Long-time game designer Lewis Pulsipher (Britannica, et al) recently asked: “Why aren’t computer RPGs (Especially MMOs) as much fun to play as old-time D&D?”

He argued how video gamers just don’t seem to have as much fun as players of old school D&D used to. Players seem to be more focused on the objective, rather than the experience and of getting there. Instant gratification and all that.

And this attitude and gaming style  has spilled over into post-2000 versions of D&D.

We tend to agree, though for different reasons.

It’s too easy to blame video games for the downfall of RPGs. The rise of D&D mimicking online video games didn’t start in vacuum, nor did players focusing on leveling up appear with the rise of online games.

We have a theory: gamers are just being exposed to fantasy games (be it MMORPGs, tabletop RPGs, or collectable card games), before they’ve read the literature and history that inspired the games in the first place.

Back in the day potential D&D players viewed RPGs as a chance (finally!) to play a character out of a novel or from history. The game could do that. Think about why the Old School Renaissance trumpeted Appendix N.

But if you’ve played the games significantly before you’ve read the literature, you will probably focus more on leveling up and gaining more skills and powers. Characters are just stats. Adventures are to played through to gather more treasure and experience points. Move on. Finishing an “adventure path,” even if you’re not having fun with it, is a sign of prestige.

This shift began more than 20 years ago. But that’s beyond the scope of this post.

You can read Lewis Pulsiphers thoughts on the subject, as well as other insightful content on game design: Pulsipher Game Design.