Saturday, March 13, 2010

Requiem for a Golden Age

Reader Mike Stewart pointed me toward an editorial printed in issue 6 of Interplay: The Metagamer Dialogues, a bimonthly periodical published by Metagaming Concepts, a now-defunct game company perhaps most famous for having produced many of Steve Jackson's early game designs, including The Fantasy Trip. The editorial was penned by Metagaming's owner, Howard Thompson, who was one of the more colorful figures in the early history of the hobby, known for his strong and often contrarian opinions. Entitled "Requiem for a Golden Age," it's a lament for the passing of what Thompson considered the best days of the hobby.

It's an interesting editorial to me, not because I agree with its entirety -- I don't -- but because of its date: March/April 1982. One of the regular complaints about the old school movement is that it presents a revisionist view of history, one tainted by nostalgia. This Thompson editorial calls that particular complaint somewhat into question, as he's writing this not in 2010 looking back but in 1982, at exactly the time I consider to be the last years of the Golden Age. Moreover, Thompson wasn't the publisher of D&D and yet he nevertheless saw 1982 as a signal year for the hobby, thus at least partially answering another common complaint, namely that most old school histories of the hobby are too D&D-centric. None of this is to deny that Thompson's editorial is more than a little hysterical. I'm willing to forgive that, though, because he's clearly writing from the heart, reacting emotionally to a change that must have been obvious to him and others in 1982 -- a change that's even more apparent in retrospect.

Anyway, here's the entirety of the editorial. Read and enjoy. Also, play nice in the comments. I suspect that this post will generate a lot of spirited conversation and that's all to the good. But that's no excuse for incivility or opprobriousness, neither of which I'll tolerate here.

The development of adventure gaming has gone to new paths in the last few years. A Golden Age has passed, never to exist again. Gone are the days when D&D was a novelty enjoyed by a few hardy souls who could figure out a game to play from those initial, oh so disjointed rules. Gone are the halcyon days of SPI, when you got a steady diet of serious history, covering every conceivable conflict. Gone are the days when game companies were more concerned about the quality of their game's play than anything else.


What we have now in adventure gaming is the Age of Consumerism. I know it has arrived. The word was brought to me by a fellow who sells games in a store. The word went something like this: "The other day there were two mothers in the store bragging about what level D&D character their sons were". It sent chills down my spine. With that story I knew that adventure gaming had arrived at the pinnacle of our Consumerist culture. In our culture a product is "in" when people buy it only because everyone else is buying. You've got it made when that happens. Quality no longer matters, only name recognition has any relevance at that point. For a business that's the Holy Grail. Your product becomes divorced from any concept of quality, utility or value. It may even be desirable for the product to have NO quality, since it would only confuse the vacuous mentality of the consumer buyer. Having arrived, adventure gaming will willy-nilly sweep a few products along with it to commercial success. The mass of creative and imaginative effort put forth by the numerous small game firms will be still born in an echo of non-recognition. The steady diet of 'new' that the core gamer likes will be gone, along with the few stores that specialized in our kind of games. All that will be available will be a sprinkling of new items carefully tailored for the mass market Consumer.


REGRETS

Some will see this view as some sort of sour grapes, i.e. Metagaming is miffed that we did not get the prize. That's not true, Metagaming will be a profitable survivor. My regrets are for the passing of something worthwhile, a thing of value. For a few years in the 70s there existed a desire for and acceptance of a mental and social activity unperverted by Consumerist traits. It grew from game players, those who enjoyed the gift Charles Roberts gave us. It flourished in Jim Dunnigan's desire to publish realistic simulations. It sprang from Dave Arneson, who gave us role-playing. Those new to gaming will never know the spirit, the feel of what has passed. A Golden Age is gone and you missed it. All I can say is we had a wonderful time, wish you'd been there. If I could put my finger on a simple explanation of the change that has come it would be this. Those early gamers were leaders. The current crop of gamers, ever far more numerous, are mostly followers. The other major factor was a poor kid named Egbert. His tragic story propelled D&D into consumer awareness. The Lemming consumer mind then just had to buy what had been associated with such tragedy.


Consumerism is the state of mind that has to buy products that are the focus of attention. It's the 'Me too' people who apparently I by have no values, beliefs or worth beyond the products they own. By their possessions you will know them. Consumerism arises from two human motivations, the desire for attention and greed. In our country Consumerism has risen to dizzy, unbelievable heights of power. One would almost fear that it may become a genetic trait of our population. Nothing stands in its path, all are subverted. If you doubt the powers of consumerism you haven't heard about the Italian priest selling, no joke, Jesus Jeans. Consumerism destroyed a thing that I and many others valued. It has made adventure gaming just another product to be bought by the unknowing, uncaring, masses. There is a little of Egbert in all true gamers. A little loner, a little brilliance, a little surprise at the enjoyment gaming brought. For one I'd rather have those fewer dollars and have Egbert alive to work out his full life.


It must be hard to rest easy knowing your success was born in personal tragedy. It places a burden of responsibility on you that's hard to work off. Just how do you run a business with that in the back of your mind? If you're a Consumerist I guess you just never think about it. Those of us who've gamed for several years have witnessed the passing of an age. That time and feeling will never be again. I feel a sense of loss for what was. I also feel a resentment against the destructive power of consumerism to level something that was special to me. Hopefully, something of the old age and spirit will survive. If it does it will have to divorce itself from the Consumer branch of gaming. Metagaming will try to hold a place for the old ways. There will be others.


(Fade out to theme from Camelot)

99 comments:

  1. I'd posted this over at Dragonsfoot a year ago yesterday!

    But you missed one of the best parts: EGG's reply, which HT published in Issue #7:

    "Do you have any idea how humorous your editorial "Requiem For A Golden Age" is appearing immediately after your "Coming Distractions..." column? Remember on that page, Howard, your talking up your $10,000 treasure hunt? It's on the next page you damn consumerism.

    By the way, I wouldn't count out SPI covering serious history. With TSR managing it profitably, we just might continue the same policies they had.

    Happy grape eating!
    E. Gary Gygax
    President, TSR"

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  2. With TSR managing it profitably, we just might continue the same policies they had.

    Now there's irony for you. :)

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  3. While at the same time decrying the awful demon "consumerism" of the adventure gaming hobby he's running a company selling stuff. A couple of quick google and wikipedia searches show Metagaming Concepts sold a lot of stuff. I'm stopping here cuz it's not my house.

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  4. Something else worth noting: this is kind of classic Howard Thompson, and he expresses similar sentiments throughout his early issues of The Space Gamer as well. This editorial in I#6 was the most OTT expression of it, but he was always whining about the direction of The Industry at the time, and often saw himself and Metagaming as above it all. As much as I loved all-things-Metagaming from '78-'82, it was obvious even then that they were a victim of their own poor decisions. Just like SPI and countless others.

    Of course, HT was right about one thing: it really was the end of the Golden Age. :)

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  5. I think that's cutting commentary.

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  6. It's hard to disagree with his assessment.

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  7. "While at the same time decrying the awful demon 'consumerism' of the adventure gaming hobby he's running a company selling stuff."

    Very true. But does a man retain the ability to make a valid point once his own life is tainted by even the slightest hint of hypocrisy?

    I sure hope not. The world we've made for ourselves being the imperfect thing it is, I'd fear there might be *nobody* alive worth listening to then...

