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Sparklies

Jo March 28, 2000
 

The New Year and the new year Millennium... and the big question is... where do we go from here?

The face of our hobby has changed. Over the past 21 years I have seen the hobby blossom and grow and then now it seems like our hobby is in decline.

The numbers at cons, local that is, seems to be drastically declining. Yet, when I go into my local games stores, i still see new product coming out, and old game lines being supported with face lifts (as in the new revised Glorantha Runequest which will be hitting the shelves soon). So one can only assume that, from a retail point of view, maybe things aren't so bad. But then when I spoke to a friend who runs a game store in the city, the games are there, sure, and the games companies are still churning out new product. But the main sellers are card games and computer games.

I thought about this for a while. Actually, for the past couple of days I have been stewing and mulling over this point. I work in the I.T biz, so I am in and around computers for hours a day. One of my favorite pressies that I got for Chrissy this year was Tom Raider 4 for the PSX. I have been spending hours playing the damn thing. I love it, making Lara run around, frag skeletons and dodge flesh eating scarabs (I found myself thinking wistfully of Brendan Fraser at this point I might add), it's lots of fun. I have spent hours playing the game... by myself.

Computer games are seductive, visually seductive... and that's the hook. As the games market heats up and the pressure to create more lush, visually intensive environments for the mac, pc and the PSX, the more driven we become to sit in front of the tube to experience the worlds that up until now were the product of our imaginations.

Our dreams are becoming real, the realms in our imaginations are becoming physical, realized in pixels and bytes. Take Ryvern, granted it can be about as interesting as watching grass grow, but the world that the game is set in, the graphics and the sound are stunning.

With the advancement of technology, will come bigger and better changes in the games market until maybe one day, I am sitting in my lounge-room jacking into my matchbook sized console so I can be a VR Lara and Brendan and whatever the hell I want. My interaction will be in cyberspace, anyone around me will be lucky to get a grunt let alone a conversation.

This is what roleplaying is up against.... mind candy. Can roleplaying survive in the face of the millions and squillons of bucks that are being poured into computer game development pool?

It's very easy to immediately jump on the roleplaying soapbox and declare in a big loud voice "I will always Roleplay, I won't ever stop, no sir-ee. I love it, my friends love it, and that's the way it is!"

Yeah... right... and then tell me you aren't hanging out for PSX 2 or Quake 4.

Don't get me wrong,I love my PSX (as I have said before) and odds are you like your computer games as much as the next guy/girl, but there can be no question about the changes that are occurring within the roleplaying market. And we as players and as consumers are going to be affected by these changes.

One has to ask why Chaosium feels it necessary, in its new push to re-invent Glorantha, to invent a sliding scale of payment to ensure up to the minute details and notes on the re-vamped game? Under a new scheme called the "GTA", a mere $1500.00 US dollars will you can automatically be made a "hero" and have all access to the new whisperings and gossips and have your name printed in all the supplements that come out. If in doubt, check the link (http://www.glorantha.com/inc/gta.html) And they make no bones about it either, yup, it's an excuse to make money and they say so. Congratulations guys, nail in the coffin no. 1.

This is an example of the changes I am talking about. In a bid to stay afloat, this company has resorted to daylight robbery to keep their product alive. Glorantha has a hard core following of die-hard fans who passionately love the game,and are extremely loyal to the product. So now how can they be in on the whole new Glorantha experience unless, as well as shelling out for the new rules and supplements, they shell out anywhere from 100.00 us dollars to 1500.00 us dollars? Whilst some folks can and will give over the cash, others who can't afford it will miss out. Nail in the coffin no. 2.

At the moment, there are a couple of other companies who are hitting their market for extra cash outside of the product support. But to my knowledge, the cost involved are minimal compared to these silly so called "Blue Ribbon" charges. Still, a trend has been set in motion, and in the race to "get there first", which products are going to fall to the wayside because consumers won't or can't pay to be in the loop? Nail in the coffin no. 3.

Makes 50 bucks for a computer or PSx game look cheap by comparison. If roleplaying is going to see it through for the next ten years, then we are going to have to expect that the companies will help us maintain the future of the hobby. I don't think anyone expects a bona fide business to run on air, and no business can survive without profit... it's part of the great merchant/capitalist system and world that we live, nothing wrong with commerce, charge what the market will bear. Can this market bear this disturbing trend? Are YOU as a consumer prepared to not only support a product but any extra "cash incentives" that are given to you? Nail in coffin no. 4.

Let's be honest, this hobby is a BUSINESS. We have a great time when we get together with our friends and actually roleplay, it's great. But there is an industry built around our fun, and the industry is about making money. Some companies have seen the writing on the wall and we are now starting to see the trickle of roleplaying games to the PC. TSR/Wizards (aka Hasbro) & the Heavy Gear folks have been dabbling with this for years. Computers are not leaving. Not only are they a business tool, they are an entertainment tool as well, an entertainment tool that is a juggernaught that has taken on a life of its own.

If we support our fav roleplaying products in a realistic way, and with the shared support of our fav roleplaying companies then we all have the opportunity to stay afloat, and keep our hobby alive and well in the face of the computer revolution. No more coffin nails, let's resurrect this baby.

jo
jo@rpg.net

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