“It is only through writing that I become myself”
– Werner Herzog
games like Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, and Forbidden Island. Since then I’ve written more than 400 blog articles on subjects ranging across the adventure gaming hobby: roleplaying games, board games, wargames, conventions, industry news and issues, product features, games for kids and newcomers, reminiscences of my time at West End Games, and nostalgia for the “Golden Age of Roleplaying” (for me the early 1980s). Much has changed about the hobby during 10 years and I’ve changed during that time, too. But somehow I’m still here blogging despite ups and downs, discouragement and low readership, and my relative obscurity in the infinitely vast cacophony of the internet.
On the blog’s five-year anniversary I wrote a post explaining much of my rationale behind Hobby Games Recce. On re-reading it I find it’s still relevant. Ten years ago I was almost an entire year as a full-time Stay-at-Home Dad (SaHD). I had some time to work on gaming projects, but wanted to maintain a more frequent presence on the internet, one that gave me some impetus for writing regularly and on a weekly deadline. I didn’t want to limit myself to gaming news – plenty of sites have and continue to serve that purpose far better than I ever could – but it gave me a platform where I could comment on a host of topics across the vast adventure gaming hobby landscape. I blogged – and still blog – primarily to keep writing, to stay active in the gaming community, and to examine game issues that interest me.
In my blogging sojourns I’ve found much to love across the broad scope of gaming. I spent a time exploring the Old School Renaissance movement (OSR) and indulging in nostalgic visits to past games that inspired me. I expanded my scope beyond roleplaying games to dabble in board games and wargames (both on boards and with miniatures) that engaged my varied interests. I’ve featured game products new and old that inspired me and enhanced my gaming experience. I’ve wallowed in my fond memories of my time with West End Games working on the Star Wars Roleplaying Game line. I posted reports of my design activities for various games, few of which actually came to fruition. As a father I examined how to introduce various kinds of gaming to young people and the benefits they could impart (as well as strategies for bringing newcomers to the hobby).
Much has changed in the adventure gaming hobby in the past 10 years. Board games have continued emerging into mainstream markets, with the most popular titles (and a host of media-related tie-ins of dubious value) filling shelves in such stores as Target. Corporate and independent designers continue implementing innovative developments in game rules, supplements, graphic presentation, and genre. New games have come, risen to prominence, and faded into obscurity (or more likely new editions). Kickstarter has matured from a indie publishing option to a slick method of funding new games with high production values. Independent roleplaying game creators have harnessed the popularity of DriveThruRPG, Lulu’s print-on-demand services, and Patreon’s subscription platform to market and monetize their materials. Bloggers, podcasters, and video producers have risen to the status of “influencers” in the hobby, flooding the internet with commentary, previews, reviews, and actual-play reports. These are only some of the many developments that have reshaped the hobby landscape over the past 10 years; I don’t claim to have my fingers on the pulse of the hobby or its numerous communities, but its all evolved over the years.
The past 10 years have seen the rise of adventure gaming communities online...and, regrettably, their fracturing. The growth of the OSR certainly helped fuel both a resurgence of independent creativity and a community of creators sharing their material. Some argue the OSR has seen its day and continues to decline, while others continue reveling in and creating for the style of play it encourages and the nostalgic feelings it evokes. Reading back on my report five years ago I note how prominent a role Google Plus played as a forum where I could share my gaming enthusiasm and find meaningful engagement with others in the hobby. Online communities have since fractured, primarily due to the demise of Google Plus. This has certainly resulted in the lower levels of engagement I experience among the handful of regular readers of Hobby Games Recce. Sure, I still have meaningful interactions with folks in the comments and through my social media presence on Twitter, MeWe, and Facebook, as well as e-mail, but they’re few and far between these days.
As the adventure gaming hobby has evolved over the past 10 years my own gaming habits and interests have changed. Looking back I see three major trends, though I’ve maintained and expanded my original gaming interests all along.
Although I’ve always been an advocate of designing more streamlined games to lure newcomers into the adventure gaming hobby, fatherhood has further focused my attention on finding, adapting, playing, and creating kid-friendly games. I explored different board games, many funded through Kickstarter, suitable for family play. Developments in cooperative games enabled us all to play on the same side and work together to figure out and win games. I looked at new games like Hero Kids for trying out roleplaying, though we also used the Star Wars Roleplaying Game with its intuitive mechanics and familiar heroic setting.
My interest in games for kids brought me back to wargaming, with which I first dabbled in my earliest days exploring the hobby in high school. Simplifying both board and miniatures wargames for play with children proved a great family activity. Several regional wargaming conventions and clubs provided engaging events we could experience together. We explored wargames, particularly with visually appealing miniatures and terrain, as a means to introduce historical topics and reinforce academic skills. I’ve enjoyed trying new developments in wargames: miniatures fare like Wings of Glory and the X-wing miniatures game; block games simulating the fog of war from Columbia Games and Worthington; and boardgame-like “battle games” such as Memoir ’44, Battle Cry, and Hold the Line: The American Revolution. I even developed a few kid-friendly wargames of my own like Valley of the Ape and Panzer Kids.
To satisfy my own needs as a gamer I’ve turned more to solitaire games, which have evolved in scope and complexity over the past 10 years across the spectrum of roleplaying, board, and wargames. Advances in cooperative board games brought new solitaire mechanics and a host of solo games covering many genres. Wargames and roleplaying games also offer opportunities for solitaire play, sometimes by design and other times by method. I still dabble in classic roleplaying games when I can, usually in solitaire pursuits: exploring the world of Tékumel with new rules and resources; developing background material for a classic Traveller campaign; and compiling new resources in my B/X Dungeons & Dragons binder for that fabled day when I can return to roleplaying game in earnest with my son and, hopefully, some of his friends...or old gaming buddies through online venues.
The entire adventure gaming hobby – from corporate publishers and independent creators to players of all kinds of games – has undergone great stress and evolutionary change since the onset of the covid-19 pandemic in 2020. Social distancing and other measures intended to promote public health and safety have changed the way we enjoy our hobby. Many have been thrust into corporate or personal financial distress. Game gatherings have migrated online or to smaller venues with masks and social distancing, if they haven’t been canceled outright. Covid-19 continues to impact our lives and behaviors and will keep forcing us to adapt in the year to come.
I have desperately tried to remain positive in my posts; a task made increasingly daunting by the growing antagonistic attitudes of our current society and my own inner demons related to my self-doubt (a small crowd of affiliated fiends who frolic in my mind with a host of others). I haven’t always had the fortitude to stick to my once-a-week posting goal. Goodness knows I’ve considered calling it quits a number of times over the years. Frequent readers have become familiar with my retreats to the Hermitage at the Edge of Oblivion, my euphemism for stepping away from the blog (sometimes accompanied by a withdrawal from social media). Sometimes I feel my voice has little traction, if any, amid the shouting cacophony of everyone on the internet. I often feel like I’m just re-articulating ideas others out there have already or will soon expound upon to much larger audiences and in much more popular formats. Blogging at most levels is not a money-making proposition. Like many creative endeavors, the creator gains greater satisfaction from kind comments from those who appreciate the work; I regret my readership numbers rarely seem satisfyingly high, but I value every positive interaction my blog posts bring. Occasionally I consider compiling related blog posts of gaming subjects into a collection of essays for publication and sale. I feel many could use additional work expanding those ideas. While this might give me some small satisfaction, I doubt most gamers of any stripe would care much for such essays on gaming abstractions; they’d much rather have practical gaming material. All that considered, I suppose Hobby Games Recce will continue for now. We’ll see what the future brings.