Of a Certain Age

I turned 36 last week. I’ve never been one of those who shy from their birthdays. I’d rather keep having them than not. Still, it got me thinking about the adventure gaming industry.

When I look around at my peers, it seems that most of the “young” designers are people in their mid to late thirties, right around my age. This raises the question: Where are all the younger designers?

Sure, there are a few out there, but they are rarities, the exceptions that seem to lend a semblance of credence to the half-baked theory. By this time in my career, I figured I’d be looking over my shoulder at a pack of hungry pups looking to take their own shot at the alpha dog, but they’re just not there.

I have another half-baked theory about this. Most of the thirty-something designers were just kids when they first ran into adventure games. In particular, we were at an impressionable age when Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first came out, grabbed us by our fantasizers, and refused to let us go. Those younger than us haven’t had that seminal experience. They never got clubbed over the head by the right entry product engineered to hook them for life.

This perhaps indicates the lack of a proper acquisition product for roleplaying games for the past decade or more. This is the kind of game that only the market leader (Wizards of the Coast, in this case) can hope to pull off, despite the best intentions of the other competing companies.

Fortunately, Wizards is releasing its first Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set this September to coincide with the 30th anniversary of Dungeons & Dragons. I have high hopes for this game. I don’t know if it fits the bill perfectly, but it’s the best hope we’ve had for it in a long time. I’d like to think that in five or ten years, I’ll run into dozens of new designers who first got hooked into the adventure gaming hobby by this boxed set. The new blood has to come from somewhere, right?