Friday, April 12, 2024

The Evolution of Gaming, or Why My Thoughts on Gaming have Changed Drastically Over Time

I have been thinking about this for quite a long time and though I am not an eloquent man, I thought I should put these random and chaotic thoughts down in pixels. A sort of 'My journey in creative endeavors' or some such. This is somewhat rambley and covers a lot of random thoughts/ideas. I feel my thoughts on gaming have come full circle in a rather strange way, but somehow I am back where I started (at least I hope so). Some may view that as bad, or some may view it as good. I think it is good. You can be the judge, but here I am. This may also piss some people off as they might view this as me attacking what they are doing. Maybe I am.

G+ ushered in a massive communal environment, where we were all creating and sharing, building lots of ideas and sharing them freely...excitedly creating things for the good of us all. This was a great time in the hobby and I repeatedly see people referring to this as a 'Golden Age' and I wholeheartedly agree.

At some point this turned in 'I can create and make funds from this', and suddenly everyone and their brother stopped creating for free and turned to creating for money. I participated in this and had a Patreon for about a year. I slowly became disillusioned by this as greed leached into the hobby and the majority turned from creating "because that's who we are" to "creating to make money".

Related to this, at this time our hobby took a massive turn in mentality. 

Let me explain. When we were kids, back in yonder days, those who created did so for their game table which comprised of us and our friends who we knew very well. We made things we enjoyed making but also things we would use fairly quickly at our tables. Very few of us created things we thought we could sell, or even thought someone else might use/enjoy. None of that mattered. We created for us. But when money came into the picture, most of us created for others. I think this is important to note, as I think the hobby changed drastically. 

The reason I bring this up is that I had an epiphany in the last couple of weeks when I realized part of what was holding me back from playing was that I was creating things for my game, always with an angle that I would share it for others to use. 

While for some, this might be a tiny thing to make note of, but for me, this was significant. 

The realization that I had changed my viewpoint on creating for the hobby for others and no longer for myself (and my table). I also realized this was holding me back from creating. I was putting others concerns, likes, wants, needs, ahead of my own. I was always creating things - even playing games - with the intent of sharing with others, putting their enjoyment equal or even ahead of my own enjoyment. Views, downloads, clicks, shares, etc were a driving motivator for what I was doing. When I approached a new idea, first and foremost was the thought "Will others find this useful?" Which was quickly followed by "How to present this so others can use it?"

In any case, I needed to say this, get it off my chest, if you will and I am going to try to play the games I like, in a way I like, but more importantly, for ME. Put me before others in my game.

After all, this is MY table.

If you caught Erik Tenkar’s video where Joe roasted me for about twenty minutes, you may have come to the same conclusion as they did, that my post is some sort of anti-capitalistic post, which it is not.

This was what I sent them:
I think you guys misunderstood the point of my post, I likely did not articulate it well. The point was not anti-capitalist, it was that the capitalist angle changed the way we approached and created things. The angle affected the approach, and in my opinion, the results.



  1. The downside of creating purely for your own table is that the majority of my material I'm unable to freely share, since I'm always incorporating bits and pieces of other people's work into my own and I never keep track of what's original/sufficiently transformative/free use vs. what's lifted directly from a product I paid for.

  2. You know... this hit home. I'm a dabbler and really enjoy creating games and fiddling with mechanics. I do that more than I play, honestly. But, everything I create has a slant toward sharing. So, that drives me to do things like try and come up with micro settings and adventure hooks and themed character sheets. I admit it's fun, but it pushes me to go further than I would if it was just something for me. That's a good thing in some respects. It works that creative muscle. So in that respect I like it. But, why? Clicks, downloads, upvotes on reddit... why should I care what others think if I like it and my friends I play with online like it.

  3. I rarely share what I create for my table because I create it with my players and their characters in mind, but when I post something online, it's usually with the intent of using it at my table someday. My blogs are mostly about what I plan to do, not what I've already done. And I always welcome feedback if anyone wants to playtest whatever I've posted.

  4. I agree with you. Used to be you could do a search and find 10,000 tweaks and ideas to use. Now you find one or two. Seems like i have bought 100 supplements that i never use. I've stopped buying.

  5. So, yes.
    But also, not the first time this happened. Before G+ and the OGL, there was AOL. TSR had an AOL site. You could also submit and store files there. I don't remember a whole lot about it, but I uploaded a bunch of different stuff and downloaded a LOT. 3e hadn't been invented; TSR hadn't collapsed; online commerce was a green glint in a few peoples' eyes; and people were uploading 300+ page txt files filled with spells, or monsters, or settings, or NPCs. It was glorious.

    Then the OGL came, and suddenly $$$. Monte Cook started selling pdfs online, and more $$$$$$. And the online community evaporated.

    Obviously, at the time we didn't have a choice. There was one venue for distribution and no legal means of making money, and a huge backlog of pent-up creatives who wanted to share their work and didn't expect to make money at it. It's different now. BFRPG, Dragonsfoot, and a few others keep some of it alive though.

    A big part of my motivation back in 2013 with The Basic Illusionist pdf for Swords & Wizardry was to make something quality and free as a homage to the pre-OGL communities that existed.

    1. Just to be clear, I'm not saying it hasn't happened again, because it definitely has. I'd been having the same thoughts you'd identified. Also, I don't give Tenkar much thought at all, let alone viewing time, but I'm not surprised. Oh well, so sad.

  6. Just responding to your update, I didn't take your original message as anti-capitalist at all. You were making a point about how writing for your personal game is very different than writing for publishing or even just to get "hits". I get it. You made me rethink my current approach on gaming in a good way. I miss the days of G+ was a great shared OSR universe. Oh, and Nathan I had forgotten about those old AOL days, but yeah you were right, you could find all kinds of cool stuff. I think I still have some old Star Trek to D&D conversions I found and printed off from AOL back in the day. Good times.

    1. I just got around to reading this. I agree with Bill. I didn't take this as anti-capitalist. Just that writing with an eye for commercial release changes the way people approach things.

  7. Isn't it a three-pronged issue? 1) Keep it to yourself, 2) share it with others, or 3) monetize it. All three have a positive and negative. I've felt it, we've all felt it. In my case, the capitalization aspect has improved my work. The only downside to that, other than energy taken up and the wife occasionally mad, is that my products don't sell as well as they could... like if I was more mainstream.

  8. I do agree with you

  9. I do miss the G+ days!

    I went on a bit of the same journey. Published a few DMs Guild products. Nothing special, but enough to subsidize my spending on the Guild.

    I was without a group at that time. Once I started actually DMing again, I posted less and less on my blog. I still do, on occasion. (Three posts in 2023!).