"I'm Not Good Enough to Play Here"
Only about 6% of Magic players participate in organized tournaments.
Why aren't those other 94% playing in stores? The fear of being critiqued for lack of game knowledge and tournament experience, or even worries about fitting into a tight-knit group of regulars, may prevent some new or "kitchen table" players from trying out in-store events.
We asked members of our WPN Facebook group to share how they've helped players overcome these concerns. Here's what they had to say:
This advice makes good sense, no matter what business you're in:
Be friendly and chat with the new player. They're more likely to listen to advice from someone they feel they can trust and understands their fears.—Whitman Bottiger, Critical Hit Games
According to Harvard Business School, people judge you (and by extension your business) based on how much they can trust and respect you, so it pays to begin building that trust from the first time a new customer enters your shop.
A personal touch can help as well.
Sit down and play with them and talk to them about how they can improve.—Brian Gillespie, Wandering Havoc Games
Many stores take advantage of our no-charge Welcome Decks to use for demos as they are specifically designed to ease newer players into the game.
Retailers encourage players to combine two of these decks to create a Standard deck and then invite them play at Friday Night Magic.
I explain how the pairings work, that in later rounds you will likely be paired against, someone near your level. I also stress that if it's their goal to get better, the only way to do that is to play against as many players you can.—Reggie Kemp, LANSlide Game Center
But it's not all up to you.
Create a Welcoming Community
The most common sentiment of the retailers who responded to our Facebook question was this:
Foster an environment where playing is more important than winning, [and] everyone is making sure new players are welcome and worthy of their attention and advice.—Bryan Winter of I'm Board! Games & Family Fun
And there's a lot you can do to create that kind of welcoming community in your store.
Post your Customer Code of Conduct so that your players know you don't tolerate unfriendly, unsportsmanlike behavior . . . —Steve Carpenter, Gamer's Gambit, CT
Making those expectations clear creates a positive cycle that benefits new players and regulars.
... Even our most experienced gamers love to sit with new/newer players and teach them.—Anna Warren Cebrian, Isle of Gamers
Provide Targeted Experiences
Take a look at your event calendar and guide new players to the events with the lowest barriers to entry.
We explain the many opportunities and types of events we run, from Casual Monday, Commander Thursday, our three FNMs, and our 'Sparks' event for new/more casual players.—Rhonda Becker of The Gamers Den
And above all else . . .
Focus on the Fun
Downplay the competitive aspects and focus on the casual, the 'fun'.—Nate Petersen, Backstage Hobbies and Games
Want more advice like this from other WPN retailers? Join our WPN Facebook group!
How do you help draw new players to in-store play? Tell us about it at WPNStories@wizards.com and your store could be featured in an upcoming article.