Positive/Negative Language

This is not something I’ve thought about a lot on a conscious level until recently; generally whenever I am trying to sell my players on the virtues of a new system I prefer to point out the positives of adopting the new system rather than the negatives of the old. I’ve never consciously made that as a decision, it just always seemed like a logical thing to do; for example, recently I approached my group about bring our Star Wars campaign under the umbrella of theĀ Tides of Change Star Wars RP club.

For those of you who may not be aware, Tides of Change is a roleplay club where GMs run a series of loosely linked campaigns using the Fantasy Flight Games Star Wars RPG; GMs share rumours between games creating the feel of a larger universe, it also uses an innovative mechanic where in each game Tide Changes (plot twists) are proposed and the members of the club then vote on them in a facebook poll. The one with the most votes becomes the twist that occurs in the game.

Tides of Changes is chaired by Andre Martinez.

I didn’t want to spring such a change on my players so we had a series of votes in our campaign facebook group and discussions about what moving our campaign into Tides of Change would mean; I pointed out the positives of this, some of which included:

  • Being part of a larger game universe.
  • Use of the very interesting variant mechanics proposed by the group.
  • Support from a larger community.
  • Exposure to a wider audience.

At no point did I cast any aspersions on our current way of running things or say that there was anything wrong with our current method of gaming, partly because there wasn’t, but also I find that if you tend to portray things with a focus on the negative then people tend to respond negatively to them, whereas if you point out the positives then their reaction often (not always) mirrors this approach.

Contrast for instance if someone comes up to you at work and says “you’re doing this wrong”, you’re more likely to respond negatively in a knee-jerk fashion than if someone says “it might be better if you do this.”

I actively noticed this recently on a LARP Facebook group I belong to where people were setting out guidelines/dos and don’ts for the event, and I as I read them I noticed that I was becoming progressively more disenchanted with the idea of actually attending; I realised as I went through that this was due in part to the negative language being used, everything was “don’t do this” and “don’t do that”, the assumption seeming to be that people would behave like idiots, and this rankled me somewhat (although I am aware their are idiots out there).

It’s definitely something worth keeping in mind though whenever you’re trying to sell players a new game or campaign setting, focus on the positive points of whatever you’re trying to get across to them rather than the negatives of other things.