How can we spread Go?

By | 2010-03-14

Go game The population of Go players in Asia, specially in Korea, China and Japan, is enormous, compared with the tiny group of people who plays Go in Europe and America. Why? How can we spread Go effectively in Europe? That’s the million Euro question!

In Europe people learn to play too late and too badly. Usually a Go player learns to play at the University, because he meets other players, specially studying technical degrees. Sometimes he learns a bit earlier, during High School, because he reads Hikaru No Go, and gets interest on Go. Usually a new player learns the rules and start to play games, lots of games, usually on Internet, without even read a book. The result is a careless style of playing, in which the luck most of the time decides the result of each game.

In Korea it’s just the opposite. Children learn to play really young. They have baduk (Go) academies, mostly like we have in Europe language academies or martial arts academies. Children don’t play a lot, but study books, specially life&death problems. Later they develop their own style, with solid foundations.

Moreover, in Europe people sell Go the worst way. Usually they say to non-players things like “this is like Chess, but 4 times more difficult”. Or “Chess is just a knife fight in a lift, Go is a real war, really complex”. So the idea people get is “Go is a rare thing, too complex for me”. Usually this kind of selling only works for logical minds, that is, people with a maths, physics or computer science background. As a corollary, there are not so many female players in Europe, because there are more males interested in technical degrees.

Paul Smith, from the British Go Association, did an interesting work [PDF], analysing the image of Go we’re creating.

Anyway, in my opinion there are 2 mistakes with this usual selling:
1.- comparing Go (rare thing) to Chess (well known thing)
2.- Go is complex.
As an analogy, imagine that somebody sells electric cars, telling you “it’s better than a normal car, and 4 times more complex”. People will choose the old well known thing, and supposedly easier thing, always.

So, we need a market study to tell us how to sell Go properly.