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  8. Of course, I meant to say: "I sure hope so." :)

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  9. That is the way with any human endevour, you want to carve a niche and keep just the early adopters without bringing in the mainstream who destory what was special, but it happens.

    While I missed that golden age I have similar feelings about the golden age of the internet. It was glorious, but in making a living in it, in making it important in the lives the early adopters, it invited in money and money leads to more people which leads to more money, etc.

    No different I imagine that frontier towns that eventually become big cities all of their own.

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  10. "Choke on the blood money swindled from the ignorant masses, TSR!"

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  11. Between the OGL, free games and piracy we are well beyond consumerism at this point

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  12. 28 years ago and haters were already trying to cut Gygax out of his legacy. Happy grape eating indeed!

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  13. I fear the repeat of this with regards to the OSR. That is, commercializing and chasing the all-mighty dollar will "willy-nilly sweep a few products along with it to commercial success. The mass of creative and imaginative effort put forth by the numerous small game firms will be still born in an echo of non-recognition." [Add/replace small game firms with DIY Hobbyists to taste]

    I can't help but think of AGP when reading that quote. OSRIC, and that other one I can't even remember the name of vis a vis success of LL and S&W.

    It won't happen exactly the same, and it wasn't and won't/can't ever be a total destruction of DIY/Indy scene (people will still create like they've done for 30+ years. Almost no one will listen though). The broad brush strokes will follow the usual pattern. Niche thing gets on the radar, it is mainstreamed/commercialized/changed beyond the niche's recognition, exploited for all it's worth, then discarded by commercial and consumers as a has been fad and the original niche doing what they've always done are scoffed at / disdained for being nostalgic/old/etc.

    Like we've both said, maybe it won't happen. This time. I bring it up in hope that people will stop it. But, that dollar > anything I or anyone else can say.

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  14. What an obnoxious elitist.

    Incidentally, I found it interesting that his editorial doesn't mention Gary Gygax.

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  15. Change a few terms and this would be someone's complaint about how early White Wolf was good but they've sold out now / these people who are a couple of years younger than me don't play it properly. He doesn't say "role-playing not roll-playing", but no doubt he would have if he'd thought of it.

    Some people will always find a way to elevate themselves by expressing contempt for the general population, even if it's by means of something as inconsequential as ways of pretending to be an elf.

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  16. Thank you for posting this. In spite of all the comments, no one has looked up 1982 on Wikipedia?

    Among the assorted silliness of Western Civilization, there are two items of note that I feel should be mentioned. Shame on everyone for not remembering...

    1. In the 'updated' section at the bottom, Wikipedia mentions the severe recession in the United States. I don't believe in random 'paradigm shifts to consumerism'. When recessions occur ANYTHING involving paper as a raw material should show some kind of turbulence, and that involves the books that we all bought that would provide inspiration for a lot of gaming efforts (pulp fantasy and history books for wargaming, etc.)

    2. In January, an interesting new gadget was released. I can remember seeing it in the back of KMart... the Commodore 64. This was huge...

    While I would not argue about 'Golden Ages' in gaming, it might be more valuable to study the shift in the distribution 'media'. Perhaps the computer was seen as more of a 'paperless distribution method' (back then) of 'electronic' adventure games and it wasn't the content of classic RPGs that was seen as problematic or expensive... perhaps it was the 'pencil and paper' part of it.

    Conversions in format are tricky, and marketers are very good at controlling our perception. Forgive a crude analogy, but if gaming shifted from paper to digital, me may find something useful in studying music sales. Examine this graphic, showing the total sales of different media formats:http://cache.gawker.com/assets/images/gizmodo/2009/08/musicforweb2.gif
    One would think that the MP3 format dwarfed vinyl and cassettes from how much money Apple and others make, but the graphic tells a different story, and a more interesting (and honest) graphic might show the overhead cost of each format.

    A secondary point I would present is that while corporate greed is always a factor, there may some kind of search for 'easier money' from certain companies (take a moment and consider how many people the office PC left unemployed), without regard for its impact on the market on the whole.

    Sorry for the long comment.

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  17. Consumerism (materialism) is what happens to the Theory of Capitalism when you add humans. Like Communism, the theory looks good on paper, but kinda sucks when actual people try to do it. Both fail to include human nature into the equation. So let it be known that I am no fan of Consumerism. But since that's the umbrella we live under currently, one generally has to eat a little crow, learn to live with a bit of hypocrisy, and make the best of what reality has granted.

    I disagree with blaming consumerism for the changes that naturally occur in a culture, though. Whenever something changes, there will be those who say it was better before. Some said the art of film-making would die when sound was introduced. Some say that Austin, TX was so much cooler before [insert group of people] moved in. I even sometimes look back on my childhood fondly, despite the fact that an objective assessment would place it firmly in the "it sucked" category.

    Nostalgia occurs. There is no need to prop up a boogeyman to place the blame on. Those who came before will always view the past through slightly rosier lenses and the grass is always greener yesterday.

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  18. I seem to remember that editorial, and as I recall I rolled my 16-year-old eyes then too. As Yogi Berra once said, "no one goes there anymore, it's too crowded." Everyone involved in a niche activity treasures their status as insiders, and dreads the influx of barbarians. I could tell you tales from when the Grateful Dead had a top ten hit and concerts were inundated with clueless newbies!

    But I have to disagree with the "end of the Golden Age" comment. 1982 was the start of a new age in gaming. Class&Level systems started seeing competition from systems like Champions. A second wave of designers began producing some very good games. And yes, the hobby moved into the sunlight a little.

    Interesting bit of nostalgia.

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  19. Gridlore makes a great point. I was a die hard Anime/Manga fan back when almost no one was.

    That is to say, Anime was awesome when friends or relatives overseas were sending you cool toys and vhs tapes with the commericals on them and no translation. Now Anime is on TV and Manga is in every Barnes & Noble and Waldenbooks in America. It still like it but its no longer special.

    I'm also not so big on the Golden Age the more I think about it. Some of my favorite games and ones I still play today came after 82'...actually, most of them did. How many RPGs were there before 1982? Like 5? 6? Certainly the Silver Age gave us more diversity.

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  20. Between the OGL, free games and piracy we are well beyond consumerism at this point

    Never underestimate the power of capitalism. Really. Nothing is as ephemeral as a Wild West.

    This is complicated business: reception is a necessary and powerful part of communication. Games in particular rely on and are changed by gaming publics as well as by authors. And markets and marketers are powerful forces, and it doesn't take much to poison the well.

    When the nature of the public changes, the games change, and things of value pass, for all of us. I'm sympathetic to Thomson: he wanted to reach out to a public with something he valued, and he saw that public shift under him, and he saw the value drain out of what he was doing.

    As for the fact that he was selling games, that doesn't invalidate the fact that he was spurred to create by a certain kind of activity or reception. The logic of capitalism already always gets the last word, the business press already exists to tell us all that nothing matters but the bottom line, and that anyone who gets into business with any value but money making is a fool. I don't think it needs cheering on here.

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  21. We were a LOT younger then than now. First thing that comes to mind is "You sell stuff to make money to sell more stuff to...". Without consumers, you don't have a business. (thank you Econ 101!)

    Second, he was mortified at the loss of his uniqueness.

