On the Future of Gaming
The world of gaming has undergone huge transformations over the last fifty years, and the Forgotten Realms has appeared in just about every gaming format that has come into being. I asked Ed what he felt the future of gaming was:
When I was young, wargaming was men moving painted model soldiers around a sandtable (or small cutout silhouettes of dreadnaughts around gymnasium floors) with yardsticks. Roleplaying games existed only in the form of “matchbox” off-map movement and umpires relaying sometimes-faulty reports to gamers playing at being the opposing General Staffs, to represent the fog of war. Even the hexagonal gaming board and real-battle simulation rules were in the future. Video gaming and computers weren’t even heard of. (And the world was black and white, and everyone walked about with fast, jerky movements, and . . .)
Roleplaying games were the first “big thing” in gaming during my lifetime, and they are a classic game form that will never die out, for the same reason that the classic board and card games from decades or even centuries ago will never die out; they are a pastime one can share with friends or family, something to do together. On an admittedly rarer and rarer basis, as the pace of life becomes ever-faster and gaming alone, something that has always held appeal for the social misfits among gamers, becomes not only easier and widespread, but an increasingly satisfying game experience (we’ve moved past crude arcade games, and computer games where the pixels were so large and blotchy that it was hard to even see what you were doing, as you played, to online gaming and immersive computer games with visuals that approach television and film quality, and we can now play on mobile phones—one more assault on the handy paperback book that used to dominate subway and bus daily commuting to work). I see the visuals, and the sophistication of game play, continuing to improve, and I also see the flexibility and capacity of networking (playing with friends via the Internet, in electronic gaming environments) continuing to improve.
Yet I don’t see these improvements “killing” roleplaying games and board games, just as film and television haven’t “killed” radio. There will always be a market for fun, visually attractive, fast and simple to play games for the family to enjoy together, a thirst for more complex one-on-one contests like chess, and smaller markets for more sophisticated board games that take longer to master and play. Give me a really satisfying game that can be played in an hour, for two to five people, that doesn’t necessarily emphasize violence over cooperation, and I can always find you people who will enjoy playing it. As a focus of socializing, games (which are, after all, just organized-with-rules forms of “play” that children all engage in) will never die out.
I have a great nostalgia for the crazy environment of TSR, back in the day (which I visited annually, but was never part of, as an employee), but for me, that’s missing a collection of people, not missing a building or a corporation or “the state of gaming back then.” Gaming is a creative industry that’s always driven by new ideas and improvements of classic games, and I have always been—and always will be—excited to be a part of it. Shopping at GenCon every year is still an annual highlight that I await eagerly.February 9th, 2010
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