Thursday, October 15, 2009

Gamer Lost Tribes, Or Being Out Of The Loop

Many tabletop gamers online tend to be ultra dialed-in to hobby news and updates compared to their casual, Friendly Local Gaming Store counterparts. One of the ways this can be seen is in the assumption most offline gamers have many games outside of D&D and White Wolf are dead or defunct.

I get this a lot when I mention Rolemaster. “Rolemaster? I played that in like 1988! Iron Crown is still around? Huh.”

West End Games is another good one. “Nah, haven’t heard from them in years. They went bankrupt and lost the Star Wars license”.

And so it goes, from Chaosium to Palladium to Steve Jackson to Iron Crown and beyond.

The pessimistic view is that these companies are, for all intents and purposes, dead to the relatively giant number of gamers who exist offline.

The optimistic view (unless you’re a publisher) is that these folks don’t need anything new, and will likely be playing the same games 10 years from now.

They’re the Lost Tribes of our hobby. Most of them hear snippets of information, if anything, and don’t care about what they do hear. Why should they? They have their game, and they’re happy. Whether it’s the same houseruled AD&D 2e they’ve been playing the last 20 years, or their epic, still-rolling Traveller game, they have what they want and need. New players are rare, and often related to a group member.

I always think it’s interesting to meet one of those groups, and see what 10-15 years of gaming isolation and modification through play experience can do to a group.

Then again, some of those groups become cliquish, arcane messes, where you’re expected to hold your own against characters and pet NPCs that have a decade or more of special items and “unique abilities” on your character.


Mad Brew said...

Heh, sometimes I wonder if it might be easier being a member of a Lost Tribe. No distractions, just gaming.

Zachary The First said...

I think it's sort of the same idea of Rousseau's "Noble Savage" (though he is only popularly linked with the idea, and never actually used that phrase). Civilization and industry corrupt, or something.

Well, I think people would say they're missing out on something, but I'm not sure they think they are. Why do something new if they're still having fun?

Zzarchov said...

I was one of those types for many years, I took one look at 3e at its released (skimming the players) , said no thanks and never looked back to gaming news for nearing a decade

Tyler said...

Sometimes I think online gamers as the "lost tribe," like we're the ones who wandered off into an isolated valley and interact exclusively with our close neighbors there, rather than the communities from which we came.

At any rate, we're certainly outnumbered by the offline variety. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to participate in the "slow network," where news travels mouth to mouth through overlapping game groups, conventions and letters columns in magazines.

Badelaire said...

I tend to agree with Tyler. Rather than allowing people to expand their horizons with the power of the Internet, many people I've seen instead use it to narrow their focus down to just the blogs, message boards, and mailing lists that talk about only what they are interested in, and nothing more.

If the "offline" people are happy doing what they are doing, more power to them. I think the "corruption of civilization" comment is more dead-on than many people realize when it comes to the "internet gaming community"...

Anonymous said...

Funny, I am kind of a "Lost Tribemember" when it comes to my xD&D gaming. I'm happy playing the 1st Edition game I've played for over two decades now, and I just don't have a reference point to jump in to discussions about xD&D gaming (yes, I have read 2nd edition, yes, I have 4th edition) online. No one is playing the game I'm playing, no one is running the game I'm running, and there's no point of comparison.

But when it comes to other games (PTA, Amber, InSpectres, DitV, etc.) I am all over the 'net reading things and learning from other people's experience. If these games continued for decades (our Amber game has) why am I a member of the Internet tribe here and not the other? *That*'s where the question gets interesting to me.

Gleichman said...

I sort of have to question (with Tyler) just who is out of the Loop.

Gamers that have found and expanded something that they continue to use down the decades or the guys who are leaping after every new thing that comes down the pike.

It's like claiming that the couple with 25 years of marriage is out of the dating scene loop. I guess they are, but they certainly aren't missing it, nor are they getting HIV from the latest Forge release...

rainswept said...

