When it comes to Dungeons & Dragons, I agree with my colleague Jim Fear, who said this last night on Twitter:
Corollary: If you make the base mechanic slightly unintuitive, its got just a high enough bar to keep out the normies while allowing the serious people to enjoy their patrician-level hobbies without the fucking tumblr crowd shitting things up LIKE THEY ALWAYS DO EVERY SINGLE TIME pic.twitter.com/q2GEyUzZZB— Demilich Jim (@DemilichJim) September 24, 2019
In short, making a hobby normie-friendly is a mistake. Gates exist. They will be kept. Either you hold those gates to keep those who do not belong out, or they will hold those gates to keep you--the rightful hobbyist--out of the very domain you made possible.
To that end, having some barriers to entry is good. Uninituitive mechanics is one. Liminality is another; liminality is anathema to normies, who are too often NPCs requiring a script to execute to function, and liminality confounds that entirely. Put both in your hobby and you screen out a lot of potential troublemakers. Guess what old D&D editions had in spades?
This is why saving the hobby will require returning to the older editions and retrenching there. Shed the normies, shed Muh Industry, and return to the cottage industry of the old days and the hobby scene it fostered. Then we go forward anew from there; in short, the way out is the Old School Renaissance. The technology now exists for cottage industry to satisfy all the hobbyist needs, so we should embrace this and exploit that powre for our own benefit. Take a look at Chris Gonderman's Basic Fantasy, his own retroclone; the man's more than able to keep your D&D itch scratched for years, if not decades, and he's not gouging your wallet for hardcopies.
The rest of the hobby comes at the level of social pressure, and that means embracing our gamer identity and enforcing it against interlopers. Yes, Gatekeeping Is Good. This is because Gatkekeeping Is Necessary. Keep out Karen and her wine women whiners. Keep out Dangerhair & The Death Cult. Keep Fans of the Brand out. You get the idea.
People who oppose "gatekeeping" are really just attacking pre-selection being built into the game.— James Streissand (@ashofcreativity) September 24, 2019
As with gaming, so with all hobbies. Hold The Gates!