    But, a whole lot of water has ran under the bridge since then. Novelty and nostelga aside, we've made GREAT strides since then. From all the great systems, publishers, and product, they're still there, in one form or another (we would have never dreamed of Ebay or Amazon in '82 - you went to Waldenbooks, or, happened upon a Dragon magazine with gamestore ads to mail/call to).

    I lived in Pittsburgh, and only found the only hobby store downtown by mistakenly when Dad drove down Smithfield, crossed over the Blvd of Allies, and it was there on the corner. Soon after, I found another up near Pitt University.

    Now, hobby stores (and, this blog, like many others) are as close as a web browser. I have one fairly close, when there were countless to choose from in the mid 80's. Times have changed.

    It was a golden age because it was unique. It lost its luster when 'everyone' wanted to slay dragons, watch the cartoons on Saturday TV, and those opposed demonized it like they did Elvis, the English Invasion, etc. alienate it, and more will flock to it.

    We are where we are, for better or worse. And, its far better here now than then....

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  22. An aside. Though I've read the term before, it just struck me that I really like "adventure gaming" to describe what my friends and I do. Maybe calling it that will prevent people from thinking its all about costumes and funny voices.

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  23. Wow. How arrogant and isolationist can one be.

    "I heard, now get this, moms, that's right, oh god, someone get a medic for that guy in the back, he's swooned, MOMS I say, talking about D&D. It's the end. The bloody end I tells you!"

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  24. RPGObjects, as a gamer, wine nut, and a Deadhead, I'm very familiar with the isolationist train of thought. People want to think that their participation in some esoteric hobby is unique and elite. We have our coded speech, special social conventions and legends, and inner circle of leaders and influences. When it goes mainstream, some people can't handle it.

    About the wine thing. I'm a huge fan of Pinot Noirs from the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA. Last summer I was at a tasting, and the vinter mentioned that this was going to be his big year, going from producing 60 cases to 400. One person stormed out, shouting that if this was going to be popular, he might as well drink Kendall-Jackson (a grave insult in wineaux circles.)

    The wine hadn't changed, but just the appearance of non-elite status was enough to drive someone into a rage.

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  25. 2 things I see/don't see in comments:

    1- Being a Consumer is not the same thing as Consumerism. In general, Consumerism can be thought of as Being-a-Consumer-run-amok. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consumerism for a more thoughtful discussion.

    2- I am glad scottsz brought up what was going on in 1982. I also looked something up: The movie "Wall Street" with its "Greed is Good" tagline was released in 1987. Compensate for shopping a script, a year of production, and a year or 2 for observations to percolate into a script...

    Something was going on in the early 80s and some people were sensing a sea change in how business was being done in the U.S. (Heck...the world!)

    Fast forward 25 years and we can see how those changes have affected things.

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  26. Thanks for the post as always, Grognardia has become one of my favorite rest spots on the internet. I am fairly new to some of the terminology that is used here and on associated blogs. Golden age is one of those terms. I never really thought of the beginning of the hobby as the “golden age.” I guess I am reluctant to make any part of the past over idealized, even with a hobby. Certainly there was uniqueness, freshness and raw creativity in the beginning of the hobby in the 1970’s that we cannot go back to, but I get an appreciation for it anytime I introduce new players to the game. I really don’t care what they play, as long as they enjoy it. I have had a number of spin off groups that have adapted the game in various ways.
    While I may be tempted to lament consumerism with many of the above postings, I have never felted that the hobby has been overly tainted or ruined by it. I do find it a tad bit ironic that Mr. Thompson laments the effect of consumerism on the hobby when he provided one of the avenues for consumerism to infiltrate the hobby. I don’t know that quantity necessarily precludes quality, he seems to lament that that lemmings were invading the hobby. There is a real part of me that smiles at the “I was here first” mentality that colors his editorial. I have some fond memories of Commodore 64s and Model Ts, but I would only own one for nostalgia sake not for actual use. I don’t think I consider either of those products as “Golden Age” representatives of their product, just part of the beginning of it effecting the main culture of the day. Anyway, back to hurling myself into the sea!

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  27. Plus later in the issue HT mentions that Metagaming had sold a million microgames at this (1982) point. Can you imagine what Adventure Gaming co.s nowadays would do for such sales numbers?

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  28. @ Myth: 1- Being a Consumer is not the same thing as Consumerism. In general, Consumerism can be thought of as Being-a-Consumer-run-amok. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consumerism for a more thoughtful discussion.

    This is true.

    However, when your "proof" that consumerism has corrupted the RPG market is the presence of kids and their MOMS (*gasp*) you are nothing but an elitist jerk.

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  29. And the conversation devolves once again.

    I can own a blackberry because it has apps that are enjoyable, useful or critical to my success. Or I can own a blackberry because everyone else has one, and it has become a status symbol.

    I would not accuse someone of being an elitist, simply because they thought the former was appropriate, while the later was not.

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  30. "About the wine thing. I'm a huge fan of Pinot Noirs from the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA. Last summer I was at a tasting, and the vinter mentioned that this was going to be his big year, going from producing 60 cases to 400. One person stormed out, shouting that if this was going to be popular, he might as well drink Kendall-Jackson (a grave insult in wineaux circles.)The wine hadn't changed, but just the appearance of non-elite status was enough to drive someone into a rage."

    You know what, I'm pretty skeptical of this. I wish we had a record of the actual incident, because I'm doubtful that the storm-out-ee actually said that.

    It seems to me that it's pretty unlikely for a vinter to increase their output by almost x7 without somehow altering their process, and for that altered process to change the end product.

    Many times I've seen someone make this critique ("your radically altered process will damage the product!") and get shouted down as being elitist ("you're really just unhappy that you're not in the cool crowd anymore!"). Hence my skepticism.

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  31. I have been playing D&D since 1977 and to me, the 'Golden Ages' of gaming have been based on the groups I was playing with not so much what was going on in the hobby. At various times, Champions, D&D, Call of Cthulu, Runequest, FATE or some other system was central to our play, but it has always been the group that made things great.

    And, while it was fun to be part of an esoteric clique of gamers, I like it much more know that I can find other players worldwide both physically and through this internet thing.

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  32. How many RPGs were there before 1982? Like 5? 6?

    I think you left off some zeros! Even accounting for updated versions/variations between '73 and '81, there were at least 50, and about half of those are titles that are still considered notable today, and included most of the genres we still play in today (fantasy, sci-fi, post-apoc, spy, supers, etc.).

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  33. @ Paladin: I can own a blackberry because it has apps that are enjoyable, useful or critical to my success. Or I can own a blackberry because everyone else has one, and it has become a status symbol.

    I would not accuse someone of being an elitist, simply because they thought the former was appropriate, while the later was not.

    Right, but you're missing the important point. He didn't hear someone in a game store say "my son has a blackberry because everyone has one".

    He heard Moms in a store talking about their sons playing D&D, and thus knew the golden age had passed.

    I think elitist is most definitely the appropriate word for that idea.

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  34. actually, he reported hearing the moms discussing their kids' bragging about their characters' levels - that should set some alarms ringing in this crowd here, shouldn't it? The high-level character as status symbol? It bespeaks a particular attitude to gaming that Thompson found objectionable. Perhaps that level-status thing is invisible now because it's so pervasive - from Pokemon to WoW levels translate directly into status, but I can see why it would dismay Thompson in 82.

    As for being an elitist, what's actually intrinsically wrong with that?

