For this month’s blog carnival Mad Brew Labs has posed the question “Challenge: Growing the Hobby”. Since I started playing in 1980, the hobby has grown exponentially and shows no sign of stopping. Sure, in the general population interest flares up, wanes, and fares again but the sheer number of people who play RPGs has grown considerably since its beginning. Do we really need it to grow more?
I think that before we can really answer the question of how to grow our hobby, we need to define exactly what hobby it is that we’re trying to grow. It’s RPGs, of course. But what, exactly, are RPGs? Tabletop games using traditional rules systems such as D&D, GURPS, Storyteller, Savage Worlds, etc. are obviously RPGs. But tabletop games have grown away from the table or were never there to start with. Are LARPs (live-action roleplaying games) RPGs? I think most of us would answer “yes”, simply because they’re usually based on a tabletop system.
But that being the case then, do the How to Host a Murder games that were popular in the late ’80′s also RPGs? I tend not classify them as RPGs for the simple matter that they involved reading lines from a set script. But what about the murder mystery trains and interactive theatres? How about re-enactment and re-creation such as the Society for Creative Anacronisms and black-powder rendezvous? What makes them different from LARPS?
Moving back to tabletop (in a way), we come to Play by Mail, Play by Email, and Play by Post games. Are they also RPGs? I think most of us would, again, say “yes” because they’re still playing something we recognize as an RPG. But that, then, leads us to open the big can of worms … MMOs. Are MMOs a type of RPG?
My point here isn’t to spark debate about what is or isn’t an RPG. My point is that the hobby may already be more mainstream and wide-spread than we frequently think.