Sunday, July 24, 2022

The Ages of RolePlaying Games: The Golden Age

 Something I am probably going to speak of more than once is the various ages of RolePlaying Games. During the course of virtually all mediums, they go through times of resurgence and times of ebb. Usually the first  surge of any medium is called the Golden Age. Mostly, we have no idea when an age is passed or when a new one begins until years after the fact. In comic books, no one in 1940 was referring to the time as the Golden Age of Comic, and no one stood up in 1950 and said “Well that was fun, too bad its over.”.  No one even realized there had been a Golden Age of Comic until the Silver age was well under way. It was the same way with the Golden Age of RPG’s, I don’t think anyone really knew it was over until the mid 90′s.

Defining the beginning of the Golden Age is easy, it occurred in 1974 when Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson publish the Original Dungeons and Dragons and the ascendancy of D&D began. The ending is more difficult to nail down, some would place it as early as 1979 when the final core Advanced D&D book was published and D&D as a whole started to move into popular culture. Others put it as late as 1982 or 1983 when Gary Gygax gave up editorial control of TSR and the gaming industry started in a new direction. I personally place the end of the Golden age much later in 1989 when AD&D 2nd Edition came out.

The reason I place it so much later is first, I do not consider Lorraine Williams to be the viscous and evil bitch she is made out to be by the larger game community. She was a business woman who saw the potential of the industry, yes she openly disdained gamers and what she did to Gary Gygax is inexcusable, but she did take the debt ridden TSR and make it profitable, like it or not, TSR would have went down much earlier without Williams. The other thing I point out when discussing the period between 1982 and 1989 is, a lot of now classic books and modules were published like Unearthed Arcana, the Desert of Desolation series, Ravenloft and the Temple of Elemental Evil to name a few. The mid and late 80′s also saw the other publishers come into prominence, Hero Games, with Champions, Chaosium with Call of Cthulhu and Steve Jackson Games with GURPS.

Perhaps it is m own misguided perceptions of the time period which caused me to extend the Golden Age past 1982 or 83. When I went to GenCon in 1988, I knew things were changing, I remember standing in the hall where all the company booths were setup looking around me and thinking “Things are different now.”, I just didn’t understand how. Perhaps it was not the gaming industry which was changing perhaps it was my life. Maybe I was witnessing the beginning of the end of my own game group and probably end of my 20 somethings as well. At GenCon, four of us got in the car and drove there, three of us came back. One of us had graduated College and had gotten a job, this was his last hurrah, he went straight from GenCon 88 into his adult life, I never saw or heard from him again. After that slowly, one by one my friends started leaving our hometown, they were starting college, finishing college, getting jobs, getting married and getting the hell out. By early 1990 the game group I had been playing with since 1985 was virtually gone and by late 1990 so was I. I would not seriously play RPG’s again for more than a decade.



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