I saw on the always-enjoyable Retro Roleplaying yesterday a link to a blogger bemoaning (I think) the insensitivity of “old school” gamers towards “new school” products, and the failure of the Forgey games to be commercially successful.
The guy’s certainly entitled to his opinion, so long as Blogger accounts are free, but I have to echo Retro RP here: I’ve never really seen Pathfinder and 4e described as “old school”. Apparently, by his definition, “new school” would pertain to the more Forge/GNS/Deconstructionism of the traditional GM/Player roles, and everything else is old. OK, then. I guess I should be grateful he didn’t use “quaint” or “rustic”.
Many of the remaining Forgies, deep from their mountain redoubt in High Afghanistan, cite their influence on games as diverse from Warhammer 3e to D&D 4th Edition. Certainly there are those who wish for more shared “narrative control” between GM and player. It isn’t my style, and never will be.
But that’s not really important; what got me about the article is how the author seems to push towards “growing the hobby” by catching cosplayers, comic book fans, etc. Although I’m sure there’s anecdotal evidence out there that could be presented to the contrary, I don’t think that GNS games have proven to be sold to be people through anything other than what sells more traditional RPG games—human contact.
Here’s a quote from the article:
This all leaves me with a dilemma. How do we get the innovation of the new, with the stability and business potential of the old?
Do it yourself.
I don’t mean that too snarkily; I mean that if you have an idea you think is going to bring the masses, then do it. If your “new school” is superior, then it should grab gamers. Marry it to whatever traditional or alternative publishing model you want, and prove the superiority.
Or, it could be, just maybe, that Forgey games aren’t any better at converting the masses to this hobby, regardless of medium.
I believe increasingly, even as I continue to evangelize when I can about the hobby I love, more of us have come to the realization that the RPG “industry” is largely smoke and mirrors. There isn’t this huge backdrop of powerful RPG companies with dozens upon dozens of employees. There’s one or two big publishers, a handful of mid-size publishers, and hundreds, if not thousands, of one or two-person operations keeping their main inventory in the garage.
That isn’t a knock on gaming; it’s just the realization that with more and more “DIY” tools out there and more and more entertainment firms to contend with, there’s not much of a unified “industry”, but a hobby. That’s why I very rarely refer to any sort of RPG industry on here; it isn’t defeatism, but just the reality of what you and I likely interact with most on a day-to-day basis. The spread of RPGs is grassroots, and isn’t found in any single ideology, theory, or movement. To think otherwise would be a disservice to the chorus of voices that make up the creativity of this hobby.
Some companies, like Paizo, ensure cost-analysis for each product before it is released, and they’ve done well on it. Others, like Evil Hat, combine newer mechanics with a dedicated fan following as part of their success. But this is a social hobby, and the size of a company doesn’t really matter if there’s no one to teach the game or no group to join. Certainly it’s great to have a supported game and have product on the shelves, but that’s just one piece of the puzzle.
If something happens to catapult tabletop role playing games back into the public’s greater consciousness, it likely won’t be due to people discovering the benefits of the magic of Shared Narrative Control and Story Gaming. Yeah, it’ll probably appeal to some non-gamers. So will old-school (old-old-school, if we’re to go by that article) hack n’ slash. So will the gun porn of Rifts. The RPG hobby is far too diverse to be pigeonholed.