The advent of the internet was a lifeline for old school gamers. All of a sudden it was easy to find fellow enthusiasts. It could be 1983 forever. Online gaming was a major force in fostering the old school movement. However, just like anything, online gaming has its challenges for people interested in older games. Even if you don’t care for older games or editions, most of the points in this article should be applicable to all online gaming.
LIFE SUPPORT – Many adult gamers wandered away from rpg’s for a while. They were kinda occupied getting educated, working, and starting their families. However, their love for the games never went away. Online gaming through virtual tabletops (VTT’s) allowed them to keep the older games alive. Without geographical limitations, it was much easier to fill a table.
NO LEARNING CURVE – Odds are that most of your players will know the rules system as well as you do, maybe better. You’ll still need to occasionally look up a rule or spell effect. However, you won’t be starting from zero in most cases. This can help you get up and playing faster.
CAMARADERIE – Ever meet someone from your hometown when you are away? It’s great to talk about all the old stomping grounds and hear how Charlie’s Pizza finally closed (I’m still sad). Online gaming provides that sort of rapport in the gaming area. Pursuing a niche hobby can be a lonely affair, and online connections are one way to alleviate that isolation
There are some concerns and challenges that come with old school, online gaming.
GROUP CHALLENGES – If you are running a game for older adults, well, they often have responsibilities beyond those of a college student. Often folks will not be able to make it because they have family, work and schooling commitments. Sometimes you can even go a month or two without getting enough players. Curse you adult responsibilities!!! (Shameless plug: A backup game can help with this. Go read about it here.)
OBSCURE GAMES – No one can guarantee that you will find enough players for EVERY old school game. Cyborg Commando will be a hard-sell whether you are online or face-to-face. Star Frontiers? Maybe.
STAGNATION – While it’s great to play the old games, stagnation may be a concern. Many people avoid newer games because of different, often more complex, rule systems. In all honesty, I do as well. We stay with the older systems, because even if they have quirks, at least we know where they are. However, it still might be good to occasionally try something different. It’s like an artist trying a different medium once in a while. It helps once you get back to your preferred medium. My watercolors are much better for my graphite sketches.
NOT GROWING THE HOBBY – None of us has any responsibility to grow the hobby. We should play what we enjoy period. Supporting rpg companies is great, but not a requirement. That being said, old school gaming could become a bit insular. Any outreach one can make to bring new players to the hobby will help keep the player base large for the future. Plus it helps us share the joy we find in the hobby.
The internet is a major player in keeping old school games alive. It is easier than ever to find players, and many retro-clones are helping keep the old rules systems up and running. However, there are still a few things to keep in the back of your mind if you are running an old school game.
How about you? What are your experiences with online old school gaming? Are we just a bunch of geezers babbling about coloring our dice? Or does the internet help us broaden our experience of all gaming, including old school systems? Let us know below.