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  35. Oh, and: Something was going on in the early 80s and some people were sensing a sea change

    Yes. In Britain we called it Thatcherism, or sometimes "the now me decade." I think it's no accident that RPGs, among many other things, were invented in the late 60s/early 70s: at least if op-ed writers were to be believed in the 80s everyone had given up experimenting in 1979 and decided to cash in. Of course, it wasn't quite like that in fact, but there was a definite shift around that time to the valorizing of market forces that we take for granted today.

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  36. @ richard: As for being an elitist, what's actually intrinsically wrong with that?

    I always thought it was cool when what I liked was very popular.

    For one thing, that means there will be more of it!

    I also like to share the things I enjoy. A good meal is way better when I cook it for someone else.

    Elitism is one of the worst traits a person can have. It speaks of arrogance, of hubris, two other qualities this article has in abundance.

    He's a leader he says, yet he has nothing but contempt for his "followers", those folks who had the audacity to discover gaming after him and decide that they liked it too.

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  37. Delta, the vinter in question had acquired additional acreage from a defunct winery, and secured some venture capital. This was well known in local wine circles.

    The reaction that this label (which has since changed hands) was no longer a special elite thing known only to Bay Area wine snobs, but would now be sold to the unwashed masses.

    Same reaction as seeing "mundanes" discussing D&D provoked in HT. I saw similar things happen when the Grateful Dead had a hit with Touch of Grey and Dead shows were overrun with people who expected a rock concert. Many older Deadheads expressed outrage over the whole thing, really upset that the band was attracting new fans.

    anyone else remember Eternal September?

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  38. Geez, the guy was fundamentally right, and he gets shouted down today as "elitist".

    I remember a debate from one of my philosophy classes. For Ancient Greeks (Aristotle), pride was the "crown of the virtues". For Christians (Catholics), pride is the foremost of the deadly sins. I've always found myself aligned with the former. The "elitist" complaint seems very oddball.

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  39. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  40. "I saw similar things happen when the Grateful Dead had a hit with Touch of Grey and Dead shows were overrun with people who expected a rock concert. Many older Deadheads expressed outrage over the whole thing..."

    Sure, I remember Touch of Grey. I'd be upset if I was a Dead fan and couldn't get a good seat anymore. I'd be upset if people were yakking at shows and distracting me from the music and the activities that had existed before then (which I've seen with other bands). More recently, I enjoyed the Silversun Pickups most when I saw them close-up with about 30 other people.

    The performance and its reception changes when you make the decision to switch to a larger venue. It's a legitimate, practical issue.

    The complaint is not about more people enjoying the same thing I do -- that's a mis-attribution. The complaint is that I don't have the same product or performance that I used to enjoy.

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  41. Interesting editorial, though HT had a few loose screws. Certainly, it is typical of his OTT response to everything, which culminated in his abrupt decision to close Metagaming down about a year later, and then crawl under a rock for the next 30 odd years...

    Frankly, HT was something of a hypocritical Asshat. In a number of editorials and comments he blathers about how the gamers are what's important, and then turns around and stabs them in the back in the most sincere way imaginable, by not only closing down his firm (and screwing over the employees) but stubbornly clinging to the copyrights out of sheer spite (he wouldn't let Steve Jackson buy back TFT for anything less than a ridiculous $250,000). Which on the one hand is fine - it's his property. But to claim that he "cares about gamers" and then refuse to let the system be republished (all because of an irrational, petty feud with original creator of the rules - more on that in a second) in spite of a rather significant fan base, well, that is just the very definition of "Asshat", in my book.

    And this does not even include HT's stupid little vendetta against Steve Jackson after the latter went and formed his own company. Some of the stuff, like "Fistful of Turkeys", bordered on libel/slander. The utterly frivolous lawsuits that HT filed to try to derail Jackson's new company were despicable. It is significant to note that Jackson never once, to my knowledge, disparaged HT in any way.

    Finally, as a big fan of TFT, it really cheezes me off to know that several TFT related materials were imminently to be released, and would have been had HT been able to contain himself for a few more months.

    Sorry for the rant, but I've wanted to say that for some time now...

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  42. I think we might have missed a few interesting bits of his idea. There's two that most appeal to me and ring a bell in my own gaming, buying, selling and reading experience, here they are:

    1.It may even be desirable for the product to have NO quality, since it would only confuse the vacuous mentality of the consumer buyer.

    2.If it does it will have to divorce itself from the Consumer branch of gaming.

    It seems so obvious to me that a great many products are deliberately designed with a low-quality focus as far as their immediate use in gaming and designing is concerned, as is obvious the aforementioned divorce in the Old School-DIY aim that most of us posters here share.

    That doesn't mean that none of us would be happy to sell millions. I would, you would, we all would and we'd change a lot of things in our products in order to do so. Thing is, as far as I'm concerned, I don't change products to split them, nor to lower their import or to follow a rising trend and my idea of "change" doesn't fit with the standards that would allow me to sell millions. Quite naively, I'm still tangled with the idea that actually improving the quality of a product will take it to better sales. As Thompson points it (however biased), quite the contrary. It is worth mentioning. We're miles away from industry standards, because industry standards don't bother the least with quality the way we do (quality isn't about a nice cover and layout, etc). We do.

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  43. I think this is one of my all time favourite posts on Grognardia. It hits and and illuminates a hard to see target. A lot of fragments I'd known about are forming into a more cohesive pattern. Thanks.

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  44. We may all have a little hypocrite in us, but don't tell me to not smoke crack as you are selling me weed. The whole old school, golden age thing in my opinion is BS. We are in a golden age, when else in the history of the hobby has more material be more available, to more people.

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  45. Popular = consumerist? Hmmm.

    Part of me is saddened to see the acres of expensive 'essential materials' for what was once a simple pen and paper and dice game. I was the poor kid in the 'golden age' and feel for them now...

    but the game is the thing, and they just keep on playing. and there's more of us than ever. and with the web, we can find each other sooooo much easier.

    So, i'm neutral. But I know how the guy felt in 1982.

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  46. Interesting editorial for 1982. It strikes me that it would have been just as timely in the late 90's when Magic steamrollered the whole distribution chain and put many small publishers out of business. It could also have been written a few years later when WOTC took over D&D and the OGL deep-sixed any non d20 rpg for about a decade.

    There have been many "Ages" of gaming. It's had a bit of a renaissance with the euro-games and lately the boutique/indie rpgs, including the OSR. But it's been in decline since the PCs became available. D&D begot computer games and ironically computer games are emulate by latest editions of D&D. They task the referee and players to do all type of tedious record keeping and look-ups - tasks better suited to a computer! Old School for me.

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  47. No different I imagine that frontier towns that eventually become big cities all of their own.

    That's a very apt comment, I think. It's not that big cities, to borrow your analogy, are necessarily bad things; it's more that I am very sympathetic to those who miss the smaller, rougher life of the frontier towns and mourn their passing. As I get older, I find I have plenty of my own "frontier towns" I mourn as well.

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  48. Like we've both said, maybe it won't happen. This time. I bring it up in hope that people will stop it. But, that dollar > anything I or anyone else can say.

    True. Fortunately, roleplaying isn't the fad it once was -- certainly not old school roleplaying anyway -- so there's a fair bit less incentive for anyone to try commercialize it in the way it happened in the past.

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  49. Sorry for the long comment.

    No need to apologize; that was a very interesting comment and one I'll need to think on further. Thanks!

