Classics

So,

Graduate school, comprehensive exams, and teaching are kicking my butt right now. I haven’t had the time I’d like to build posts — and my little gaming time has been spent posting character builds over at the Mutants and Masterminds forums.

But I was talking with a friend of mine about music — we’re both pretty big Zeppelin fans (who isn’t, right?) — and we were talking about the way that some bands are “classics.” In the sense that they have staying power beyond normal expectation. Now, I am not a business student or a music industry guru, but, our armchair conclusion about why so many bands after that “classic” age don’t live up to the same standards comes from the revolving door nature of the music industry.

Video didn’t kill the radio star — it killed the timeless star. I mean, look at a lot of more modern bands. They’re the Next Big Thing(!) — for all of 15 minutes. Then their industry handlers realize that sales of the second album fell off a little, so naturally it’s time to move on to the next Next Big Thing (NBT). And we, as consumers, support this relentless turnover. We support the quest for the NBT even before we’ve seen what the Last Big Thing (LBT) might truly have had to offer. (Either that or the local radio station plays the same one song by a band so many times that you decide you’d rather go deaf than listen to that band ever again.)

Another example — I was reading an interview with the boxer, Tarver, who is moving up to the Heavyweight division. He was talking about how they’re aren’t really any big personalities in boxing anymore — how the media has moved on, because no one’s out there making a Name for themselves — gone are the Foremans and the Leonards and the Alis.

Ask yourself too — how many times have you been watching a new show, and you love the first season — and it’s hyper-successful, so the first thing the network does is change stuff second season, mess with the formula and ruin a good show (“cause you gotta keep it fresh!”)?

I see a similar issue with gaming. I read a post at Critical Hits recently discussing game evolution — and the good sides of that process — though you could just as easily (and cynically) see it as game cannibalism. Not that I’d ever say that great games don’t still come out. I absolutely love Barbarians of Lemuria and Dogs of War, for example. But we do tend to value the “new, shiny toys” and I suppose I’m frustrated by that a little. I suppose this sentiment explains the love I have for the Old School people and the DYI ethic. I don’t really want to ever play Basic Set D&D again. I played it and it was great, but I’m not that gamer anymore — but I love the fact that they are still out there, supporting and building a game system that the company killed 20+ years ago.

But look at the editions of games — the time between them keeps getting shorter and shorter. The bigger companies turn into businesses more than gaming companies. All the “Personalities” in gaming are Indy-kids (though I know they’re not really “kids” per se), and great game designers like Mike Mearls get stuck behind a keyboard promoting D&D 4E. Again though, I won’t hate on 4E here anymore — I wanted to love it, the relationship went wrong, and I’m not going back.

Warhammer Fantasy is a similar example, same with Mutants and Masterminds, same with Shadowrun. Now, I love the new edition of Shadowrun, I love it dearly — but 4.5 editions in not that much time — and don’t get me started on the World of Darkness (joking).

Maybe I’m just an old grognard (do you know how much I hate seeing people use that word — like it means something…) and I don’t hate new games. I love a bunch of them. I just think, in the corporate culture of gaming, in the rush for Shiny New Toys, we often forget the good stuff, the important stuff, and we don’t let products have the lifespan to develop into “classics.”

Thanks for reading. Sadness over. Next week I’ll try to jump back on the happy bandwagon with some Savage Worlds discussion!

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