like about yours is as you said early in the post some liking a good story and enjoying the details of such a story. And as the audience I like both. How meaning full is the story? Very!

    Meaningful enough that when I did find your blog a while back now I stumbled upon it doing lots of EVE research linking from blog to blog. When I found yours I read it and found the story just captivating as you told it. I could both share in and learn from the experience through fresh eyes with interest starting my own new journey. I found it so interesting I started reading each post backwards slowly. Being your posts were so consistence daily I figured I wanted to read the entire journey as reading backwards I just didn't get the best picture going forward daily. So I went all the way back to the beginning reading and found the start of your journey as a "space cadet". And whenever I had time here and there I read each post with interest going forward understanding the journey that much better of ones perspective and overcoming in detail yet with a very good interesting story reading.

    For a audience like me I enjoy the story and the detail both enough and quite captivating that I found the beginning and reading it in total. Because very much so I'll have to live through many those same decisions you already went through. You can get allot of wisdom from someone elses experience and details of it and foolish not to learn something as well from their experience having gone through it before one does.

    So a year backwards daily reading forward. A captivating story. I for one obviously enjoys the details.

    By Ardent Defender on Aug 19, 2010

  5. Thanks, AD, I appreciate all your feedback and kind comments. It's enough to make me blush.

    By pjharvey on Aug 20, 2010

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