It seems that the latest brouhaha within the RPG world is the rumored announcement from Wizards of the Coast that they are not reprinting the three core books for Dungeons & Dragons and instead focusing on their new Essentials line. Every so often in the gaming community, there is an uproar when a publisher decides to create a new system or revamp an old game. If you are a video game player, you’re upset when the latest system comes out or if you are a board game player, when that expansion comes out you become frustrated. To be honest, I’ve never understood the uproar. I mean, it’s not like that new expansion or revamped game makes your old stuff suddenly invalid.
Now, I understand a bit more with the electronic game player. Electronics wear out over time at a faster rate than books or board games. It’s harder to find replacement parts for certain systems as they fade into the past (take it from someone who has tried multiple times to find wireless controllers for my in-laws’ Super Nintendo). And, of course, computer operating systems change enough that a game I purchased for Windows 95 may not run today. Still, there are ways around that if you are creative and certainly I could, I suppose, build a Windows 95 system and start playing Front Page Sports Football Pro again.
Still, especially in the realm of board, card and role playing games the fact that a new edition comes along certainly does not invalidate the previous edition. I still happily play my previous edition of Settlers of Catan despite the fact that Mayfair has republished it. I still have most of my old d6 Star Wars RPG books and could run a game of that blindfolded (really, I could, come over sometime and I’ll prove it). The point is that a new game doesn’t invalidate your old game. I still read RPG blogs about people who are playing original D&D and loving it. Certainly publishers are always trying to reinvent the wheel, so to speak, to entice me to purchase something. But unlike the”planned obsolesce” I discussed last week; analog games seldom crash beyond all hope of revival. That’s the beauty of an analog game – I can pick up the books for the old FASERIP Marvel Super Heroes RPG and play today just as well as I could 25 years ago (gulp, am I really that old?).
Publishers aren’t stupid. They know that if they create a sequel, expansion, new version or repackage something that gamers by nature are collectors and want to have them all. I was that way for a great many years but I started to get away from it when after playing a three hour game of Carcassonne with all the expansions to date, I experienced my first case of “expansion fatigue”. I realized that more of a good thing is just more in a lot of cases. Here’s where I make my plea for gamers and for publishers. Gamers, don’t get bent out of shape when a publisher decides to revamp the game you love. No one is forcing you to play that new game nor are they forcing you to get all the new stuff. There is something to be said for playing in a closed system. And certainly don’t feel like you need to purchase every single expansion, map, piece or book for a game. Joe and I played a game of the Harry Potter Collectable Card Game over the weekend and had fun despite it being a discontinued game.
Publishers, if I may be as so bold, try focusing less on constantly reinventing the wheel and instead focus on creating new and different gaming experiences. Rather than yet another expansion, try creating a whole new game. When an expansion makes sense, as in the case of Power Grid or Ticket to Ride, don’t make us buy a whole new game to get the expansion map. And please, please, please slow down on the rate of publishing these expansions. In the case of RPG’s make some available in PDF form or in soft cover rather than everything a hard cover $40 book.
As for me, I might check out D&D Essentials, after I finish checking out many of the retro-clones and new games that are free. But that, my friends, will have to wait until next week’s “What I Think Wednesday”.
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