Internet killed the Table Top Star

Allen Varney has written an interesting article about how the internet affects our roleplaying hobby. Here’s an excerpt from his post:

There are bright spots, but overall, this portends decrepitude. The entire tabletop hobby is shrinking and graying, and will eventually join model railroads and rocketry as an obscure, geriatric pursuit. The internet devoured my industry’s collective lunch.

I think he gives a good overview of the state of our hobby. Although he starts by describing the decline of the hobby but then he praises the positive effect the internet has on the hobby. So it’s probably a mixed bag. The internet and MMOs compete with the gaming hobby but it also gives players new opportunities. So, if you haven’t done so already, check out Allen’s post.

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team. In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games. Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

9 thoughts on “Internet killed the Table Top Star”

  1. I think he's not enjoying his hobby anymore and that is the personal deathnell none of us can avoid. If you're not enjoying it then it's not going to be fun.

    I think RPGs are more accessible than ever before. You don't need to pull that book from the shelf of that odd shop your parents will not let you go into – you can surf to descriptions of it there and then.

    Things are changing and if you are in the world of old-fashioned publishing then you probably are a bit scared. I doubt it will go the same way as model railways, though. That always had a stigma attached to it!

    <abbr><abbr>Rob Langs last blog post..Brain off? Risus on. The Anything RPG by S. John Ross</abbr></abbr>

  2. I agree. The hobby is changing but it will not die. And we've seen a lot of indie games recently, some free, some not, that are doing fine. Perhaps the big companies will decide some time in the future that RPGs are not worth it, but the hobby will still be strong.

    I am pretty sure that RPG blogs will play a major part in the future of roleplaying.

  3. One of the things that I discovered is that when I actively included my children in RPGs, they became enthused. My daughter branched out to form an afternoon gaming group with her friends. Those kids now form the backbone of the local youth center's RPG table.

    Perhaps the "death knell" of RPGs is applicable if we are not actively recruiting the next generation.

    <abbr><abbr>Vulcan Stevs last blog post..Vulcan Stev family movie review: Eagle Eye</abbr></abbr>

  4. @Vulcan Stev: Recruiting new players is very important, especially when you manage to infect them with the RPG virus before they fall into the claws of MMOs or gaming consoles. 🙂

  5. On the contrary, for me, I wouldn't play if it weren't for the internet. Having played on a tabletop, I don't prefer it to text-based mediums such as chat or play-by-correspondence (be it forums or via your phone sms or whatever). It…bores me, usually. I think the internet can really enrich the experience.

    <abbr><abbr>Wyatts last blog post..Might of Eden: Aberrant Wizard</abbr></abbr>

  6. I guess I'm a bit of an "old man" when it comes to gaming ("I'm 37, I'm not old") BUT recently I needed some new guys for my group and after putting posts online and at the local game store, I got a TON of responses, mostly from guys 10+ years younger than myself.

    When you only hang around with the same group you've gamed with for that past 20 years, yeah – everyone starts looking older – but if you actually get out of your game room and look around you see a much younger group taking part in the hobby.

    Nope, I don't think it's Model Train Time for gamers yet.

  7. I totally agree with Wyatt. My gaming has really had a rebirth since I began playing tabletop games online. I no longer play face to face. I wouldn't object to it with the right group, but it is a huge hastle for me. Besides the decrease in speed of play online, I feel like every aspect of my gaming has improved by playing online.

  8. I'm certain that the internet will kill tabletop roleplaying!

    Exactly the way cinema and radio killed live performances of music, tv killed cinema, the VCR killed cinema and free-to-air television, computer games have killed board games, electronic funds transfer gave us the cashless society, computers gave us the paperless office, video conferencing killed off international business travel, filesharing has killed the movie and music industries, and free pr0n has killed sex.

    One technology kills another when it does just the same thing, but better.

    Thus automobiles kill off horse-drawn buggies because both get you from A to B, but the automobile does it faster and requiring less skill to use, doesn't tend to wander off by itself if unattended, and you have no guilt in having it destroyed when it doesn't work well anymore.

    DVD players replaced VCRs because they both play films, but DVDs allow you to have extra features, little mini-movies, voiceovers and so on; VCRs are still around because while you can copy onto a DVD, once copied that's that, whereas a VCR tape you can use heaps of times.

    Video conferences have not replaced business trips because people enjoy the face-to-face contact, and feel they need it before spending millions of dollars on a contract. But large companies still use video conferencing a lot – as well as business trips.

    So then we come to ask whether the internet and computer games offer the same things as tabletop roleplaying. In some ways, they do – you can have a character cruise around having adventures. But internet and computers miss out on two key features of tabletop rpgs: face-to-face social interaction, and intelligent GMing.

    Sitting alone at your computer is rarely as much fun or as fulfilling as sitting around a table with your mates talking shit and eating junk food. And even the stupidest GM is smarter than the flashest computer, more adaptable.

    I think it's telling that the guy writing this article about how roleplaying is perishing, Allen Varney, is one of the authours of the modern incarnation of Paranoia – a game which is basically a satire on (among other things) fucked-up game groups where everyone just blows shit up and backstabs each-other pointlessly. So he begins with a negative view of gamers and gaming, from which naturally comes the idea that it's all dying.

    Probably he just can't get a game group, and doesn't really want one – there are a lot of BNGs out there, bitter non-gamers whose only contact with the hobby is mailing lists or discussion forums where they argue about "canon" in some game they haven't played for twenty years.

    If you look at Varney's website, you'll see a list of his articles… mostly about online computer games. He has exactly zero mention of tabletop games he's played. Like many of us, he assumes that his own experiences and preferences are universal.

    Roleplaying is never going to be as big as it was in the 1980s and 1990s. But it's not going the model railroad way, either. It's quite possible for people to enjoy their regular weekly rpg session, and also enjoy computer games and internet stuff.

    <abbr><abbr>Kiashus last blog post..The coup de jeu</abbr></abbr>

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