I've been playing D&D for, well, let's say a lot of years, and my attention span isn't what it used to be either. It's not about youth, it's just about the culture we live in and what we're used to. I can't imagine how the 10-year-old version of me learned basic Dungeons and Dragons from the old blue book games that I got back in 1981. If you handed me that game today, there is no way I would have the patience to learn it. And I'm a pretty smart guy, I do this for a living. But it's just a different time.Now, on the face of it, the quote comes across as ... how do I say this charitably? Well, let's just say that the quote is probably one that, in retrospect, Mr Collins will likely wish he'd never made, since it suggests that people today lack the attention span of those living in decades past, particularly given that what he said was in response to a question about the "short attention span of the new gamer."
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that Andy Collins wasn't speaking primarily of attention spans now versus those in the past, even though he makes reference to that in the beginning of his answer. More important, I think, is his statement that "it's just about the culture we live in and what we're used to." I actually think he's right about that; the culture we live in, both the wider culture and the culture of the hobby, is no longer very welcoming to the presentation adopted by OD&D, AD&D, or even the various Basic Sets, from Holmes to Mentzer. Those games are written for a different culture and, unless one was raised in that culture and keeps its ways alive, they probably would seem impenetrable, even to "pretty smart" guys like Mr Collins.
"The Old Ways," as I often call them are out of step with what people are used to nowadays. Visit any blog or forum where someone who didn't play old school D&D back in the day takes a look at one of its rulebooks and you're likely to see it called "incomplete," "poorly written," "unclear," and similar things and it's not because the reader is stupid or lacks imagination, let alone interest. Rather, it's because, more than likely, he's used to rulebooks being written in a particular way and the old books don't conform to it. On the other hand, those of us who first experienced the hobby through, say, the Holmes rules find them very easy to understand and to use, their "gaps" being expected, even welcomed things rather than occasions for complaint. By the same token, the way that most modern RPGs are written seem to us to be cramped, unnecessarily complex, and largely lacking in the creative lacunae we associate with the medium. It really is a question of culture.
What this means is that the Old Ways are something that many people no longer know instinctively, including those who once possessed it, as Andy Collins suggests he did when he was a mere lad of 10. Fortunately, the Old Ways are not completely lost; they can still be learned, if one is interested in doing so. Preserving those ways so that they can be passed on to those who wish to learn them is a big part of what I enjoy about writing this blog and, if my email correspondence and comments are to be believed, what others enjoy about reading it. I'd be surprised if other old school bloggers didn't have similar experiences with their own efforts. If Andy Collins is to be believed on this score, we have our work cut out for us.