So I’ve been trying my hand at this blogging business for a couple of weeks now. It’s been perhaps a month since I crawled out of my “rat race coma” and remembered how much I loved gaming. Sure, a great novel or movie was always a beautiful thing, but nothing in my in my life has ever provided me with as satisfying of an escape as role-playing games.
I will try to give you a snap-shot of when I left. Magic: The Gathering was relatively new (can remember buying two decks at Gen Con and someone making change for me out of a box). AD&D was in its 2nd edition but the general thought at the time was that TSR was just cranking out $#%@ for the sake of publishing it. Planescape was well received but Dragon Dice, and slightly revised rule books had a lot of folks grumbling.
I hadn’t had a regular gaming group for a while, and both my job and girlfriend were demanding more and more attention. As much as I hated it, there just wasn’t time anymore to slip off into imaginary worlds. Before I knew it, I was just done.
15 years worth of games dice and miniatures were packed away in boxes and sealed with duct tape. They remained in those same boxes until 2004. That fall, I found myself in West Palm Beach, FL and we were hit by hurricane Frances. I had been through a few storms before, but I ran to Georgia for this one. Upon my return, I didn’t experience any big loss but did have a window break which promptly flooded my bedroom and soaked the boxes. I ended up pitching everything but my old AD&D 1st edition books and a couple sentimental favorites.
Sorry for the reminiscing, this is the first time that all of this has crossed my mind. At any rate, when I say that I’ve been out of the loop for a long time, I mean it. I was aware that WotC had purchased TSR and I knew that Dragon, Dungeon, & the RPGA were defunct, but that’s about it.
In the past month or so I’ve spent my time catching up. I’ve tried to read every blog, forum, and website that I can find, to kind of get a feel for what’s going on. At 41, I reckon there’s a whole new generation of gamers out there and I’ve been curious about what they’re up to. I thought I’d sit down and just share some of the things that I have noticed.
From my perspective thus far, perhaps the biggest evolution to the hobby has to be the Internet. The average household simply didn’t have a computer with an Internet connection in the mid-90’s. If they did, it was likely a 386, running Windows 3.1 with dial-up 2400 CompuServe, Prodigy, or GEnie.
The gaming community as a whole (but especially RPGs) has an amazing presence online. It is so easy now to trade ideas and meet new people. Just today I found a site where you could simply enter your zip-code, to find a group near you. I understand that most of you “lived” it, in its natural progression. However, for me to just pop back into the scene and have so much information at my fingertips…I’m just having a ball!
Play-By-Mail games weren’t terribly common but we were familiar with them. However, now I see e-mail, forum, and blog based games quite regularly. On top of that, real-time online gaming with Skype seems fairly popular.
Self-publishing and the various types of game licensing out there seem to be great for the hobby as well. Back in the day, I wrote a number of articles for Polyhedron but that was really as far as my time constraints would allow me. Even the submission process for Dragon or Dungeon took too long, given my day-to-day obligations. However, now virtually anyone can crank out content, on their own time frame.
While I’ll likely always have a soft-spot for fantasy settings, I’m thoroughly enjoying all the genres which are represented in modern RPGs. It’s not simply that they exist but that they seem to have a large fan-base. I mean even back in the 80s, there were lots of other options but it certainly didn’t seem like they got much love.
The stigma attached to RPGs seems to have lessened to a great degree. While I don’t expect that many 16 year-old Dungeon Masters are dating the captain of the cheerleading team, it’s certainly not like it was back in the 80s. Hell, in 1985 I would have been better off wetting my pants in high school, than admitting to playing Dungeons & Dragons. Peers would completely ostracize you and adults would assume that you were a satan worshipper (thank god I had intelligent parents). There almost seems to be a “geek chic” thing happening these days. Finally, not sure whether it’s the chicken or the egg, but there sure seems to be a hell of a lot of female gamers out there now. That is a very good thing.
Along the same lines, the popularity of LARPing is new to me. While it’s not my cup of tea personally, they look like they’re having a lot of fun. While I imagine it existed back then, I wasn’t aware of it. Oh, you’d hear about the occasional SCA event but that was about it. The media had adults so convinced that every child who played RPGs was going to lose his/her mind, that the site of a LARP event would’ve brought out the S.W.A.T team.
I haven’t been to a convention since getting back into things. That said, I’m very excited to see how they’ve evolved over the years. I’ll be running up to Origins in June and I can’t wait. By the way, if any of you are planning on attending and want to play something or just have someone to browse the dealer’s room with, give me a yell.
There are just so many exciting things going on now. I’m thrilled to have my hobby back and truly feel like I’ve been reanimated!
Well, that’s all I’ve got for now. I just want to end this by saying that these are just my experiences and I realize that it’s a great big world out there. Anyone reading this may see things entirely differently and I respect that. If you happen to have any favorite memories from “back in the day” or perhaps questions about what various things were like, please drop off a comment. I’d love to hear from you.