The "Holy Trinity" of Gaming United Once and For All


Wargaming, Card-Gaming, Roleplaying. These three words represent markets whose core audience demographics overlap to such an extent that it is often thought that the markets are in competition. Even gamers, who otherwise have a huge amount in common, often refer to the above terms as a form of segregation. Which I feel is total rubbish.

Most people who might refer to themselves primarily as wargamers have played a CCG or two, as have roleplayers. Equally likely is it that a card gamer has glanced over a roleplaying book at some point and had their way shown around a tabletop battlefield, etc. I don't even feel entirely comfortable categorizing them as I have above, as I know such generic labels have very little meaning. The only problem is that because individuals have limited resources and time, most people can't afford to participate in all three, and as such find themselves drifting towards one particular group.

Possibly not helping is the fact that until recently the really big guns in each market have pretty much stayed off each other's turf. If you were a war gamer (who was into fantasy/sci-fi rather than purely historicals), chances are you would end up buying product off Games-Workshop. If you were a Card Gamer, Wizards of the Coast, Decipher or AEG were probably your best bets. Roleplayer? T.S.R, White Wolf, Iron Crown Enterprises, etc.

But in the past four or so years, what were fairly clear boundaries have been shoved aside as the gaming industry as a whole repackaged itself. Wizards of the Coast expanded, and through the phenomenal success of Magic became what I would categorise as the first truly cross genre company with the acquisition of Dungeons and Dragons. At the time, some people reacted as though the event was unthinkable, a Card Gaming company taking over the world's most well known Roleplaying brand name. What would happen next?

Well what happened next was WOTC became part of Hasbro, and started making miniatures, which everyone knew would lead to wargames. Others are following this cross genre strategy, with Decipher working on Roleplaying games for their Star Trek and Lord of the Rings licenses, and most recently and perhaps most interestingly, Games-Workshop buying 85% of Sabertooth Games, the company they licensed the rights to do CCG's of their intellectual property who have been having success with their 40K CCG.

These moves are not the faltering steps into each others market place we have seen in the past, nor desperate attempts to compete in an already cramped market place. They are declarations of intent, and to me they all say the same thing:

It's time gaming, of all forms, became mainstream.

Once stereotyped as the recluse of 'geeks', 'social misfits' or those 'not into sport,' gaming is being dragged out into the public eye by the people that make a living from it. Perhaps fueled by the successes in the computer gaming industry, which has been making larger steps in this direction ever since the explosion of the home PC market and online gaming (or perhaps simply because the properties have fallen into the hands of companies which have become large enough to sustain and expand on them), wargaming, roleplaying, cardgaming and even boardgaming for that matter, are showing great growth.

So right now it's important that the gamers who have been in it for the long haul embrace this. Too often in the past have gamers excluded outsiders and even each other from these hobbies. Either by hiding their interest to people outside of the hobby because of fear of some sort of stigma being attached to it, or, worse yet, purposefully setting themselves apart because the style of fantasy or sci-fi game they play is different from another, and the companies that produce the products they purchase have some sort of overly imagined rivalry.

This sometimes verges on the ridiculous, with insults being hurled between card gamers, war gamers and role players across various mediums and forums, and the companies involved in these hobbies being called 'monstrous', 'satanic' or 'evil' for their business practices. As far as I am aware, there is no gaming company which employs third world labour, causes mass pollution problems, hires mercenary forces to protect their interests or lobbies governments for the continued protection of their market share. These guys and gals are simply trying to make a profit selling fun games based around figures, icons and ideas of popular culture, and it's time we as gamers not only accepted these people as simple businessmen with a product to sell that we enjoy, but took the hobbies they produce to the rest of the world.

So if you find gamers in your area are segregated into card gamers, role players and war gamers, why not try generating some interest in each other's hobby. You will undoubtedly have things to talk about outside of the different games you play, be it movies, computer games, books or music. But more importantly, you might find your groups can band together to attract new players into all the hobbies, and share your resources and materials to give each other a chance to try a new game. By doing this you will be helping ensure continued growth and acceptance of games as a whole, and ultimately that's got to be good for everyone.

Is non-computer gaming really showing great growth?
Can you provide a URL to a story that supports this assertion?

You know what? The second half of this article, I agree with entirely. Tolerance for other aspects of the hobby I agree with. Gaming needs to become mainstream and it needs to do so quickly. Hollywood has realised that the fantasy and horror markets are where the money is and are going in gung-ho. Now, more than ever, we should be actively looking to get people into the hobby since the world is watching. What are you going to say to get the people to realise the image is wrong?