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  50. But I have to disagree with the "end of the Golden Age" comment. 1982 was the start of a new age in gaming.

    I think reasonable people can disagree over whether or not the age that passed in 1982 was a "golden" one or not, but the fact that we're both in agreement that something was changing at that time suggests to me that it really was and that it just wasn't a figment of someone's imagination, as is sometimes claimed nowadays.

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  51. How many RPGs were there before 1982? Like 5? 6? Certainly the Silver Age gave us more diversity.

    Well, the Silver Age gave us more games, certainly, but I don't see the earlier age as any less diverse. There were dozens of RPGs produced between 1974 and 1982, including most of the most popular ones being played today.

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  52. I'm sympathetic to Thomson: he wanted to reach out to a public with something he valued, and he saw that public shift under him, and he saw the value drain out of what he was doing.

    I feel similarly. Obviously, much of what he says is colored by disappointment and even jealousy but I don't think that taints the truth of what he was saying: by 1982, the hobby had changed in very profound ways, ways he didn't find particularly congenial. I see nothing shameful in this.

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  53. As for being an elitist, what's actually intrinsically wrong with that?

    Nothing, at least as far as I'm concerned, but then I would say that, wouldn't I?

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  54. I think it's no accident that RPGs, among many other things, were invented in the late 60s/early 70s

    Very much agreed. This is an aspect of the history of RPGs that gets frequently overlooked and I think it's a very important part of the equation.

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  55. Many older Deadheads expressed outrage over the whole thing, really upset that the band was attracting new fans.

    Was it new fans they were objecting to or was it new fans who expected things to conform to their own expectations rather than joining into the pre-existing culture? When I entered the hobby, I (mostly) did my best to emulate the older teens and men who already were involved with it. That was in fact part of the appeal of the whole thing: we were playing "the right way," as modeled by the guys who'd come before us.

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  56. Geez, the guy was fundamentally right, and he gets shouted down today as "elitist".

    Howard Thompson was, unfortunately, a terrible messenger for this particular message, but, I agree, his central message -- the things were changing in the hobby in a profound way -- has been proven correct.

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  57. The complaint is not about more people enjoying the same thing I do -- that's a mis-attribution. The complaint is that I don't have the same product or performance that I used to enjoy.

    Bingo.

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  58. It is significant to note that Jackson never once, to my knowledge, disparaged HT in any way.

    Steve Jackson is one of the hobby's class acts. He's professional, honest, and (obviously) a good enough businessman to keep his company afloat for 30 years, a feat very few have managed.

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  59. Ok, most of this editorial is not provable in the least, but he does make SOME claims that I think we can look at factually.

    1. Was Metagaming a "profitable survivor"?

    2. Did the Egbert suicide cause the explosion in D&D's popularity?

    3. Were the people who joined D&D in the early 80's just consumerists, who wanted the "D&D Brand Experience" in the same way they wanted Calvin Klein Jeans or Izod Shirts?

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  60. @ Delta: The complaint is not about more people enjoying the same thing I do -- that's a mis-attribution. The complaint is that I don't have the same product or performance that I used to enjoy.

    And how does this apply to Moms and their young sons joining the hobby in 1982 exactly?

    D&D isn't a rock concert or a movie in which you are forced to share it with strangers who have a different idea of what the hobby should be than you.

    He could continue to game with his insular group of friends until the cows came home, those dreaded consumerist moms notwithstanding.

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  61. 1. Was Metagaming a "profitable survivor"?

    Metagaming closed in 1983. Why it closed is a matter of some dispute, although, so far as I know, it did not file for bankruptcy. I have seen it said that Thompson closed the company for reasons other than financial ones but I don't know the truth of the matter. I'm not sure anyone does.

    2. Did the Egbert suicide cause the explosion in D&D's popularity?

    Cause? That seems unlikely, but the Egbert case did a lot to raise the public profile of the game and certainly had an impact on its financial success. As I think I've explained, my mother bought a copy of the Holmes basic set in the Fall of 1979 as a result of my father's talking about the Egbert case. If it hadn't been for that, I might not have gotten into the hobby when I did.

    3. Were the people who joined D&D in the early 80's just consumerists, who wanted the "D&D Brand Experience" in the same way they wanted Calvin Klein Jeans or Izod Shirts?

    Again, how would we prove this? I know from personal experience that many of my friends and acquaintances got into gaming because it was "the thing to do" at the time. Almost all of them eventually dropped out of the hobby as time went on. Were they consumerists?

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  62. The synchronicity is interesting, but his idea of a "Golden Age" doesn't seem to really resemble yours, James. Nor his definition of "old ways."

    In fact, I think the dislike for the masses is counter to the OSR's participatory spirit. The contempt expressed for popular entertainment is also incompatible with the love of pulp fantasy that I associate with the OSR.

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  63. Metagaming closed in 1983. Why it closed is a matter of some dispute, although, so far as I know, it did not file for bankruptcy.

    So the answer is no. There were two parts to that phrase. Whether it was profitable or not, we can definitely say it wasn't a survivor.

    In fact, one can definitively say that HT has gone out of his way to ensure all the IP he owned did NOT survive.

    Cause? That seems unlikely, but the Egbert case did a lot to raise the public profile of the game and certainly had an impact on its financial success.

    I always sort of assumed this case was bad publicity. Which I guess can help.

    But don't you think there's a much better reason why D&D might have reached all those consumerists?

    The D&D cartoon was on the air from 83 to 85 as I recall.

    Again, how would we prove this?

    Well, several folks in the comments to this thread have said Thomson was right.

    It seems if that's the case that SOMETHING he says would be provable, unless one is willing to sign off on his editorial purely because they believe there was a golden age and it passed.

    Is that all he needs to say to be right?

    Because really, if you say he's right, well the claims he makes are pretty startling.

    He is saying that TSR capitalized on the suicide of a troubled lad and rode that sensationalism to financial success, thereby ending the golden age, to the detriment of their competition and the hobby at large.

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  64. @Delta:

    "Geez, the guy was fundamentally right, and he gets shouted down today as 'elitist'."

    I don't think he was right. Sure, the industry changed during the 1980s... but it continued to be basically a cottage industry. Roleplaying game companies have rarely boasted more than a handful of employees. New material continued to emerge. The hobby never became truly "mainstream."

    In 1982, Thompson was actually writing after one of D&D's biggest sales spikes. The idea that roleplaying was just going to get bigger and bigger and those awful kid consumers and their spine-chilling mothers were going to become a permanent fixture was just... wrong.

    You've got D&D in the early 80s. Vampire in the early 90s. And for RPGs flirting with the mainstream... that's pretty much it.

    Also, this guy's an elitist jerk. And I'm an authority on elitist jerks. I work for White Wolf.

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  65. And one other thing, by the way. It's difficult for me to have much sympathy for the notion that D&D's sucked since before my girlfriend was born.

    I'll admit this may be a limitation on my part, but it speaks to the main reason this old editorial annoys me. I'm one of those post-1982 D&D players. As much appreciation as I have for the ways the game was written and played in its early days, I can't sympathize with the idea that players of my generation are, in fact, what's wrong with the hobby.

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  66. If I remember correctly Howard also lambasted the increasing complexity in role-playing games around this time.

    This time did mark a natural increase in the complexity and rigidity in the rules of most games, leading to more supplements and expansions and specialist books. After all, to be a viable new game system it generally had to be different from the essentially very simple and flexible games that came before.

