The 90-9-1 Rule

I just got pointed to this excellent article on selling the game Dread at a horror convention (in the larger context of some posts by Vincent Baker on the topic—follow the links for the full thing). The bit that really stood out:

There’s a very useful rule of thumb when designing any kind of participatory activity: the 90-9-1 rule. 90% of people just want to show up and consume content. 9% will perform some contributions, while only 1% will be truly creatively engaged.

If you follow the link in that you’ll get a little more background on the 90-9-1 rule (also called the 1% rule) and there’s a wikipedia entry as well.

Just to reiterate the point from Jessica Hammer: a major issue in gaming is that so many products are aimed at the 1%.

This is a stumbling block for games that require customization just to be played. D&D Next comes to mind, what with the modular approach that’s been the main topic so far. Maybe this is just because they’re marketing to the 1% right now, but a lot of the conversation has been about how you’ll customize the game (something that the 90% aren’t particularly interested in).

It’s a powerful argument for just telling people how to play instead of making GM-ing a learned skill that takes a while to pick up. At least for a game meant for a broad audience—there’s certainly space for specialty games that demand more contribution. But if your goal is a accessible game you’ve got to reach as hard as possible for that 90% group. I’m sure there are plenty of potential gaming groups out there who are held back by the fact they’re all in the 90%.