Riichi’s Elevator Pitch

The constant struggle to teach. That really should be Riichi Mahjong’s byline. As Sisyphus pushed his stone up the hill, we also push our boulder up a hill of impenetrable vocabulary, rules, and manners, only to watch it roll all the way back down the hill with our first “Why wasn’t I allowed to ron that?”

Part of our problem is we start off with poor foundations. People may have no real concept of the rules but most have SEEN the game. Unfortunately, usually that’s on a computer screen with a solitary players. Those who may have ventured further East or are lucky enough to be in the NMJL community may have an idea of the basic process, but what another rule set is doing may still be a foreign language to all intents.

Marketing the Game

How many of us have stumbled when asked: “So what exactly is this game?” Some of us may have some set phrases… “It’s like rummy and poker and bridge.” But most of the time we’re really not communicating anything. Our messaging is inconsistent and raises more questions than it answers. As a community we need to develop a consistent Elevator Pitch.

What’s an Elevator Pitch? I had also never heard of this before I started working with Farpoint Productions on Masters of Mahjong. Basically it’s a challenge to explain what your movie is about in the time it takes to complete a ride on an elevator.


Let’s break down what we need to communicate when someone asks us to explain the game.

Who, what, why: A game, 4 people, turn-based, suit tiles, collecting set combinations to score most points.

We can then add some of the “exotic” stuff that might pique interest…

Game invented in China, modified in Japan.

And finally to make sure they understand:

Nothing to do with the solitaire game.

That’s basically three sentences… This is my attempt to try and make this a coherent paragraph I could spout at someone on some sort of driveby marketing pitch:

Riichi is a tile game where four people take turns to draw from a wall, using suits to form combinations and score points. The game originated in China but our modern rule set is entirely Japanese. It has nothing to do with the solitaire computer game.

The final sentence or two should be something about where you could find out more. Your club or the www.worldriichi.org page etc.

We’re all mad men now

In many senses. We all need to get out there and market riichi. Constantly and to everyone who will listen. Maybe my pitch above isn’t the greatest but it summarizes what riichi is about succinctly. If we can all practice a similar 3-5 sentences that we can roll off with confidence, it will stop us getting tongue-tied as we try to explain why riichi is special.