The Internet and Role Playing Games

While I was thinking about role playing yesterday as I do in almost 59 seconds out of every minute of the day I realised that things have changed a lot since the time that I started.  I got my first role-playing game in 1986 and have been gaming ever since and I realised that the advent of the Internet has changed things considerably in my 40 years on this Earth,

I have lived most of my life in a rural or remote area too so it is not like I could wander down to my FLGS (friendly local game store) to pick up the latest in games, or even get exposure to a lot of games beyond what the major RPG companies were putting out so I had a fairly sheltered RPG collection up until recently.  FASA, TSR, Victory Games were the majority of books that I had on my shelf.  Nearly all of these purchases were made to a company via mail order and I would pay the price of the book and the postage and packaging for it on top of that.

Times have changed.  When I was a young lad…

What all of the above meant was that I was generally limited, at the best of times, to having books for only one or two games on my shelf.  Rarely did I have all the books to a system and I often had a wish list of books as long as my arm.  Also, books were always a fairly large price, starting at about $25 and going right up to $60 for each book.

Fast forward to today.  If someone asked the awkward question “How many games do you own?” I would be stumped.  I have no idea.  I have at least fourty game systems?  Maybe more but certainly not less. I don’t believe in piracy so all of them have been purchased legitimately but the price for a PDF is dirt cheap so on an impulse I will buy several systems at once and be lucky to read even one of them! I can not even tell you where they all are.  Hard copy has gone out the window largely.  The implementation of the internet and PDF’s or ePub’s have meant that I can store thousands of documents on my iPad without a single worry in the world.  I do not need to store physical copies anywhere so space is not an issue.

I still buy physical copies of the books I really like but the quality of the books has shot through the roof and the price of the books has dropped through the floor.  I now get most of my books from the actual publishers from the Country they are located in as it is cheaper than buying it from the mail order store in my country.

Also, I do some work for at least one of the gaming publishers as an IT professional and rather than paying me in $’s I am unpaid but get free PDF’s for my trouble.  Not that it is much trouble but these books bank up for me to read and I find myself living in a role playing golden age.  Or am I?

I am worried that our industry is feeling like it is in boom but is balancing on a bust.  The ease of access to publishing game material is insane and so many people that once would have been players are now putting out their material.  Me included of course (although I am yet unpublished it is a matter of time).  Many of these games are good and their authors throw them out for free or next to no money at all.  Artists are asked to do material for books at a greatly reduced wage than was previously offered and they do it because they love the hobby, not the money.

So where does this leave the industry.  We are getting brilliant quality from the major companies and we expect that quality.  Full colour hardback rule books are dirt cheap!  How can this translate to money to support them in the long run.  Piracy is rife and people share their PDF’s like they do chips at a gaming table.  I work in an idustry (IT) where this attitude causes prices to sky rocket because to get the polished quality product they need to pay people and piracy steals money from that pool and hence drives costs up.  In the role-playing industry prices have gone the other way so how is this maintainable?

I don’t believe in piracy, but I love my pirate role playing!

I have no answers to this.  I just have questions and an unerring nervousness at the back of my head that tells me “Winter is Coming”.  Why do I see that?  Well, some of the bigger named companies have run Kickstarters to support their products.  Kickstarters.  Why is that a bad thing?  Well, that means they are finding ways to fund their ideas have run dry.  They need to turn to the fans and say give us the money to make the next product.  It is now being treated like an elaborate pre-order system just to get material made.

If I were not so worried about the industry I would have opened a FLGS in my area by now.  I know there is no money to support me and my family in it though.  Am I wrong?  Do you feel I am the sandwich board man with “The End of the World is Nigh” printed across my chest or are you concerned about this too?  Let me know in the comments.  Let us get a dialogue started over this.  Surely it is important enough to think about.  Until next time, keep rolling!

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