Saturday, August 27, 2005

The Business of Gaming

There are old stories about the Tolkien family trying to prevent TSR from using Hobbits and Elves, and Magic Rings. Even though the game no doubt encouraged people like me to read and reread the books. Even the crappy extra books.
There are old stories about TSR tracking down publishers who wrote about hit points, and had magic-users and rangers in their adventures. Even though the existence of those materials no doubt help perpetuate the game.
There are stories of WOTC lawyers using web-searches to track down the words D&D and other 'trademarks' for possible violations.
I made the mistake once of trying to contact Paramount Pictures about an online Fan-based non-profit game based on Star Trek. They were very hostile to the idea, that didn't stop us, and by themselves Paramount succeeded in killing off what was once Paramount's cash cow.
At GenCon we saw people who ought to be like us, gamers. You could sense that they were gamers. That they got into this field becase they loved gaming. But, at some point the game became a business. And everything changed. It may have made them into hucksters trying to lure you into their booth to buy something. Or slick PR machines, introducing brand names and the latest products, into every talk they gave. Or they became rabid paranoids worried that any news, or ideas that THEY came up with, might fall into the wrong hands. A copy might get ditributed without them seeing any money. Imagine if a million people were playing YOUR game, and you didn't make a dime from it!

Hmmm. Would that be so bad?
Is gaming really about making a buck? Every possible buck?

I see those old guys. Zoochi, Wesley, Arneson. They don't look rich, not monetarily rich any way. They should be rich, given the pleasure they've given us all. But they do look like people with rich lives. Ironic, since no doubt their ideas were all stolen by others. I've had fantasies about making a living with gaming. I never imagine making a fortune doing it, but making a living with it. But when I see that sort of thing. Knowing the stresses that people have to make a living. Knowing that when I see someone using a PDF they downloaded off Kazaa or something, and feeling...if only they had paid, then this would be so much better so much easier. Maybe this one would have made enough money. Maybe.

When I was 14 years old, I wrote Mark Miller, a game designer, with a question I had regarding designing ships for Traveller. I wondered, did you need a special skill to do so, or what? I never heard from him. A year or so later, I saw a new book come out from him with "Naval Architect" as a skill. Part of me thought, that jerk stole my idea. But, another part of my thought, Wow he might have taken my idea!

My wife and parents often ask if I will ever venture into the gaming business. I would not object to making stuff for others to play, but I hope I am never in the Business of Gaming.


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