If we're honest with ourselves, we'll admit that there's always been a powerful strain of old man machismo in the old school renaissance -- the kind that boasts of walking uphill in the snow both ways to school every day. As a regular offender on that front, I'm in no position to condemn anyone over this and wouldn't even if I were.
I bring this up because I was reminded of it when I recently re-read a passage in the 1982 Gamma World module Famine in Far-Go in which new rules for playing Pure Strain Humans were first introduced. Here's the relevant section:
What's interesting here is that the anonymous TSR employee who wrote this section explicitly states that "From this point on, these specific rules are considered an official part of GAMMA WORLD™ games and campaigns, and should be used." In that single sentence, you get an invocation of official-ness, the use of the trademark symbol, and an injunction that these new rules should be used. That sentence paints a very interesting picture of the culture of TSR at the tail end of the Golden Age. It's also, in my opinion, a taste of what's to come in later years.
I won't deny that I dutifully took those words to heart, as I usually did when TSR or one of its spokespeople instructed me on the "right" or "official" way to play one of its games. I admit this was some embarrassment now, but I admit it nonetheless. If discussions on blogs and in forums are to be believed, I was one of only a few people who ever behaved in this way. From what I have gathered, no one back in the day paid any heed to what Gary Gygax wrote in Dragon or the answers in the "Sage Advice Column." No one treated printed rulebooks as holy writ either. Or so I am led to believe at any rate.
Me, I did all these things, because, back then, toeing the TSR line when it came to official-ness was a big part of the gaming culture with which I was familiar. It's a pity I can't find anyone else who remembers this, because I could have sworn there were other gamers in those days who behaved similarly to me, but I guess I must have imagined that. Funny how, as you get older, the memory plays tricks on you.