Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Dog That Didn't Bark

I was just looking at my bookshelf, and I realized that nobody's picked up the Star Trek license since Decipher decided to abandon it in favor of making CCGs. And then it occurred to me to look for a current incarnation of the Star Wars rules. And Wizards of the Coast isn't pushing the RPG version either, just a CCG.

IP'd Off

Yes, yes, I know, I've already railed hard against the potentially lazy practice of taking someone else's world and bolting a game system onto it. It's not that I think it shouldn't be done. I say do right by them or don't do them at all.

What could explain Star Trek and Star Wars both falling out of favor? It probably has something to do with Star Trek and Star Wars both falling out of favor, and that's not the "proof by identity" it looks like.

It's been rather plainly documented in pop culture that both the Star Trek and Star Wars properties have fallen on hard times due to their owners either trying cynically to squeeze every penny out of their fans, running their brand into the ground, or in a lot of cases, both.

What choice of a new generation?

So yeah, geekdom's favorite refuges, or laughingstocks depending on when you last partook of them, have faded from the radar. Consequently, the RPGs based on them, the things that once might have bridged the gap between media fandom and roleplaying gamer, have been abandoned. So Star Trek and Star Wars? Smell you later! Lord of the Rings? You're a bit grey and long in the tooth, but you haven't been savaged like those other two, so maybe timelessness could count for something. But why take that chance?

Where are the new properties?

Old properties might still bring in old geeks, especially those which repudiate the newer incarnations and reboots and want to relive the good old days as they remember them. Where are the things that'll bring in the young geeks?

Forget Harry Potter; J. K. Rowling would probably charge three arms and two legs for the licensing rights, plus there's the problem that a lot of what makes that setting interesting is/was getting destroyed in the finale. But there have been others. Eragon? Percy Jackson? And others I couldn't name, nor do I have to: I'm already gaming. I don't need a further draw in.

But the next generation, the ones that want to put themselves in the setting in some way beyond dress-up and drawing on a cardboard box, what is there for them?

Signs of the Apocalypse

Yes, between this, several recent articles about the RPG hobby "dying" (and I still say they're panicking unnecessarily, damnit), and the declaration at Steve Jackson Games that they are a board and card game first and an RPG company second, one could draw a conclusion about the slowdown in the games industry.

Note: I said slowdown in, not death of.

The fact that the industry is slowing down is a sign that something ought to be done to push for mass appeal, not to hunker down and publish less and merely hope that things improve later. Hoping tends not to change things. Change changes things.

So what does this mean? It means finding new things to turn into games. And in the case of the RPG industry, it means either writing new RPGs around new properties or adapting existing systems to those new properties (and I'm looking at you, GURPS).

Downside: Imagine adapting the World of Darkness system to Twilight. [insert visible shudder here]

C'mon, I know you're out there! I can hear you breathing!

The contention of this rather short (for me) piece: New Gamers Don't Just Happen. It should go without saying, but I felt the need to anyway.

Here, gentle reader, is where I ask, what books or stories in the Young Adult section of your local bookstore (if you still have a local bookstore) do you think would be good to turn into either some sort of board or card game, or even better yet (from my perspective) an RPG?


  1. I share your concern for the fate of Star Trek. On the other hand, Jim Butcher's Dresden Files series has a very strong fan base and the licensed Dresden Files RPG is an excellent product that is doing very well.

  2. I have both volumes of that one, yes. And I probably ought to write a review of it...