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  67. There is an interesting parallel that was overlooked in this entire discussion with regards to the passing of the Goden Age and coming of the Silver Age in D&D. And that parallel is that RPG apparently followed the process of implementation of new technologies, such as submarines or rocketry in the 20th century. When you take something like rocketry, it strats getting developed bythe dreamers and fantasist writers (such as sci-fi authors Jules Verne. Term was used by a researcher back in 1950's). It then gets pased on to excentric fringe scientists, who aren't taken very seriously by the mainstream scientists. Early rocket scientist Oberth, for instance, believed in reincarnation and he had empowerment beliefs under which, he was devloping rockets in this lifetime, so that he will be piloting a rocket ship to Mars when he re-incarnates in his next lifetime. This process of passing the torch is generational. The dreamers pass the torch to the eccentric scholars, and eccentric scholars pass the torch to the ambitious engineers, who share little of the dream of the original inventors and only see career potential in the new technology. Von Brauns were the next generation of rocket scientists, and they viewed rocketry as an engineering problem and preferred tennis and golf to sci-fi and interstellar travel, or any toher concerns.

    The transition from the Golden Age to Slver might nor follow the generational pattern, but it certainly develops along similar lines. First, you had the hobby developed by a subculture of tabletop wargamers as an unorganised hobby. Then you had gamers, Arneson and Gygax codify the rules and Gygax was certainly both, and etreperneur AND an eccentric, who didn't have enough sense to get a commercial loan and sold a third of the company to the Blumes. Gygex forced Arneson out and was seceded by the Blumes, who were at least part-gamers (Brian Blume), then the Blumes were seceeded by a perso who was a financial planner and was openly hostile to gamers. TSR was then run by publishing types who tried to enforce the copyright law in the way typical of the publishing industry. This adninitsration of the hobby was replaced by the suave folks at the WoTC, who are marketing professonals savvy about their target audiences, consumer relations, recognize and promote the recruitment of the best talent and mnake the product appealable to the widest possible audience. In the process D&D 4th essentially became PNP Diablo, and lost the gothic/sword and sorcery feel of the Gygax's AD&D/Eldrich wizardy supplement. But this trend did not start with the WoTC, After TSR ousted Gygax, it hired a horde of commercial writers to create all of the player class supplements (complete Book of... series). It had some good ideas, but it ws divorced from any kind of a singular vision of the AD&D and approach to history that comes through in Gygax's writing. What they did instead was borrow ideas and notions from the modern world and dressed it up in medieval fantasy-ish costume, such as Rembrant's Night Patrol painting redrawn as a bunch of Gnolls with arquebuses (early muskets). They were trying to make AD&D fit every role playing niche, and in the process they created some awfully corny and shallow writing (monster mythology), though some of the ideas are excellent and they serously tried to move the AD&D out of the Dungeon a la move down the corridor, open the door, kill the monster, take the treasure.

    As to my personal preferenses. Gygax's DMG aside, notes on adventrue design and storycrafting in the Dungeoneer's Survival Guide epitomize the kind of writing on DMing that I enjoy reading.

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  68. The synchronicity is interesting, but his idea of a "Golden Age" doesn't seem to really resemble yours, James. Nor his definition of "old ways."

    It's hard to say, since Thompson doesn't really define his terms. His Golden Age is a time before the mass marketing of gaming and mine is too, although he's more concerned about cause and I the effect.

    In fact, I think the dislike for the masses is counter to the OSR's participatory spirit. The contempt expressed for popular entertainment is also incompatible with the love of pulp fantasy that I associate with the OSR.

    To be fair, I'm not sure Thompson so much disliked the masses as felt that they contributed to changes in the hobby he disliked. Granted, he does a poor job of making that distinction but I think it's what he seems to mean in his editorial.

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  69. But don't you think there's a much better reason why D&D might have reached all those consumerists?

    The D&D cartoon was on the air from 83 to 85 as I recall.


    The cartoon appeared about 18 months after Thompson wrote his piece, so that can't be the cause of what he's reacting to. More to the point, I suspect the cartoon was only possible because D&D was already a big brand name. I doubt it could have been successfully pitched to anyone in Hollywood if it had remained an obscure game.

    It seems if that's the case that SOMETHING he says would be provable, unless one is willing to sign off on his editorial purely because they believe there was a golden age and it passed.

    Is that all he needs to say to be right?


    I'll answer only for myself, since others may have different perspectives. I think Thompson is correct in noting that, by 1982, there was a noticeable shift in the way RPGs were presented and sold. I also think that the mass marketing of RPGs (what he calls "consumerism") contributed greatly to this shift. As I said in an earlier comment, reasonable people can disagree as to whether the shift was a good or a bad thing, but there's no denying he was right that things had changed by 1982 and that those changes were unwelcome to some segments of the hobby at that time. I don't see how this is at all controversial.

    Because really, if you say he's right, well the claims he makes are pretty startling.

    They're only startling if you're looking to those claims as the meat of his editorial. Thompson was, as many have said here, renowned for being alarmist and hyerbolic in the extreme. This editorial includes many examples of that. I think it's a mistake, though, to look solely to his more outrageous claims as the main thrust of his piece.

    He is saying that TSR capitalized on the suicide of a troubled lad and rode that sensationalism to financial success, thereby ending the golden age, to the detriment of their competition and the hobby at large.

    Yes, he is saying that and I don't think many people would defend him on that score. But he's not just saying that and it's his other points where you'll people agreeing with him, agreement you'll find echoed rather broadly across old schoolers, including some individuals involved in the industry side of things at the time.

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  70. In 1982, Thompson was actually writing after one of D&D's biggest sales spikes. The idea that roleplaying was just going to get bigger and bigger and those awful kid consumers and their spine-chilling mothers were going to become a permanent fixture was just... wrong.

    That's certainly true in retrospect, but, in 1982, the trend for D&D had been one of increasing popularity and sales. Certainly it could not have been maintained (and wasn't) but no one knew how or when the bottom would fall out. I don't think Thompson can be blamed for failing to be a prophet.

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  71. I'm one of those post-1982 D&D players. As much appreciation as I have for the ways the game was written and played in its early days, I can't sympathize with the idea that players of my generation are, in fact, what's wrong with the hobby.

    What Thompson really seems to be decrying is that, in the pursuit of ever greater profits, the industry abandoned its original focus, changing the way it made and presented RPGs. His knocks at the new players brought in as a result, I think, are mistaken, but I also think it'd be a mistake to see that as the main point of his editorial. Thompson is directing his ire more at his fellow game companies, particularly TSR, not at players -- at least that's how I read it.

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  72. If I remember correctly Howard also lambasted the increasing complexity in role-playing games around this time.

    I believe that's correct. Thompson was a very volatile personality and so his message was often easy to dismiss, even when it contained a kernel of truth. The hobby was noticeably changing by 1982 and I think a more fruitful discussion could be had about whether those changes were good ones or if they did in fact, as Thompson contends, bring about the end of something good.

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  73. This guy reminded me of the introduction to The Window rpg:

    http://www.mimgames.com/window/welcome/stateofart.html

    meet the new toss, same as the old toss.

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  74. James said: "To be fair, I'm not sure Thompson so much disliked the masses as felt that they contributed to changes in the hobby he disliked. Granted, he does a poor job of making that distinction but I think it's what he seems to mean in his editorial."

