[If you read the blog yesterday, you know that today we’re having a guest poster. And here he is! He’s a member of the Monumental Works Group too, so I’m delighted to turn the keys over to him today. Hope you like the ride! -colin]
Fantasy author Ty Johnston is touring the blogosphere this month to promote his new e-book novel, Demon Chains. His novels include City of Rogues, Bayne’s Climb and Ghosts of the Asylum, all of which are available for the Kindle, the Nook and online at Smashwords. To learn more about Ty and his writing, follow him at his blog tyjohnston.blogspot.com.
As I’m taking over Colin’s blog for the day and his blog has a fair amount about role playing games, both tabletop and video versions, I thought I’d write to that. As a long-time fantasy genre fan, I’ve played my share of RPGs over the last three decades. I got my start with D&D back in about 1980, then played a slew of other tabletop games over the years. I can’t remember what my first RPG video game was (does the old Adventure cartridge for the Atari 2600 count?), but I know I’ve enjoyed a lot of those, as well.
I’ve noticed over the years that RPGs have become more complex, while taking the players more deeply into created worlds, stories and characters. The technology has allowed for this, and I believe the changing tastes of players have urged it on. Compare the most recent edition of D&D with AD&D or an even older version of the game, and I think you’ll see where I’m coming from. With video games, much the same can be said, though here the biggest influence has probably been the improvements in technology.
Another factor that has improved over the years has been the writing. Yes, the writing. Pen and paper games today generally show solid writing. It’s there in the creation of the worlds, the descriptions of the characters, the plot lines. Tabletop RPGS are a lot more in depth than they used to be. Gaming used to be “a group of heroes gather at a tavern then tear through a dungeon while slaying monsters and looking for treasure.” There is nothing wrong with that type of gaming. It can be a lot of fun. But tabletop gaming has become so much more than that today, at least for many players.
And video games? Yes, the writing has improved in video games. I don’t want to get into an argument about whether or not the Grand Theft Auto games are RPGs or not (some say it is, others disagree), but it’s obvious to those who play it that the story lines have improved over the last decade. Remember GTA 3? Now compare it to GTA: San Andreas, or more recently, GTA 4. There’s practically no contest.
The writing is more noticeable for pen and paper games because of the rules books and supplements and the like, but there is plenty of writing behind any video game released today.
Why is writing so important to gaming? Because with bad writing, you get bad games.
Back in the days of AD&D, it was obvious plenty of time and care had been put into the writing of the game. To this day, the 1st Edition Dungeon Master’s Guide is still one of my favorite books, not because of the rules but because of all the extra information added to the back, all that text about how to run games and where to look for good fantasy reading. Early on, D&D and AD&D became the kings of RPGs, in part because of the quality of the writing. Other RPG companies at the time didn’t stand a chance, especially as it was obvious many of those companies were just slapping some text together to try and earn some of what TSR was bringing in. Please don’t misunderstand me, because I’m not suggesting all other games of the time were awful; that would be far from the truth, but I’d bet you would recognize the names of the games that were written well, mainly because most of them are still around today in one form or another.
As I myself am a writer (though not of RPGs), I’m glad to see the influence of gaming writers over the years. If not for such writers, the fantasy genre might have dried up back in the 1980s. Without such writers, we wouldn’t have many of the great video games we enjoy today.
So think of the writers the next time you toss some dice or tap buttons on a controller. Without them, you likely wouldn’t be having as much fun as you are.