Last week, when I reported that Turbine was allowing people to play Dungeons and Dragons Online for free, I only briefly mentioned the negative press that Role-Playing Games received in the early eighties and late nineties.
As a kid who used to play D&D and other role playing games, I heard stories of people who committed suicide when their Player Characters had died, and I didn’t really give it much thought. However, when many Christian groups began to equate the game as some portal into Satanism, I often wondered if they were talking about the same Dungeons and Dragons game.
I remember reading one Christian pamphlet that was supposed to be an expose on RPGs, but some of the information in it was just plain wrong. I mean, it said that the He-man and the Masters of the Universe cartoon was inspired by Dungeons and Dragons. I’m sure there are a lot of geeks out there now who are thinking: oh come on! Do your research.
I’m sure the person who wrote that pamphlet just didn’t get their facts straight. There was a Dungeons and Dragons cartoon that ran for about two seasons. They probably just heard that there was a Dungeons and Dragons cartoon, and just simply assumed that the He-man cartoon was it. It’s an honest mistake, but it shows how much conservative groups never actually researched, much less played the RPGs that they criticized.
There must have been some sort of anti-D&D bandwagon that was happening, and those who never played the game were creating a boycott for those who played the game. In the same manner, gamers who heard the argument against RPGs could not accept the facts as given any more than I did.
The alienation of RPG gaming eventually led to a very strong gamer counter-culture which is no doubt the target audience of most MMO and other RPG video games of today. Still, there seems to be a strong pervasive stereotype that says that gamers are guys who still live in their mother’s basements, and are completely incapable of living in any reality that is real.
For this reason, gaming continues to have a negative slant in today’s media. There is yet to be a movie based on a video game that has been a huge success, and most video games portrayed in movies tend to be negative. That is, you always see the geek characters playing them while the cooler characters apparently have better things to do.
Another negative portrayal is due out this Fall that is simply called Gamer. It takes place in a future world where gamers can somehow play other people, like puppets, apparently. Their puppets are actual prisoners put in violent scenarios, and the public just sits back and watches. Think of it a better version of The Running Man, but it has Gerard Butler instead of Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Yes, Gamer confirms all of our fears about video games taking over the world, turning into a hellish place. Once again, the video game industry gets another bad spotlight since The Ultimate Gamer. Could someone make a film that put video games in a positive light? Something that isn’t like The Wizard, which was some huge ad for Nintendo. You know, video games do inspire people once in a while. Every thought about doing a film about that, Hollywood?
Turbine has recently announced that their latest version of Dungeons and Dragons Online (DDO): Eberron Unlimited, is going to be free-to-play version of the popular Massive Multiplayer Online (MMO) game.
This is a closed beta test for now, and this free version of Eberron Unlimited has some limits. The level cap has been raised to a level of 20, and if the player wants more, they will have to go to VIP status. There are also limitations on specific races, classes, auctions, and mail capabilities. Also, if a player goes to the city of Stormreach, a player will have blocked access unless you whip out the credit card.
You want help playing your free version? The only help you will receive is automated only unless you pay. All players can use the DDO store to pay for upgrades.
I had a hard time believing in Dungeons and Dragons Online when it first came out. I guess it seems natural that one of the best-selling Role-Playing Games (RPGs) online, but I think the real question is: why in the world did it take so long for them to release it online. Why wasn’t it the first MMORPG?
In other words, why is it that World of Warcraft and other online fantasy games are dominating the market? I suppose that it is truly a sign of the times that online gaming RPGs have taken over the traditional pencil, paper, and dice role-playing.
Does anyone think that it is odd that Dungeons and Dragons is offering its game for free? Or that they must use this demonic babe from the image to get customers? I think that definitely shows how much people are playing the original RPG.
Or it shows how much times have changed. I suppose we can’t have the good old days of playing RPGs with the Dungeonmaster, paper, and dice and the camaraderie of meeting in a group. Of course, if a group of gamers really wanted to meet together and play D&D old school, there is nothing preventing them. However, if meeting online is simipler, and keeping a computer data record is easier than paper, then one might ask why bother meeting?
Perhaps this is what killed the old eighties video arcades. I mean, if you can play a video game at home, sitting down, that has better graphics, and doesn’t require a diet of quarters, then why bother getting up and going anywhere? The pragmatism doesn’t exactly promote social skills, though.
However, as D&D has gone online for free, I couldn’t help but wonder if this era of traditional RPGs is coming to an end without us even knowing it. I can’t help but think of a keynote speech by Wil Wheaton two years ago at the Penny Arcade Expo. The actor who played Wesley Crusher reminisced about his time at the arcade, and how that era has somehow been lost.
Gaming is changing, and we are losing the D&D era. Oddly enough, the conservatives in the eighties that were speaking out against Dungeons and Dragons didn’t bring it down. I suppose you could call D&D a victim of its own success, as its role-playing business model was imitated, and then changed.
Of course, it has not been perfected, and I can imagine that gaming is about to go into new levels.