    This seems to be the nub to me. A lot of the comments I'm reading here I find surprising. When he said there was a little James D. Egbert, Jr. in all the players, I'd say that's the key. The new players weren't people who had any of that. They were likely the kind of people he disliked in high school, and now those selfsame people were playing in his world. I can imagine that a lot of outcast types found themselves part of a community they never thought they'd have between 1975-1981. And now the scene was expanding to a scale that the intimacy and camaraderie was evaporating. And I bet he found that pretty sad. All these ad hominem attacks miss the point. If you asked a lot of people like Jackson and Stafford, they'd likely say the same thing in their own way. They remembered a time when there was nothing.

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  75. If I remember correctly Howard also lambasted the increasing complexity in role-playing games around this time.

    Very true. Specifically, he decried the increased complexity of his own company's release, The Fantasy Trip. In a letter written in 1980 (and currently on the web somewhere, I think) he criticizes Steve Jackson's final product, on the grounds that it took too long to complete (valid) and that it added too much complexity to the basic Melee/Wizard system (valid in certain specific areas). Certainly the later "Dragons of Underearth" game, which was sort of a summary/distillation of TFT,and believed to be more in line with what HT wanted, was so dry as to be a bit boring. But certain elements of TFT could easily have been streamlined or removed, too.

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  76. Metagaming closed in 1983. Why it closed is a matter of some dispute, although, so far as I know, it did not file for bankruptcy. I have seen it said that Thompson closed the company for reasons other than financial ones but I don't know the truth of the matter. I'm not sure anyone does.

    While only the mysterious HT knows for sure, some speculation is possible.

    It is known that Metagaming had some serious flops in terms of game releases in the last couple years of its life. And, due to the recession at that time, even some of the good stuff wasn't doing all that well. So HT the prophet concluded that "the writing was on the wall" and that gaming would die. Again, not without some basis, but Steve Jackson certainly proved him wrong!

    But I think there was a deeper reason, though this is pure speculation on my part. One of the flops was a design by HT himself, called "Starleader: Assault" which was, as near as could be told, HT's answer to Jackson's "Melee", but set in a Space Opera type universe. Though similar to TFT (indeed, characters could be readily converted to the new system) it was its own game. Note carefully that HT went out of his way to create a new game, rather than just create a TFT supplement for far future combat, which likely would have sold quite well.

    Which brings up a second point, namely that the TFT system and its MicroQuests and Supplements was still doing very well, easily the top seller for the company if I'm not mistaken.

    In other words, a game designed by a man HT irrationally loathed and hated was what was keeping his company afloat. And to add insult to injury, his own design was a grand failure...

    Not hard to see such matters influencing his decision to close up shop and run and hide. Again, don't know if this was the reason, but I'm willing to bet it was at the barest minimum a significant contributor.

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  77. "He could continue to game with his insular group of friends until the cows came home, those dreaded consumerist moms notwithstanding."

    This is an argument that gets trotted out a lot, and which I firmly reject. When the game changes, it changes the product on the shelf that I use to refresh my home game. It changes the atmosphere at the gaming store that I visit. It changes the profile of the community of people who might be added or replace one of my departing players.

    See: Network Effect

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  78. This is an argument that gets trotted out a lot, and which I firmly reject. When the game changes, it changes the product on the shelf that I use to refresh my home game. It changes the atmosphere at the gaming store that I visit. It changes the profile of the community of people who might be added or replace one of my departing players.

    The game didn't change.

    It became more popular.

    Looking down on everyone who joins a hobby after you might be in vogue in various cliques, but that doesn't make it cool.

    It is the opposite of cool.

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  79. "The game didn't change.

    It became more popular."

    In reality, it's hard to make a clean distinction between an RPG and its user base; to pretend that the game somehow exists independently of the (sub)culture surrounding it.

    "Network effect" really is a good place to start in understanding why.

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  80. Re: Egbert

    The game was starting to become very popular before Egbert. I would associate its rise with the Tolkien-inspired rise in popularity of fantasy books, the Star Wars rise in popularity of sf, and the general pulp/adventure boom of the seventies, together with the diversification of hobby shop sales to include things like wargames and comics.

    The local hobby shop (which was between our grocery store and town library) posted in the paper and on the windows in 1977 or 1978 that they would be holding games sessions on Saturday for kids to learn D&D. My brothers and I were 10, 8, and 6, but already reading a lot of fantasy and sf, and our mom was favorable, so we went and played. My mom bought a Basic set for us after that.

    When the Egbert thing happened, since we were living in a suburb of Dayton, it hit the local gaming scene like a hurricane. A lot of parents took their kids out of the hobby, and a lot of the hobby shops really had to hunker down. I don't know whether there were protests (other than Egbert's weird mom).

    However, my mom and dad continued to be supportive the whole time of our interest in the hobby. They actually understood what the game was about, though, and our church doesn't have any gripe against fantasy as a genre.

    The idea that Egbert made people interested... um, not likely. Maybe stoner college kids, or maybe people who did research to find out what the media was demonizing this time - but certainly not the moms and kids he was so upset about.

    Blame the hobby shops for promoting the game, I'd say. People forget that hobby shops used to be a lot more important in town life than they are now. Not everybody goes to a comics shop, but everybody went to a hobby shop to buy their son an airplane model or something similar.

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  81. The Golden Age ended sooner than 1982. J.D. Egbert didn't have much to do with the success of D&D. In fact his death, and the resulting movie, did phenomenal amounts of damage to the IP as a whole.

    Before that time, D&D was being adopted by students and staff at colleges, and universities throughout North America. The negative publicity severely curtailed the growth of gaming amongst the leaders, and future leaders, within these communities. A new consumer demographic emerged that the game was specifically modified for.

    For me it was in the summer of 1980, when the RPGA declined to allow me to run my 0D&D games at Ghengis Con stating they would only let me "officially run" AD&D 1E games.

    AD&D was the holy grail then.

    Now is much better of course, My 0D&D games run with a full boat of attendees at conventions and when I choose to run a game at the FLGS.

    I'm glad for that change now, however lament that it took three decades to come around.

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  82. In reality, it's hard to make a clean distinction between an RPG and its user base; to pretend that the game somehow exists independently of the (sub)culture surrounding it.

    And yet, I was always able to find all the variety I wanted. There were college clubs, local game stores with open tables, the ability to post group wanted notices on bulletin boards at colleges and game stores, and even convention games.

    The notion that somehow Delta or anyone else was forced by the consumerist network to adopt AD&D, or Unearthed Arcana, or Dragonlance, or whatever other evil capitalist scheme the unwashed masses were into is just bullshit.

    If you were picky as hell and wanted OD&D with no supplements for that pure experience, then yeah, you were going to have a smaller pool of players to choose from.

    Isn't that what being an elitist is all about though? Sounds like you guys got what you wanted.

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  83. Well we disagree here @RPGOBjects_Chuck.

    Not being able to run my game at a major convention meant that a smaller pool of players was only available to experience the 0D&D game.

    I would trust that players themselves were quite capable of deciding which version of D&D suited them best, however they were not given an opportunity to have that choice.

    The elite did get what they wanted ...for almost three decades.

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  84. Not being able to run my game at a major convention meant that a smaller pool of players was only available to experience the 0D&D game.

    If you're relying exclusively on conventions for your gaming, that would indeed suck.

