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Feb 28 2012

Generations

It seems like there is a Generation Gap among D&D players.

We have the Grognards, who are late 40′s and up, and we have the new generation of low 30-something, like myself. But we don’t have a lot in between. Granted, this is all based on my personal observations. I haven’t done any in depth research on the topic or any demographic polling.

I wonder if there is a reason for this gap.

Hypothetically, is there some age limit on RPG interaction? When the Grognards were playing the game in mass numbers, did they actively exclude their little brothers and sisters? Did they avoid including people up to 10 years younger than them in the game on purpose?

I didn’t have anyone older than me introduce me to the game. I had known of the game, and I was curious enough about it to seek it out and try it. But now I look at kids in the 18-25 year old range and I have the urge to yell at them to pull their pants up and get off my lawn.

Are we doomed to have another generational gap because of this sort of thing? In another 10 or 20 years, will we see a surge of new gamers who are drawn to D&D 7th edition?

What do you think? Have you ever been excluded from a group of older gamers? Have you ever excluded younger players from your gaming group?

5 comments

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  1. Cynthia

    I’ve never had a bad experience with older players. I think there aren’t many younger people in their groups because they are playing with 1E/2E rules and younger players simply don’t want to learn them. As soon as I had Thac0 explained to me I knew I would never play a D&D product older than 3E. ^_^ The newer editions don’t resonate with the older players in the same way they do with younger players and it has to do with that very first experience they had with the game. Things were less explicit and more open in the old days and who wouldn’t want to recapture that feeling of immersion and newness. I started playing just before 4E was released and so my warm fuzzy feelings are tied to 3.5E. I have played Pathfinder and will play with other systems but my first campaign as a DM will be 3.5E because of the feelings it evokes in me.

    Younger players have been excluded from the campaigns I’ve played in sometimes. One in particular simply has no imagination and always tries to make a Naruto character. Once a DM said he could make a Ninja if he could write a decent backstory to support it’s existence in a non-Eastern setting but he couldn’t so he didn’t play. In the last campaign he played in he died 3 times and his 4th character was ignored because his name was Captain Falcon. I would admit younger players on a case by case basis. Often gaming sessions get too raunchy and profane for me to even consider bringing anyone younger than 15. Maybe some time(at Buff State Thursdays!) I’ll tell you about the awesome horror that was Caves & Cavemen. I was the oldest person there and perhaps my age was my greatest handicap.

  2. Matt Stock

    I’m in my late 30′s and I think I have a simple explanation for a gap, if it exists… family. These days, the 30′s are prime child rearing time for many folks. During that early kid time, it’s hard to keep energy for anything other than family and work. Hobbies of all sorts take a back seat.

    Now that my kids are a little older, I’m starting to invest more time in hobby stuff, including a renewed interest in D&D. In fact, my 12 year old daughter has started to play regularly, making it a nice activity for both of us. This seems to becoming more common – several discussion boards about parents and children playing D&D together.

    My most recent gaming group was a mix of generations with a 20 year spread, which I like. I’m the old guy in the room. :-)

  3. Bill Keane

    I suppose I have the age of a grognard without the resume. My first gaming experience was in 1972 when a High School Latin teacher used green felt, homemade terrain and pewter figurines to teach his subject. (We had to write our orders in Latin) In the late 70′s I wargamed a little bit in the Navy. During the 80′s I dabbled at the UB wargamers club during my stint there. Afterwards I fell into a great weekly group at Bob’s(or was it Big Bob’s?) bicycle shop in OP. We played mostly 2E and tried out a few other systems. A few of us got into some PBM games. I think life got in the way though. I drifted away from my group, not for any reason I can recall. I think the demands of work and family just pulled me away. Now 20 some years later I find myself drawn back, I make some room in my life for gaming. Just for the fun of it. My experience may explain in part the age gap of gamers. Perhaps at some point we feel compelled to set aside our pastimes in the name of responsibility. When those demands begin to ease we can pick them back up. It’s like riding a bike, you don’t forget how and the difference between a Schwinn and a 24 speed Mountain Bike is really just bells and whistles. Oh and don’t forget the pretzels……

  4. Chris Sniezak

    That is an insightful response and I’m glad you gave it DJ.

