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Responces to 'Towards Smaller Conventions'

14 November 1999, submitted by Kyle Schuant

Yes, computer games are a lot to blame. The first reason these have appeal is that at the age people start gaming, in their teens, they can't handle anything much more sophisticated. Cast your minds back to when you began roleplaying, most likely it was D&D, and you had a warrior who bashed things. You probably didn't even bother describing what s/he looked like, but if you did, it was likely 6'5"/250lbs, ie BIG. If not a warrior, then a short-lived magic-user or the like. Your first inkling of role-playing came from either the alignment system, which was designed to stop you behaving too insanely, or from questions like, "why does Gary Gygax think that clerics shouldn't shed blood, and why doesn't he think that ten pounds of spiky steel in your head (eg a mace) won't draw blood?

Computer games offer this simple kind of game, like the old D&D, where all you do is wander around and mug creatures for their treasure, sometimes stumbling into 10 foot pits. Not much imagination required. Teenagers are lazy, let's face it, so when computer games came along, and not only did they not have to think during the game, they didn't have to imagine what it all looked like, they loved it!

But we all grew beyond that, right? Well, some of us. When we got to an age where we started having our own moral values, the alignment system seemed pretty silly. When we got our first boyfriends and girlfriends, we wondered if Bloodaxe the Skull Cleaver might like to settle down some day in front of a cosy fireplace with his beloved and a hot cocoa. So we moved on to other games, more complex, more simple, but with real roleplaying.

Much of this growth came form other people, talking to other players in the group. But with computer games, there aren't any other players. Maybe you feel the need for something better, but you don't know what to do about it.

The second reason is safety and security. Many are afraid of a real adventure, where your character might die. It's a perennial debate in roleplaying, how easily should the GM kill off PCs? Well, in computer games, you never die. You just save the game. And this is where CCGs come in, too: there's minimal uncertainty. No dice to be rolled, no roleplaying, no imagination, just rules. And fancy pictures, too, just like the computer games. This is easy for a teen to understand and handle.

Roleplaying, real roleplaying, with a character that is "real", makes sense - at least within that unreal world - is difficult, and takes maturity, imagination, and willingness to take risks, to add another sheet to your RIP PCs file. But I think it's inevitable that you will go through the dungeon crawl stage, which is so well presented by computers, much better presented than any GM could manage.

What we have to do is take these kids on, and show them the better way. Yes, computer games and CCGs have better pictures, but playing with other people, living, breathing characters and people, offers something no machine or set of cards can: a true opening of imagination, and friendship.

What's needed I think is some permanent club room, perhaps in one of the city gaming stores, where players of all ages can meet and play, a place where everybody's welcome. We all like to form cliques, but in the end, the answer to the question, "why aren't there more younger people in gaming?" can only be, "cos we haven't invited them and made them feel at home."

Submitted 27th June by Nicole Karmen

In response to Kyle's response to Karl's article about smaller conventions...

Kyles has a very good point here. Young gamers aren't coming to cons "cos we haven't invited them and made them feel at home". He's abosolutely right. I can't count the number of times I've been told by young players that they find us (the older, 'cliquey' gamers) intimidating. Now, I know that most of the time I'm not /trying/ to be intimidating, but apparently I come across that way, and so do most of my older experienced gaming friends.

Maybe we need to do a little bit of PR. Maybe we need to somehow break up the 'in-crowds' they find so hard to approach. Maybe if we take the time to get out of 'group' habits, we can run around at cons and meet & greet the new faces, and show them we're not ogres after all.