    Notice I wasn't *just* talking about conventions though. I was also talking about college clubs and using FLGS to find a local group.

    In my experience, I was able to get a group together for whatever- D&D (pretty much any flavor), Champions, Marvel FASERIP, Gamma World, etc etc.

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  85. God, RPGObjects_chuck, you even manage to capital-F Fail multiple times per post.

    "The notion that somehow Delta or anyone else was forced by the consumerist network to adopt..."

    You fail first with "forced." Trying to invoke the mental image of somebody imposing traumatizing duress to a helpless victim is so clearly maudlin and self-serving in the context of a game that it's honestly beneath contempt.

    "If you were picky as hell and wanted OD&D with no supplements for that pure experience, then yeah, you were going to have a smaller pool of players to choose from."

    And then you're basically saying "P.S. Will and Delta: You're basically completely correct in every detail."

    Jesus...

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  86. Convention games, like demos at a gaming shop, are intended in part to advertise a gaming system's existence to rubberneckers. (Though of course they primarily gather together gamers who already know the game.) So yes, it was a problem for 0D&D, if you couldn't run 0D&D at cons at all.

    Re: Egbert some more

    Right on cue, here's a nasty story of Gamers Gone Bad that would have gone national and hysterical, back in the bad old days. Nowadays, it's just a sad story of abusers who happened to play D&D. It's amazing how this works, now that so many mainstream people have played WoW or similar games. Of course, part of the mainstreaming of gaming is that you get that percentage of Gamers Gone Bad, too.

    http://www.daytondailynews.com/news/crime/girl-was-groomed-for-sexual-abuse-police-say-594020.html

    As you can see, characters are apparently referred to as "alter egos" in this story, which is a rather dignified way to put it.

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  89. Nothing stays the same forever. Even diamonds can decay.
    So what if RPGs were popular for a while?

    Did that really change the way people played the game, or did the game change to accommodate people, allowing a whole new group of people to enjoy the hobby on their own terms? Is that really a bad thing?

    I say live and let live is a good philosphy for 99% of the folks out there.

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  90. @James Maliszewski
    "I don't think Thompson can be blamed for failing to be a prophet."

    I completely agree. I was responding to Delta saying that Thompson was "fundamentally right." He wasn't. He was mistaken (understandably) and kinda mean about it.

    Also, Thompson's comment on historical wargaming is interesting. My boss got into D&D in the mid-70s, and remembers D&D being accused of killing off historical wargaming. So that concern goes back pretty early in the Golden Age.

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  91. RPGObjects_chuck: "The game didn't change. It became more popular. Looking down on everyone who joins a hobby after you might be in vogue in various cliques, but that doesn't make it cool."

    Up above I wrote: "The complaint is not about more people enjoying the same thing I do -- that's a mis-attribution. The complaint is that I don't have the same product or performance that I used to enjoy."

    Your comment is an exemplary case study of this kind of misrepresentation and distortion (considering that it comes directly after it in the same thread). "You must think you're soooo cool, don't you?" is just absurdly juvenile as a piece of rhetoric.

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  92. I've never really bought into the "Golden Age" theory. A bunch of old-timers look back on the days when the hobby was small and insular and say "Weren't things better back then?"

    I don't get it. To me, the quality of the game I'm playing, and the quality of the people I'm playing with is what's important. The "Golden Age" claimants always strike me as people who are pursuing some sort of ageist elitism. "You weren't there when it started, so you'll never understand." No, I guess not. I wasn't born yet, so I can never join your special club.

    @Delta: "The complaint is not about more people enjoying the same thing I do -- that's a mis-attribution. The complaint is that I don't have the same product or performance that I used to enjoy."
    Except that it's fairly obvious from the way that most old-schoolers talk that the reason they feel that they don't have the same product they used to enjoy is because there are more people enjoying the game now.

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  93. I don't mind the Golden Age label--it's not a guarantor of quality, after all. Many (if not most) Golden Age comics are actually of quite poor quality in terms of both script and art; Silver Age books (as a whole) are better, and a case could be made that now (are we even still in the comics Iron Age anymore?) is actually the best time ever to read comics: certainly the best of all eras is available.

    Someone made a similar point about gaming earlier: now is probably the best time to be a rolegamer ever. The OSR may not have been Ryan Dancey and WotC's intention when they put forth the OGL license, but now we all get to eat our cake and have it too.

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  95. "Except that it's fairly obvious from the way that most old-schoolers talk that the reason they feel that they don't have the same product they used to enjoy is because there are more people enjoying the game now."

    I think that's a great misrepresentation.

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  96. The "Golden Age" claimants always strike me as people who are pursuing some sort of ageist elitism. "You weren't there when it started, so you'll never understand." No, I guess not. I wasn't born yet, so I can never join your special club.

    The problem is that you can join the special club. I know because I did. I wasn't there at the beginning, being one of those "damned kids" who got into the game through the Holmes set in late 1979.

    And, yes, I did encounter teenagers and older guys who looked askance at us as unworthy outsiders BUT my friends and I eventually won them over by our willingness to immerse ourselves in and abide by the "rules" of the culture that preceded our entry into the hobby. We "proved ourselves," so to speak, and so joined the "special club."

    I don't think it's any different today.

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  97. @Paul Said...

    I don't get it. To me, the quality of the game I'm playing, and the quality of the people I'm playing with is what's important. The "Golden Age" claimants always strike me as people who are pursuing some sort of ageist elitism. "You weren't there when it started, so you'll never understand." No, I guess not. I wasn't born yet, so I can never join your special club.

    It was about playing the version of the game that you wanted to run/play.

    For me 0D&D was it. I didn't want to exclude anyone who wanted to play any other version of the game that they wanted, or even other RPGs. If they wanted to play AD&D, fine. Id they wanted to play TFT, good, I'd even join in a few games. I liked Runequest, and the D&D that was inspired by Judges Guild Wilderlands Campaigns...

    No one was required to play those with me at conventions though. But games and adventures like mine, Even from other GM's were not included in the convention event schedules.

    It was deliberate. It was designed to encourage play and purchase of the AD&D 1e sourcebooks and materials.

    It was right around 1981/1982 that TSR stopped doing articles in Dragon magazine on other RPG's and D&D variants and focused solely on AD&D.

    The great ads from 79 and 80 that included the other publishers like I.C.E., Judges Guild, Metagaming, Fantasy Unlimited, FGU, etc... Were no longer to be found in the Dragon. My favorite issue is Dragon #50 from June 1981. I only have a handful of issues from after that time, as I only bought the Dragon after 1982 if it included exceptionally good articles on GMing or designing adventures, classes, and monsters.

    TSR who had up until then focused on growing the hobby of roleplaying suddenly changed course, and focused solely on growing 1e AD&D. It really hurt the hobby as a whole.

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  98. @Rob: I think you're right that this is the best time to be a roleplayer ever. The internet has made it so easy for people to share ideas and information. Blogs like this are a gold mine for campaign and character ideas. In addition, the OGL has made it very easy for people to publish and share rulesets and campaign settings.

    @James: I'd like to think you're right. Surely you should be able to join the "old-school" club.

    @D Collins: It was 30 years ago, during the first great edition war, the one that tore the hobby asunder and turned us against ourselves. Noone knows who fired the first shots of the war, but everyone knew that roleplaying could never go back to what it was.

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