This article originally appeared in Pyramid #9
Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot . . .
It's convention season, the very best time of year to be a gamer.
Actually, due to the way magazine deadlines exist in a space-time continuum completely separate from reality, none of the big summer conventions have actually happened as I write this. (So what's with the Origins coverage in this issue? Well, we finished most of the magazine -- including this column -- before Origins, and held a handful of pages from the printer until after the show, so we'd have the most up-to-date coverage we could manage on a bimonthly schedule.) So, trust me -- at this summer's big conventions, I had a great time.
Conventions go to a lot of trouble to bring gamers together. They put on tournaments, appealing to the competitive nature of gamers. They get manufacturers to provide prizes, appealing to the greedy nature of gamers. They invite guests -- game designers, authors, artists and others -- appealing to the fannish nature of gamers. TSR has even borrowed a page or three from science-fiction conventions the past few years, and added a costume contest, big-time art show, and major media guests (last year it was Star Trek's George Takei; this year it's John "Q" DeLancie and Majel "Lwaxana Troi" Barrett Roddenberry from Star Trek: The Next Generation).
But none of those things are the reason I go.
I go for the people. After nearly 20 years of gaming, I have countless friends that I see only at game conventions. These include former roommates, former co-workers and even the stray ex-girlfriend or two. And then there's all the convention regulars -- employees of the hundreds of other game companies, plus the dedicated fans who come to the big conventions every year, often entering (and winning) the same tournaments year after year.
We started out having just games in common; later, with other game company employees, we had the common bond of the type of work we did and our job-related problems (impossible deadlines, illiterate freelancers, clueless printers, stupid rules questions, crazy bosses . . . ). But it didn't take long for that to change, to evolve into more complete friendships. We talk about sports; politics; business; and we gossip (boy, do we gossip!). Just like any other group of friends, I suppose.
That's why computer games and play-by-modem and the net and virtual reality will never totally replace face-to-face games, and they will definitely never replace game conventions. It's the human contact, the laughter, the smiles, even the arguments, that you can't find in cyberspace.
And maybe you never will. I know, it's dangerous to use the word "never," especially when talking about what technology can or cannot accomplish, but I've just got a feeling about this one.
It doesn't matter how perfect the simulation might become. Imagine a technology where you are cocooned in some sort of full-sensory suit that can duplicate temperatures, textures, even apply pressure and pain directly to your body; perfect-resolution VR goggles right out of Snow Crash (which you should all go out and buy, by the way); 3-gazillion-watt stereo sound; even some sort of organic molecular synthesis and delivery system so that any smell or taste could also be duplicated. Or forget all the clumsy hardware solutions and go to the ultimate cyberpunk fantasy, a hardwired connection directly to your brain.
I don't think it will make any difference.
No matter how perfect the illusion, it will always be just that -- an illusion. Somewhere deep in the most human part of us, we'll always know that. And we'll always crave the real thing. If you're assaulting the Death Star, or rescuing the princess, or extracting the corp director, or building the most efficient railroad system, or any of a number of other game premises, a virtual simulation will be good enough. But it will never entirely replace the need for reality.
While I have no idea who won the '94 Origins awards (even though we list the winners in our coverage elsewhere in this issue, I don't know who won as I write this), I want to thank everybody who voted for Pyramid magazine in the "Best Professional Gaming Magazine" category. This sounds a little like false humility, but it is a great honor just to be nominated -- especially in our very first year of eligibility -- and I appreciate the support of everybody who took the time to vote for us.
(We didn't win, Scott. Dragon won again; rumor has it we came in second. -- Derek From the Future, Who Knows These Things.)
Are the awards really all that important? From a sales standpoint, any game executive will tell you no. While a movie can count on doing millions and millions more in business after winning the Oscar, game products do not experience astounding jumps in sales after winning the Origins award (in fact, the sales don't seem to be affected at all). This may change in the future; as the awards are better publicized, more gamers will vote in the election, and more of them will learn who the winners are. Also, the winning game companies are starting to take the awards more seriously; I saw a few medallions printed on products this year, proclaiming them Origins awards winners. If more companies did that, awards visibility would increase, and better sales with it.
But on a personal level, the awards have greater importance. It's a small industry -- everybody pretty much knows everybody else. And we're a competitive group, too (hey, we're gamers) -- nobody likes to lose.
So check out the list of Origins awards winners, and next time you're in your local game store, give one or two of them a look-see. They're the industry's best of 1993; you could do worse.
-- Scott D. Haring
Article publication date: October 1, 1994
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