Unfortunately, the first half of the article approaches the assimilation of various publishers into larger companies as a cause to celebrate. It isn't. Unfortunately, the big companies have achieved economic success not through co-operation, but by eliminating competition. They want you to buy their product, not the other guy's and it is in their interest to increase their market share, if it means sneering at the other side or buying them out, so be it.

The industry uses conventions to showcase their goods and their business. Whilst it behooves us to promote our hobby in positive terms, it is not going to be entirely successful when you have things like dubious artwork, controversial subject matter and the encouragement of anti-social and obsessive behaviours in their fans (and we all know examples of that, don't we, even if most people in those examples had problems to start with...)

I'm not saying that the industry should lead us like good little sheep into socially-acceptable behaviour (I shudder at such a world) but it should think about what image it portrays. Does the industry have the guts to try and be marketable? Whilst the WotC TV ads for M:tG make me chuckle, that they made it to TV in the first place speaks volumes. The mainstream is ready. So what are we, industry and grass-roots, going to do about it?

Gaming should stay out of the mainstream. Things becoming trendy always have a detrimental effect on quality. Plus, I don't really want unintelligent twits playing the games I love. Most of us anti-socialites are at least intelligent.

dwhoward: With regards to your question, I will admit I used the term 'growth' rather loosely. I am not sure of the financial status of the entire industry, but I don't think anyone is if you put Card gaming, roleplaying, wargaming and even boardgaming into the picture.

But when looking at the big picture, I am seeing more and more 'games' getting exposure in the more mainstream market places. So perhaps exposure was the word I should have used.

Satyre, in regards to your concern I didn't actually mean to put any particular spin on the big guns taking out the smaller companies and taking over market share. I simply was stating a point of fact, that the companies the used to be afraid to break out of their molds have, and was suggesting how we as gamers can take advantage of that situation by ensuring WE aren't another cause of the problems. Support the industry AND each other, rather than supporting company 'x' for some stupid moral reasoning which is patently ridiculous when you actually consider it. (The whole 'evil' company aspect.)

In no way do I think we should bow to what the companies tell us to do, but without them there is no industry and only with the continued success of these front runners will the industry survive as an industry, rather than a bunch of home businesses and tiny publishers in niche markets.

And Labyrus, that is such a typical response from a xenophobic gamer. It's a bit like a film critic who can only appreciate 'arthouse' movies. Everyone else must be to dumb to get them, so they feel that they are somehow superior because they do.

And that's utter bollocks. Look at Lord of the Rings, for all intents and purposes that was an 'independent film', by all accounts the big studios thought it would never fly as a blockbuster, the story was too difficult, the audience couldn't get it etc. Look how wrong they were.

The mainstream is NO DIFFERENT from the alternative market. It's not like there is some super seperation, just the difference between red and black on a balance sheet.

And while I agree that gaming shouldn't have crappy T.V. commercials and a fad like appeal to younger people, I also agree that most other past times shouldn't. I mean everyone knows what soccer is, and it encompasses MORE than the stars and the world cup and the advertisers money etc. Everyone knows about all sorts of sports, no matter how bizarre, or even the ever popular 'eXtreme'. Why shouldn't the same be said for gaming? Not everyone has to like roleplaying, or wargaming or card gaming, but it can only help the industry if people don't look at you with a blank face when you try and get them into the game and then recoil in horror as they remember bad propaganda from the late 20th century.

Re: Caliban.

I too am worried about the big fish eating all the small ones, I'm affraid things could become as stale as the gaming companies mass extinction of the mid to late90's

Re: Labyrus.

Your comment gives me the all too clear impression that you view gamers and roleplayers as intellectually superior to the average population. Guess what? We're not! There's just as many intelligent gamers (proportionnaly) as there are intelligent non-gaming people.

Your elitist perception only fuels the missunderstanding that gamers are a closed "sect" of introverted and weird people. Maybe if our hobby was better known, there would be more quality products being published as the base of consummers grew, so would the profits of the companies, hence making it more worthwhile to spend on making good quality products.

Whatever the case, even if roleplaying games become "mainstream" there will always be a less commercial alternative to it. Just as their already are unusual systems and campaigns already. While the White Wolf genre and style didn't fit the mainstream gaming industry 10 years ago, I'm not certain they can still be called missfits, quite the opposite actually.

Chew on this for a while: If you define yourself as the opposite of what is mainstream, aren't you as much a slave to the "Accepted social order" as those who follow it? I mean, by trying not to fit in, don't you have to periodically check out what fitting in is?

Cthulhu Matata!

