Food for Thought: Can we just talk again?

I’ve watched as the industry has grown since I started roleplaying back in the 90’s and it’s been through some great and not so great changes. When I was first exposed to roleplaying the internet was slowly taking off. It was at it’s most basic form where sites where plain basic text blocks and RPG companies that there was at the time had things like mailing lists where you would join via Outlook Express (oh yeahhhh) and download a megaton of emails concerning the game or setting of your choosing. Also you didn’t have online stores either to tell you what was coming. To find out anything remotely new you had to walk or bus your ass down to the local game store which tended to be your comic store and see what was on the shelf at the time.

But looking back on it now I have a sense that were missing something now and that is the personal touch. Now your probably wondering wtf is he trying to get at. Well let me tell you. Back in the day with not much mediums of exploration into the hobby there seemed to be a very tight-knit community and one which was very enthusiastic. Your local retailer or in this case comic book guy would dish the news. You would see advertisements in your Marvel or DC Comic for Greyhawk or Palladium. It was…cool!

With the internet and mailing lists you had a direct line with your publisher and the writers tossing information back and forth about rules, settings and whatnot. It was more personal now as it expanded your range of social interaction with fellow gamers and the writers themselves. This was awesome. I remember reading posts from the authors of a particular game line going holy crap, this is so cool hearing more of his views into this particular game. PBEM”s where also thing to be seen and a part of. Sometimes just reading them was amusing enough.

The internet advanced, comic book stores became more about comics and less about roleplaying but there was starting to be a disconnect. Companies began not commenting on upcoming products. Too busy they are focusing on getting out the latest material and less about being part of the community. Sure companies have their community group boards as they call them but getting some passionate feedback from the developers themselves is not as common now.

I find this all a bit troublesome. We had a boom with D20 with a bunch of rising companies and there was tons of talk going on. A lot of publishers where talking and sharing ideas, trying to get you to buy their D20 product. Not because of the money itself though that is always a motivation. But simply because they believed in their product and fate willing, they would be the next big thing. This feeling also translated to other companies as well. Everyone was just more chatty.

Well a majority of them are all gone now and we have the old guard with some new companies which managed to be born or stay afloat from the D20 era. New rules and settings have been release but when I go around I feel that at times I am walking through a ghost town.

With Twitter and Facebook now, companies can simply market themselves. Updates tend to be X product coming out Y. Ok that is all well and good. I can maybe if I am lucky connect with fellow gamers on their community boards if they have one at all now (because community is so passé) but getting the real juice from authors and that little personal touch from the companies is just not there.

I think part of it is companies being a hell of a lot more cautious these days and they probably do hold their writers in check to an extent. I know whenever Gygax or other writers would post on a board people would be entranced and want to speak to them. The topics would grow, sometimes even requiring further threads. But this is something that used to be common and which is now an oddity.

So come on dear game companies, roll up your sleeves and speak to us. It’s OK to get me hyped on a product but I also want to talk to you about your products more in-depth. Why did you make that game? What were your influences? How about this rule? In this adventure did you mean for the party to have a rough time?

Maybe let your writers converse more via the corporate message boards. Encourage discussion. Often I see fan generated discussions with no hide nor tail of someone from the corporate side caring. Instead we get the same old response of ‘We regularly read the boards, but we just can’t respond to all the topics’. Well you don’t have to respond to all of them but making your presence known would be a good thing. Let us know your alive and care.

I feel old when I look back and see wow, those were the days. Then I start to think that maybe, just maybe we can learn a little bit by looking back. And that is some food for thought.

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Was recruited back in the first year of high school to play this odd game called Dungeons & Dragons by his friends who would become his family. Tending more towards darker themed games like Call of Cthulhu, Ravenloft, Gemini and other such titles; he has also ventured into other genres as his interest has developed. If there is something cool to play out there, he will play it even if it hurts his brain.

2 thoughts on “Food for Thought: Can we just talk again?”

  1. I’m confused by this post, as it’s the exact opposite of what I’m seeing. Which companies are you referring to? Maybe it’s more on the indie side of things these days, but authors of all stripes thrive on places like Google+ and Story Games. I regularly interact with authors and company representatives on the former, and the community is highly active there.

  2. I think it applies more towards the bigger companies (Wizards, White Wolf, Chaosium, etc). But this is the thing now in the Twitter, Facebook age where these applications have replaced your more personal line to the company but I feel that it’s not as deep a connection as it used to be.

    And yeah Wizards has their community boards but interactions with writers seem’s to be not evident. Maybe I missed the posts in particular. Sure they have articles and writers views but half you need a subscritpion. (Go insider!) When all the settings were more or less dropped back in the day and they had their official site some of these areas where really intriguing. Authors of the line would hop on the boards and get talking about the direction, adventure lines, what could be. I think that is more my line of preference. Though go EN World for drawing the occasional writer on it’s boards for discussions.

    White Wolf has activity on their boards by the writers but since the CCP usurption their whole site like thier roleplaying mythology they write about is dead. Give that site a pulse someone. On average however at least their presence is known.

    Chaosium you need to hit up Yog Sothoth for discussion but it’s more a fan site then a link with Chaosium themselves.

    But these are not the only companies either. Fantasy Flight boards are a literal mess. One day your board is there, the next it’s shuffled to archival and then back again with not much in the way of fanbase communication.

    Indie companies will go that extra bit as they are growing. They want to be noticed so the more info they can get out there the better for them.

    Perhaps I am turning into the proverbial grognard in my age and not getting hip to the google / twitter / facebook times. I find these to be more an advertising medium then a place to discuss and get to know the companies aside from what they eat and watching on tv at the present moment. Maybe it is too much to check out. I am a tad bipolar these days so maybe it’s frustration on my part.

    But in general I would like to have more fanbase communication from companies, writers and anyone else there that could give me that good old feeling. I think these need to be more centralized too. I shouldn’t have to check three places out to get more info. I should have my primary information from writers and the company itself at their site. But again this is me talking. I am more in tuned to older material and not venturing out into the indie space aside from the occasional games I have placed run by you.

    But this does bring a question to mind for others out there. If your an older gamer do you find communication lacking from the companies? Is it because they are not covering your interests or is it just that companies are tackling too many mediums at once?

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