    I have a slightly different look on the generation gap. I don’t really think there is one. I play and run a lot of games. I have two weekly games along with some various one offs and in these games I have a lot of people of various ages from people in their early 20′s all the way into their 40′s. I’m 32 myself and I might be the exception which proves the rule but I find gamer’s to be gamer’s at any age. Are the younger ones a bit more excitable or distracted? Sure, I guess, but when I’m with the older folks they get just as excited when we have those stand up and hold your breath moments as the die is rolling across the table. They yell and get just as excited. They still grab guys by the neck and slam them into bar walls as they demand answers, in character of course. We play the game. be they grognard or youngin. I do wonder how this is possible with the cultural gaps inherent in age difference?

    In my experience our cultures come to the table and take the form of the characters we play. In this specific way we can share our cultures with the people we’re playing with without having to put our actual selves out there. It’s a fascinating experience from the GM side. You can see the older folks showing the younger how they used to do things and the younger trying to teach a the old dog some new tricks, and if you have some decent people it’s more of an exchange of idea’s rather than something combative because we’re just playing a game, right?

    We are playing a game but we’re also letting people know what we think and believe. Gaming is a cathartic experience for people, a stress reliever. It’s a fun activity, but we bring who we are, or parts of who we are, or ideas about ourselves we want to explore, to the table, whether we think we are or not. Sometimes it’s subconscious, sometimes it’s intentional. The point is we’re sharing a bit of who we are and a bit of our generation, our culture, and ourselves with our game table.

    Just my 2 cents

  5. DJ

    I’m in the mid thirties, but I learned to play with kids a bit older than me. They were my brother’s friends, so about 4 years older (in your 40 year old range). Here is what I remember about why there’s a gap (all my opinion here, but based on memories from 30 years ago)…

    The good ole 80′s…That’s when some Christian group decided to brandish DnD as a satanic gateway game leading children and others into hell. The grognards came about in the 70s, and they avoided this crap and were old enough to do what they wanted with no parental interference.

    My parents were good to me; they let me play. But a lot of my family were not allowed to play under any circumstances… which I still think is ridiculous. Some of this thought is the same garbage that led people to call Harry Potter a gateway to evil and other things.

    Now the other thing I remember, a lot, was that DnD has been terribly ridiculed starting back then. That tended to cause some players to shy away as they didn’t want that kind of stigma attached to them.

    Other than that… hmm. Distribution channels were hobby shops and maybe comic book stores. I don’t think a lot of the bigger stores would carry DnD due to the backlash above. Though I do have a faint memory of Waldenbooks and Toys R us stocking stuff…possibly another bookstore or two that was here. (Sorry Mark, my memories of the past limit me mainly to Buffalo. I’m not sure of other places). I think because of this it also limited my age group’s access (I wasn’t into comic books).

    Oh, and home video games. That was the death of the arcades, and I think it subtracted more folks from the gaming crowd. Granted the games were not as “immersive” as they are now, but people did enjoy them. But after those early games came better and more impressive MMOs, which led us to where we are now… and I think some folks left for the MMOs and never came back.

    I’ve played and DM’d with kids of all ages. I don’t see a reason to keeps kids off… We’re all the same at heart, and we want fun. I think I was excluded from DnD at times when I was little (like 7ish), but that wasn’t always age. I think it was partially that I had to do chores.

    I do think you may be onto something… I vaguely recall something about generation differences limiting folks from interacting. The quick and short of it is…. the shared experiences you and your generation (or even culture) have are different from folks who lived through another, and what you take as a shared/common experience isn’t the same for someone else. It makes it harder to interact, which is a deterrent for a lot of folks.

    That’s my nickels worth of memories… I wonder what other folks think as well.

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