Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Modern Gamers– Who are they, really?

sir_pudding writes:

You keep saying “modern gamers” in your posts, but don’t define what you mean. Do you mean “people that still play RPGs regularly”, “gamers under 50, (or 40, or 30)”, “people that game differently from me”, “people who play games other than OD&D” or something else?

Good question.

My generation of gamers mostly did not understand AD&D 1e. We held Basic D&D in a special place of derision. We thought TSR made silly, broken games and spent a lot of time and money trying to find something that did things right– stuff like Twilight 2000, FASA Doctor Who, Victory Games Jame Bond…. GURPS was a very big deal when it came out, but we probably couldn’t figure it out. We played microgames like Ogre, G.E.V., CAR WARS, and Illuminati… but maybe never quite understood the tactics. (“How can the Ogre ever lose?”) The games of the seventies (like Melee and Wizard and OD&D) would occasionally be mentioned in magazines, but they pretty much could not be had for love nor money. They effectively didn’t exist. The Ultima and Zork computer games were extremely influential to us. We might have played different things… but basically every teenage guy gamed (usually in secret for fear of losing status to the girls) even if it was just Axis & Allies or something. “Real games” were state of the art at the time– computers were primitive, expensive, and not yet ubiquitous.

Modern gamers, in contrast, are primarily influenced by the game design choices of D&D 3.5 and 4e, Magic The Gathering, Warhammer 40K, and massively multiplayer online rpg’s. For the most part, I don’t think they’ve heard of GURPS. Most have played one or more of Settlers of Cataan, Carcassonne, Ticket to Ride, or Dominion. The vintage games they are most likely to have been exposed to are Battletech and Shadowrun. The stigma of geekiness has lessened and girls are far more likely to participate in gaming actively. Modern gamers can easily get information about any game that was ever made, but they are more likely to use smart phones to coordinate their social activities while a game is being run.

These are of course gross generalizations. I can go to Origins and run just about any obscure game and still get a table full of players. Big city people can hook up with people that play just about anything, too. My experiences are limited mostly to small towns that barely have enough population to keep a game store in business. Your mileage may vary and regional differences are liable to be significant.

Let the table note that I bear no particular ill will toward any other style of gaming or preference or generation. If the idea of playing games for twelve hours straight strikes your fancy, then I’d probably want to hang with you whether we’re playing vintage games, war games, euro games, or even… uh… modern games. Honestly, though, I’d be disappointed when, after playing your games, you showed contempt at the thought of playing my personal favorites. But that’s the thing. If you play a more mainstream game, you just don’t need players the way I might. That’s the way it is.

At any rate, I chose to run Basic D&D at Madicon for a lot of reasons. I wanted to revisit a game that didn’t get quite enough attention from me back in the eighties. I wanted to test out the suggestions and proclamations of the various bloggers that spearhead the Old School Revival to see if there was anything to them. Most of all, I wanted to find a game that would allow me to meet gamers in my area half way. They have pretty much zero interest in Ogre, CAR WARS, Classic Traveller, and Star Fleet Battles. Basic D&D, though, was the one vintage game that I thought could fill up my table and keep a random group group of “modern gamers” engaged and (hopefully) entertained for eight hours. I think it worked.

2 responses to “Modern Gamers– Who are they, really?

  1. RogerBW April 3, 2012 at 4:40 pm

    I think I may be just a fraction younger than you. Got started in the early 1980s, assumed that “Advanced” was just the next set of books after [Moldvay] “Basic” and “Expert”. But in the UK at least if you found a shop that sold D&D you’d probably also found a shop that sold RuneQuest and Traveller and so on, and I think a lot of us blended multiple games into homebrew systems. (Going to school in, then living in, London meant it wasn’t too hard to find gamers – and we have very few of the sort I’ve heard of elsewhere, who refuse to play some system or other. Usually they’re just pleased to find someone who’s willing to GM!)

    From there, I took a years-long detour into Rolemaster/Space Master, for which I still have a soft spot – I never found it anything like the nightmare of complexity that people claimed. Played a bit of GURPS, but got into it seriously relatively recently, towards the end of the 3e era. These days GURPS 4th is my system of choice – i.e. I’ll use it unless I have a compelling reason to pick something else for a particular game (such as Pendragon’s personality trait system).

  2. Old School Gamer Dad April 3, 2012 at 7:45 pm

    Great definition. I can definitely get on board with that. I like to think of myself as one who enjoys both the old (AD&D, Gamma World, Gangbusters) and (thanks to my kids) the new school of gaming, eg. Star Wars Saga, Settlers, Dominion, Agricola, et al.

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