[MUD-Dev] "sweeping change"?

Michael Tresca talien at toast.net
Sat Nov 17 10:52:34 New Zealand Daylight Time 2001


Mike Sellers posted on Tuesday, November 13, 2001 9:36 PM

> Not this time.  I really enjoy table-top gaming too, from Settlers
> of Catan to D&Dv3 these days.  But paper RPG games are today's
> buggy whips: no one but deeply insular aficionados know or care
> about them.  GAMA conventions are sad, lonely halls of people
> barely hanging on to their dreams and trying not to think about
> their second mortgages and print runs of 5000 that may not sell.

Wow.

I mean...wow.

This is such a revealing, ignorant statement that I find myself
paralyzed trying to comprehend the implications of it all.  It's bad
enough it started with Raph, but to arrogantly pronounce
pen-and-paper RPGs as dead is to deny the hundreds, if not
thousands, of attendees at Gen Con.  Young attendees, I might add.

As we may all recall from the archives, someone good-naturedly
assumed that we'd all be going to Gen Con.  Because we're GAMERS
right?  I mean, surely, any guy (or gal) who is going to try to
create a massive, in-depth, fantasy gaming universe is going to stay
in touch with his gaming roots.  Right?

Wrong.  Said person (forgive me if you're out there, I don't
remember who posted it) was then soundly chastised.  No, he was
told, we are not all role-players.  Nor should we be.  We're
programmers, damn you, and role-playing is for old guys with beards.
Be gone!

This was deeply disturbing to me, disturbing in a way that I
intentionally forgot it.  But this new thread has really revealed
those statements to be quite accurate -- it's not just "We're not
role-players," it's "We're not role-players and you stupid
role-players know nothing about gaming!"

Egads!  What madness is this?

I will gladly submit that not everyone who has a vested interest in
making a fantasy MMORPG (please note the R-P-G) should be a
role-player.  But to act as if this is a bad thing to be, as if it
is somehow a less perfect form of game creation is just outright
snobbery.

RPGs are not dead.  But then, I suppose it depends on your
definition of "dead.":

  1) RPGs are still fun to play.  I enjoy them.  I encounter
  thousands of people at RPG.net who agree with me.  In that sense,
  they are not dead.  

  2) RPGs are still played.  However, as we get older, get jobs,
  have families, it becomes increasingly more difficult to actually
  role-play in person.  Does this skew the perceptions of the
  "grognards" who now like to say that RPGs are not like the good
  ole days?  Yes.  Does this mean RPGs are dead?  No.  Just a
  perception due to the age group.  

  3) RPGs, as games, were the inspiration for so many Rogue, Ultima,
  Everquest, games.  How do we know this?  Because you can see it in
  the unintentional biases: colored-dragons, awkward terms like
  "fighter", "cleric", and "monk". To deny tabletop RPGs and not see
  them as valuable inspiration is to deny the games we're already
  playing.  

  4) RPGs are not what they used to be.  They have matured
  significantly.  People actually care about both rules and the
  fiction involved in the game's creation.  Some entire niches are
  aimed at a more mature audience (White Wolf, until recently).  If
  you played old D&D, you are not likely to see gamers in the same
  places as you did before -- in fact, they may not look like gamers
  at all.  All praise the Vampire RPG, which lured the extremely
  dateable hordes of goth chicks to gaming.  As a social event,
  role-playing lives on.  You just need to know where to find it.

  5) Online gaming has to regularly compete with role-players.  When
  I say that, I mean that I've seen players on Asheron's Call,
  Everquest, and RetroMUD, say "Gotta go, going to go role-play
  tonight."  Know what?  They see in person role-playing as the
  pinnacle of gaming.  To them, MMORPGs are an interim fix for
  someone who doesn't have enough friends to play.  In some sense,
  just as the computer gamers are sneering at the role-players, the
  role-players are sneering at the computer gamers.  

  6) Is it commercially viable?  Thanks to the open gaming license
  (OGL) of Wizards of the Coast, you're damned straight it is.  I
  counted no less than 30 new gaming companies that were at Gen Con,
  all around the OGL.  I've recently published my own work (and got
  paid, thank you) and the money is still coming in.  Will it make
  as much as computer RPGs?  Unlikely.  Don't forget: the CRPG
  market has now taken much of the younger demographic that tabletop
  RPGs once held.  Does this mean RPGs are dead?  No sir.  Is it a
  less commercial demographic?  Yep.  Do we, as we age, begin to
  feel like the only people commercials cater to are those young
  kids with the cash in their pockets?  Yes.

And there it is.  We feel role-playing is dead because as adults,
it's hard to really role-play.  The convenience of MMORPGs, or
CRPGs, is their immediate availability.  But there are, and always
will be, downsides.  As a veteran of Internet games since pre-Web, I
encountered enough people that I no longer WANT to game with random
strangers.  I want to game with all my buddies -- basically, try to
recreate the RPG experience.  But we're older.  My friends have
moved.  I have moved.  When we do get together, time is so precious,
it's hard to tell the wife, "We're going to game for the rest of the
day, we'll socialize next year."

This is what the people want.  Neverwinter Nights will prove me out.

Mike "Talien" Tresca
RetroMUD Administrator
http://www.retromud.org/talien


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