Tabletop RPGs preceded the internet by a healthy margin.

Here's hoping they endure long after it is gone.

James V said...

Let the blessed many stay out of the loop.

"Theory? You do realize it's a game, right?"

"4th edition? What was wrong with the first? Heck, what was wrong with the second and third?"

"They printed World Books for RIFTS? HOW MANY?"

That kind of ignorance is sheer bliss.

Tyler said...

@Gleichman, it's not so much that one group or the other is out of the loop, nor am I making a value judgment about people who stick with a system versus those who gad from one to another.

Just that they're distinct communities which rarely interact with each other and I question if it's fair to call them the "lost tribe."

da Trux said...

i see things a bit differently.

most of the ignorance i see or hear about comes from online. 99% of the blogs on the RPG bloggers network are about D20.

most message boards (except The Forge, perhaps) is 99% D20.

when i talk to people who are offline, they like to discuss WAY more games. Usually older games like Cyberpunk, Shadowrun, Palladium stuff, and old DnD.

One of the reasons this is the RPG blog i follow most is because it is one of the very few non-Dnd/D20 blogs out there.

Sean said...

God, sometimes I wish I could just disconnect my computer from the internet and just get on with it. There are so many cool ideas out there and I can't begin to game all of them. I know that if I ignored all of that stuff, and concentrated on what was in my own head, I would get more gaming done.

But I can't ignore it. I just can't.

Gleichman said...

@Tyler: Pity, I shouldn't have jumped to the conculsion that you had actually thought it out and developed a real opinion.

da Trux: My own experience agrees to a point, i.e. a gaming group may talk about new releases from a significant company.

But it's short and over, what works flatly works. Most gamers aren't into tossing money after random systems.

There is normally one however per group who keeps an eye on the 'hobby'. I'm that one in my group, but there are times when I wish I wasn't and times when I'm glad I've met some of the people online that I have.

But frankly, as far as system goes- I think games have gotten worse, not better. And nothing from a mechanics PoV is worth the time I spend online.

Zachary The First said...

@gleichman: We usually refer to that one person per group as the "alpha gamer". Some just browse, some have a tiring missionary zeal.

@da trux: First, thanks for reading! I know it seems like a lot of blogs are all d20 or 4e, but there are some out there that aren't. I like to try to cover everything that interests me, and that I think would interest others. I could probably have an entire blog just on Rolemaster! :)

@Sean: I think it is good to unplug every now and then. Sometimes, I believe those of us online get caught up in a lot of crap that really doesn't have to do with gaming or the hobby. But there are some awesome games online, too--I wouldn't likely know about Flying Mice or some of the interesting small press efforts if I weren't.

tyson J. Hayes said...

@da trux there are some people like myself who are trying to get some of the other communities out of the forms and on to the blogs and out into the greater (as in bigger) internet.

@Zachary the First I think your observations are interesting, do you think that it would be good for the table top community to move online and have more of a presence for their hobby? In my personal experience I've heard of more games moving to skype and maptools with greater success. Obviously they lack a bit of the personal touch of the table top feel but it is allowing people to interact with new people.

Maybe we should try to get the community out of the basement?

da Trux said...

thanks for the acknowledgements guys...

my gaming group may be a bit odd. we have 4 core members and a rotation of occasional players. I was raised on TMNT, Robotech, and Ninjas & Superspies (ie: Palladium), 2 of the other 'core' dudes were exclusively ADnD 2, and the other dude played video games.

Now, we started a local gaming rag, and for the past couple years have been playing every single game we could get our hands on, from underground indie stuff to the big boys. but somehow, we have avoided 4th edition and ANY D20 game.

plus, me and one of the dudes also create our own games, so that leaves even less time or interest for playing the Walmart of games.

Andreas Davour said...

da Trux,

feel free to take a peek at The Eye. There are more of this kind of varied blog.