The Renaissance of TableTop Games
I suppose had John and I really thought through Dungeons & Dreamers back in 2001, we might have considered creating a little cottage industry around the book’s basic premise.
As we researched and then created the spider web-like narrative plot points that connected modern computer game developers with Dungeons & Dragons, we were continually struck by how direct the link was between the two worlds.
Without fail, the developers of some of the most popular computer games had their creative spark generated by some transformative tabletop gaming experience.
It’s no accident that so many early computer RPGs were built around narrative stories, and online RPGs were built around community actions. Those were the two hallmark of great tabletop experiences: storytelling and community.
Being writers we fell in love with the simplicity and elegance of the story (although to be honest we didn’t tell that story very well until the Second Edition), but we didn’t think much beyond what that might mean once our book was finished. Instead, we lamented that fact that writing this story in 2003 probably put us on the cutting edge of this story.
We knew that game culture would eventually become something that people took more seriously, we just weren’t sure when that would be.
Fast forward to 2014, and we’ve seen the answer play out in the last few years.
It’s hard to credit one group for pushing game culture beyond the screens and tabletops, and into the public consciousness. Still, the folks at Geek & Sundry, a commercial YouTube network that is built around the idea of community and gaming, are good representatives of the Game as Community idea.
One of its big promotional ideas is TableTop Day, an international event created by the G&S team and dedicated to getting people to play tabletop games with their friends.
Whether Tabletop Day helped push the idea of gaming or just tapped into the zeitgeist isn’t important to me.
Instead, I’ve enjoyed the renaissance of these tabletop games, and listening to people discuss the impact of role-playing games. For some, tabletop RPGs taught them how to tell stories, while others say the greatest impact has been the community they found.
Whatever the reasons articulated by players and developers, I’ve viewed all of their reasons as extensions of the narrative threads John and I put together in those early outline sessions in 2001.
It’s completed the narrative arc of our story: The tabletop games of the early 1970s helped create the foundation for computer games, which has in turn led to the re-emergence of tabletop games and communities.
It’s a self-sustaining and self-renewing community, and it’s grown organically through these communities connecting through emergent communication platforms. This growth hasn’t been driven by big corporate media. Instead, it’s been driven by gamers who have created online forums, Meetup groups, podcasts, and YouTube networks.
While John and I never had the motivation to build our own place within that universe, we’ve had the opportunity to watch it emerge over the last 14 years. For writers, watching and documenting from the front row is enough.
Here are the stories that got me thinking about this post: