Much ado is made about the reason for role playing as a whole being in an untenable decline, to which I flatly say it isn’t. I would much more charitably compare it to the slump that board games collectible card games have since forded, and I don’t see any end in sight for role playing as a viable pastime. What many have forgotten or simply were not around for are the sudden and very momentous games that created an influx of new players, two of which are 3rd edition Dungeons and Dragons, and Vampire the Masquerade. There were others, but these are likely the two most important.
You can’t readily deny that these two games brought many into the hobby in two well timed bursts, but like with any growth of membership, a numerical decline is inevitable. Just as an unsupported game loses attention, even supported games fail to maintain high population levels, and that’s a fact I can take from World of Warcraft, though that’s not going anywhere either.
But this doesn’t even speak to why games DO go away. It isn’t usually a lack of interest in the hobby or the surge in popularity of video games that destroys a gaming company; the role playing industry is one like any other, prone to the vicissitudes of life, and there are many prime examples. When companies are subject to a waning fan-base, it is usually due to internal factors, not some new fad that crushes the industry into the ground.
Guardians of the Order, for one, was done in by currency trade rates. You don’t believe me? Please _read this_. The disturbing part is this; the company was completely viable otherwise. They were using dream franchises like Sailor Moon and Trigun. It wasn’t the lack of interest, it was business killed the beast.
Then there is White Wolf… well, I point again to my least favorite Icelandic video game company. White Wolf’s current maladies are myriad, but a bulk of their issues stem from the systematic Romney-esque dismantling of their resources like so much William Wallace. Again, I intend to explore the subject of White Wolf more at a later date, but the point I make is to illustrate that the tabletop gaming industry is in no specific peril of being quashed by any outside force.
Tides rise and fall. If you had told 15 year old me that we’d all be playing German board games, I’d have thought that you were crazy. Role playing is evolving before our very eyes, and it will endure for another 40 years at least. If you need proof, google Nordic Larp.
Our games will endure, and our stories will too. We have only to weather the storms of invisible hands and gross mismanagement. Time has shown us that a number of things remain constant, among them the certainty of a recognizable fantasy brand. And that too may fade in time, but if you look at what has survived the 40 years of role playing history, it’s plain to see that established companies don’t go down easily. Palladium Books really should not still be around, but even they know how to keep a handhold.
Ultimately, I’m trying to illustrate that the industry, such as it is, will be alright. Dungeons and Dragons will be too, dissatisfied as some may be. Much ado can be made about the current affairs, and of these companies and their follies, but let us be productive about our circumstance. Lets not doom-say; rather, we should redirect our energies. After all, this is a hobby that is predicated on turning dissatisfaction into opportunity.