Does Anyone Care for RPG History?

Best of the Dragon Vol 1[1]By Paco Garcia Jaen

I don’t know you guys, but I am a sucker for TV program in the “the-way-they-used-to-be” lines. You know.. the type of programs that show adverts from 30 or 40 years ago, or snippets of television that leave your mouth open at the rather tasteless fashion statements. Boy thank goodness those perms are gone! (No… I refuse to admit I thought they were cool at the time… and so do you!)

Then there are the scripts for those adverts. Makes you wonder how they got away with them… “Even a woman can do it!” says the rather stiff looking man on the screen. That alone would be enough to give the Germaine Greers of this world an epilepsy attack!

Then of course we have to look at ourselves. I know it’s painful, but it is a sad fact… we all looked like plonkers in the 70’s and most of the 80’s

Our hair was a mess, we had more spots (pimples… just in case you need translation), the glasses we wore were way too big for our faces, the pens were too big for our shirt pockets, our jeans so tight we looked like we had tonsillitis and we were very naive.

Now we all look smarter, slicker, have better hair, our glasses are usually OK for our faces and we’ve even developed some sort of sense of fashion… well, that might be taking it a bit too far in some cases, but we look better.

Heck, compare a child of 12 with you when you were 12. Tell me… who looks better?

Exactly! I rest my case!

Of course our hobby has changed too. Every single game since the start of Role Playing games in the mid 70’s has gone through one or two “upgrades” and re-incarnations. If they have survived that long, that is.

Games today also look better, the rules are slicker, the game play faster and the adventuring more “mature”. They have also become more accessible and relevant and a lot more ubiquitous. Whereas 20 or 25 years ago we only knew about games through word or mouth, fanzines, some magazines and the advertising in comics, today we have the Internet to bring us more information we can possibly digest or care about. We also have more and better access to funding (Kickstarter, I love you!) and printing, and costs have become cheaper (overall… I am sure there are exceptions).

And yet I can’t help to enjoy the nostalgia and melancholic effect of going trough old games and reliving once again the adventures in my head.

So much so that when I had the chance to buy some Dragon Magazine Annuals in January this year, I jumped at them and bought the lot without even question.

What happened afterwards did surprise me, though… I was laughed at by my friends(yes, they are my friends and I love them, even when they behave like oafs), who couldn’t take me seriously.

Apparently the articles written by Gary Gigax, Jeff Grubb and many others were something to laugh about rather than look at with some sort of reverence and a warm feeling inside.

The sort of articles I could find were in the lines of “How Heavy is a Giant”. Some two thousand words explaining the principles and the maths behind the rather complicated formula given in the article to calculate how heavy giants are.

Quite frankly, I was dismayed at the reaction.

Granted that some articles were unnecessarily complex with redundant information, but to ignore how important and how cool they were at the time?… I thought that was undeserved.

More importantly… to laugh at them?

I have never been one for taking the rules to the letter, so that sort of articles I read out of curiosity and amazement, more than anything else, but I do appreciate how they help me see the way games have evolved in the last 20 years. Not just how games have evolved, but how our perception of games have evolved. What is still relevant and important to us and what has become something superfluous.

It actually helps me put into perspective how good, or bad, games are, if they are copying anything, if the evolution is congruent with the initial setting…

Am I the only one who cares about that? Can we really afford to lose track of how games are changing, how the way we think about games and what we consider important about them?

I hope not!

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