Thursday, January 28, 2016

My Life as a Gamer: The Threat Facing Tabletop RPGs

Irrelevance.

That's the problem. The medium of tabletop RPGs, being a tabletop wargame derivative in origin and misunderstood thereafter by successive cohorts of players, always existed in an uneasy liminal state where folks who had itches to scratch had nowhere else to go. That started to fray with the creation of Wizardry and Ultima, showing that videogames already had the means to cut away at the audience for tabletop RPGs via the superior satisifaction of whatever element the tabletop RPG offered at that time.

But, however much the tabletop scene tries (and, often, fails) to confront these threats to its existence, the biggest problem remains the one that is the biggest killing: time commitment.

To play a tabletop RPG, you have to gather together in a single place at a single time to pursue a single objective for up to half a work-day in duration on a frequent and regular basis. That's the same time commitment required of a paying job. No wonder most people quit tabletop RPGs in favor of alternatives; those alternatives deliver equal or superior value for far less time and far less commitment.

This has been a known issue since those alternatives--not just videogames, but primarily videogames--emerged in force over thirty years ago, but there is NO attempt to fix this issue (aside from some in the Old School Renaissance community, who attempt to revive the original gameplay paradigm that had no such time commitment issues). Just more lies, more doubling-down, and metric fuckloads of projection about it all is what we get. No wonder more and more withering of the scene occurs. To this day, it's Dungeons & Dragons (or a derivative, like Pathfinder), one or two also-rans, and a wastelands of delusional hobbyists think they matter as anything but an IP hothouse or farm league for the gaming media that actually fucking matters.

That's not a vital scene. That's not a thriving scene. That's a pathetic parasite barely hanging on to the one host still able to support it.

That's irrelevance. Until the time commitment issue is sorted, tabletop RPGs are going to be seen as a waste of time and potential by the majority of gamers.

And that, I think, plays into a host of other known issues about tabletop RPGs.

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