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.