Why We Need to Innovate or Die

Innovate or Die.” I read this poster almost daily at a client’s offices; it features some dead animal carcasses in the middle of a desert road. I think the constant exposure to the image makes it less gruesome then it sounds, but the words are burned into my skull none the less. I see innovation everywhere, the internet makes seeing the new trends as easy as turning on my computer. Every industry is experiencing a revolution, newspapers are making way to blogs, big R&D firms are turning to the masses to solve problems, and Twitter birthed a political revolution.

But I look around our community and see piles of dead or half-life blogs. People that write jaw dropping, inspiring posts, just up and disappear into the ether. While blogs come and go around the net it’s sad not to hear from some of the more innovative voices like Cole (Singular Moments in Adventuring), Michael, Spenser (Rocks Fall Everyone Dies) and Theron (These Dice Look Funny) to name a few. I know at least two of them are still kicking (they’ve been commenting on the blog recently), and are probably on a deserved hiatus from writing, but I can’t help but wonder if this slow attrition isn’t being felt across the community at large? Is our industry slowly finding ourselves on the endangered species list? Are we losing to video games in the war for our attention? What can we do to make sure that if our community does end, we at least go down fighting?

The simplest answer is to embrace technology. We are a community of luddites, stuck in our pencil and paper ways. While I’m a huge fan of the in person, physical interactions, it is holding us back. If we are truly going to find a strong hold in the 21st we need to embrace the ability to game, whenever, and wherever we are. While our community cannot loose site of its table roots we must branch out into leveraging the technological resources available to us, but for this I’m talking beyond generated character sheets, and mobile dice apps. We need to be able to bring the table top experience to the web, and design it to be as easy to use as its table top counterpart.

I know there are game table applications out there that try to emulate the table top experience but they aren’t easy to use. MapTools suffers from the same problem most open source programs suffer from; the user interface is awful. I open up the program and just get lost trying to get my players connected, not to mention trying to get a map setup for us to play on. While Fantasy Grounds has some more polish it still suffers from being overly complicated, I had problems in trying to even get a character loaded in to use. These problems must be solved for us to move forward.

The nay sayers have gone on to say that this community will never really die, and that is true. The community is built around designing and running your own games. As long as there is a creative spark in the mind of a story teller there will be roleplaying, but the industry that was built around it to help facilitate that creativity and breathe life into it? It’s going to collapse, as the people it’s trying to sell to just stop coming. Can we really afford to lose the brilliant minds of our industry? Do we really want video games snap up all the creative talented story tellers? Just ask yourselves that the next time you read about a new setting that’s coming out.

  • http://errantgame.blogspot.com Greg Christopher

    I think you are right that the RPG industry is failing to adapt. However, I think there is hope for the future from the people laboring on their own in the new digital landscape.

    • http://www.apathygames.com Tyson J. Hayes

      Well of course it’s my hope that the RPG Industry adapts to the digital age, if only to so I can start gaming where ever I am instead of having to always drive a ways to join my friends for a game. I think the digital landscape holds our future, we just need to find a way and will to embrace it.

  • Viz

    Well, at some point White Haired Man will be conducting playtests of our next adventure. Perhaps you’d like to try Fantasy Grounds again at that time?

    • http://www.apathygames.com Tyson J. Hayes

      I’d love to. I’ve always had the idea of getting some of the licensees together to play a game and record it. That aside, I’d love to just test the game.

  • http://singularmoments.blogspot.com/ Cole

    Thanks for mentioning my Blog in your post. I went back to read some of what I had written. It was funny to notice how much I had forgotten. :)

    Introducing a teen to the hobby is much easier than an adult. Both groups vary greatly and due to this variance require different approaches on marketing.

    I have seen WoTC targeting both groups. I think Magic of the Gathering is a gateway to D&D for teens. Promotional videos featuring adults playing D&D do wonders to reach the second group.

    New people will see the guys from Robot Chicken playing D&D and say:

    “Heck this looks fun, I thought only geeks played these games.”

    WoTC may get a new customer increasing their bottom line. The hobby also benefits by adding another mind to our hive ;)

    • http://www.apathygames.com Tyson J. Hayes

      I find it interesting that you’d cite Robot Chicken as showing that D&D is cool. They are probably some of the biggest bunch of geeks on TV, but you make a fair point that most people might not think that way and would see them as being “cool” thus attracting more players to the hobby.

      I’d be interested in hearing more on the topic either on your blog or on ours, your of course welcome to post another guest post any time you have one.

      • http://singularmoments.blogspot.com/ Cole

        Thanks Tyson!

        It would be great to write a short post on this subject for your site. As always, I may take a little time to write it, as I keep rewriting non-stop.

        I felt like your original post had something to do with marketing. As I read it again, I may have gone on a tangent there ;)

        • http://www.apathygames.com Tyson J. Hayes

          Tangets are OK in my book. I just thought you made an interesting point and was interested in hearing you expand on it.

  • Theron

    Thanks for the mention – however, it is more properly “Theron” :)

    I should update more. Perhaps a weekly update. Perhaps on Wednesdays, since my Deadlands group meets Tuesdays.

    • http://www.apathygames.com Tyson J. Hayes

      That has been corrected and the editor subsequently shot for missing it. As I was the editor on the piece I made a command decision to override the previous decision. Consider this an apology instead.

      I would be interested in reading your Deadlands posts. As they say keep us posted… Ok, that was pretty bad.

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