Caliban. Excellent story! I'm a little worried at the propect of only having a few companies to choose from, but I'm reasonably confident that won't happen. I've played all three kinds, and liked all of them. I'll admit that I no longer care for CCG's, but they are a great way to bring newer players into the fold. I agree with you fully. Gaming needs to be brought into the mainstream so that our hobby can grow.

Re: Sam from Quebec

Take, for example, the D&D Diablo II book that came out a while back. Certainly brought more people into gaming, but was it a quality product? Not by my estimation, or by those of anybody I know who also read it. Likely it made more people try gaming, but it also likely made many of them say "This is boring" or think of RPG's as something limited to Hack & Slash. I admit I'm prejudiced against that style of gaming. The other thing is, what's wrong with being "introverted and wierd people"?

You did certainly bring up good points, particularily
the fact that there will always be a fringe gaming market.

And I do not define myself as the opposite of Mainstream. I dislike the mainstream, yes, and I fear what would happen if more people realised there was money in making games, simply because that's where mediocrity comes from, as far as quality. I don't feel a need to justify my worldview to you, but I hope you get some idea of why I hold my opinions.

I don't think that it's bad if something good becomes popular, I just fear the lows a company may stoop to when trying to make their product popular, although, you see the "sex sells" one in lots of games already, so maybe it won't be such a big deal.

But the "dumbing down" that networks work for with TV shows is a pretty scary example, it doesn't get everything, but it does seem to get most things.

Re: Labyrus

Actually, I don't need you to justify your world view to me as it is a personnal opinion which validates it by its very nature. What I'm interested in is understanding why you think the way you do and discuss it.

While I don't think their is anything wrong with being weird (I am) or introverted (am not) I think it's wrong to assign stereotypes to people. many gamers aren't introverted (even if they have a rich internal life / imagination). Just like all LARPers aren't goth vampire wanabes or all football players aren't dumb drunken louts.

I totally agree with you that the Diablo books are oh soo very bad. Still, a good hack and slash is enjoyable once in a while and the hobby should accomodate many tastes. Let's not forget that D&D is a very basic system (and a mighty good one at that). If you want the complete oposite of hack and slash play Amber (not all that good either).

Anyhow the more choice the better, I find.

Cthulhu Matata

Off topic, but Sam mentioning Amber Diceless reminded me of something. The Sci-Fi channel is planning a 4 or 6 hour mini-series of the Amber chronicles for sometime by the end of 2003. I don't know anything more past that, but I thought people might be interested. By the way, I'm assuming they will be covering the Corwin books and not Merlin.


Point taken, I'm just interested that the examples you've cited (GW buying out Sabretooth, WotC buying TSR) are not exclusively the province of diversification but more the assimilation of existing lines. Mind you, WotC are the better example of your article because of their support of minority games such as Ars Magica. Now they've been bought by Hasbro, I'm curious.

Sam/Labyrus: Actually, the Diablo books weren't so bad.
I've certainly seen worse spin-offs than this and whilst I'm sure that Labyrus creates every magic item and also considers it's impact in the campaign as a whole, I don't beyond .oO(nah, too big... no Decks of Many Things!!). Diablo II was almost potted gaming evolution in action from the hulking big tables of magic items to character classes with abilities to descriptive terms for magic items.

Wooz: Amber on TV? I'd hope it was Corwin, I'd find the shapeshifting and odd stuff Merlin less accessible. But they got Dune right! Got a URL??

I guess the ultimate message here is we like diversity but we also like quality. The big industry gives us quality and houses genius (despite assertions of mediocrity for mainstream, too much mediocrity and people leave, making it not so mainstream) whilst the grass roots gives innovation. Which is why I seem a bit down on the game industry, since there is far more suppression of ideas in favour of brand marketing and zealous guarding of intellectual property rights.

Can't we all just get along??

That's my point entirely Satyre, we CAN and SHOULD all get along. The Sabretooth by out wasn't assimilation, it was a friendly take over. It just made GW able to support Sabretooth, which was a risk they weren't willing to take if the game hadn't been a success.

Smart enough from a fiscal stand point, after all unlike a lot of gaming companies they are publicly listed and have shareholders to answer to.

I do however totally agree that the zealous guarding of IP sometimes gets a bit overboard, especially when you consider how badly early gaming ripped off fantasy novelists etc.

But your ultimate message is right, we do like diversity, AND we like quality. So by supporting across genre not only does it give us room to open the industry to a wider market, then the diehards like us can help the innovators grow, while the 'more mainstream' market is satisfied by a larger 'mainstream' audience.

I mean, you don't have to like Pop music, but without it's income large labels would never have had the cash to take risks on smaller 'niche' market rock bands.

Same sort of thing. (Although large Record Companies might very well fall into the 'evil' company arena, so perhaps they aren't the best example).