Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Ryan Dancey Thinks the Kids are All Right

Ryan Dancey did his second pod-cast interview with "Fear the Boot" and, as always, he has some interesting stuff to talk about. Probably the most interesting thing is the younger, more gender-balanced demographic seen at GenCon '11. (They really get into this around minute 44.)

The idea of gaming being more a cultural thing than a pastime thing is fascinating. I can see it, though; there is gaming music and gaming fashion and all of that now, in a way there's never been before, even when TSR was trying to sell official D&D wood-burning kits.

On the face of it, that would appear to be a good thing from the viewpoint of the pen-and-paper RPG hobby. However, as Dancey points out, the new generation doesn't play like we used to. There is no strong commitment to one game for years of time. They're interested in playing a wide range of games for brief periods, hopping from game to game not in a sort of gamer ADD, but rather in a more planned manner: "Ok, Jen will run Traveller over the summer, and then in fall we'll start Dave's Pathfinder Game, and Mike can run his Kobold's Stole My Baby one-shot over the Labor Day weekend."

This seems to fit very well with what I've seen from the 20-somethings I've been playing with. They like my games because it's a change of pace from these short-term games that seem to dominate their usual play. Long-term commitment doesn't seem to happen much. Getting people to commit to even four hours weekly seems to be a challenge. Gaming is part of the air they breath, but there doesn't seem to be a strong need to make it happen, if that makes sense?

Ok, no, it doesn't to me, either, but that seems to be what I see happening in a lot of groups.

Of course, we're all talking from personal experience, and the plural of "anecdote" ain't "data," so YMMV and all of that. Still, it does appear to be what I'm seeing. And that kinda implies that the future of RPGs is the FUDGE model, where you have simple-to-learn rule set that can be picked up quickly, but then ported to all sorts of different genres and styles. A core mechanic that bridges many different games is good because it means you don't have to teach a brand-new game to everyone when you want to play something different, but these core rules need to be extremely simple and bare-bones because you want to be able to run everything from traditional dungeon-delving to fantastical western to space opera to angsty-teenagers-dealing-with-mutant-powers-and-typical-highschool-drama. True20 or Savage Worlds might really flourish in this sort of environment, but my gut suspicion is that even these games are too complex to be portable to the variety of games the new generation will be eager to play.


Antion said...

I'll give Mr. Dancey a listen later, but on the topic of the habits of younger gamers, in my experience your description is pretty much spot on. Working with my peer group, we game all the time but I can't get anybody to commit to anything for more than a few weeks.

I ended up wandering down to my FLGS and hooking up with a crew of older gents just so I could experience some continuity.

Of course, the ConstantCon / Flailsnails thing seems to be interacting with both trends in some interesting ways, supported by its peculiar mix of young'uns & blognards, but it's really too early to tell how that's gonna shake out.

James said...

The Birmingham Meet-up Group I'm currently working with is following this model almost exactly. We run two games, concurrently, at a session. Right now, A CoC game is running in one room and my OSR style D&D in another.

That's about to wrap up and the group is switching to WoD and Pathfinder for a two months. Then, Star Wars and 4e for another two months.

The group did experiment for a time, with going with one system. Chaosium's Basic Role-Playing. But, they missed the variety. Also, issues with GM's wanting to run their favorite systems, etc.

Robert Fisher said...

My anecdote: My group is mostly 30- and 40-somethings with a couple 20-somethings and one preteen. We've always jumped from game to game. We have long-term commitment but to the group rather than a system. Much like you describe. We play one game for 9 to 18 months. Then switch to another one for the next 9 to 18 months. Then we might revive an old campaign or start something brand new.

(And honestly, I thought this was the norm. My high school group stuck to mostly Traveller and AD&D because we just hadn't bought much else. By college, switching systems was a regular thing.)

For us, though, changing systems is as important as changing worlds or genres. This group isn't going to settle on Fudge or GURPS or anything else as our go-to system. Even jumping between lighter systems and those that require more investment is important to us.

(Interestingly, we've also got a subset of the main group that plays when the opportunity arises--instead of regularly--and is jumping around even more. One-offs or just a few sessions. With thoughts that we may revisit the same characters on occasion for the ones we enjoy the most.)