Pencil and Paper Games in the Age of Computers.

Posted in General by JeffB - February 12, 2024

In this day of computers and very intense computer games, one may wonder why do pencil and paper games still get published? What is it about them causes people to still be drawn to them? These are very good questions with very good answers.

Personally, I think a big driver is variety. While there is a lot of different video games, one thing pencil and paper games have is that there is a greater variety of settings and concepts. You want to play cowboy and aliens? Or maybe you want to play time traveling dinosaurs? Someone just needs to write it down and there it is. For a computer game, someone has to not only create the setting for example, they have to be able to code that into a working product. In some ways making materials for a pencil and paper game are easier. Computer games also in some ways tend to be very alike in certain aspects. Many first person shooters while visually different seems to have the same basic controls. Which make complete sense. While a pencil and paper games can have completely different controls if you will. Heck there are game that do not use dice, although most of them tend to do so.

Another reason I think is that pencil and paper games tend to be more open ended. As long as the person running the game allows it, you can really do anything. Want to have a magical talking toad? In a computer game, that might not be an option. You want to create a long crazy backstory for your character? In a pencil and paper game no problem, where in a computer game, backstory is whatever the designer of the game decided, if there is any. Pencil and Paper games tend to have more depth in them, although I would be the first to admit that is not always the case. You want to do a certain action not covered in the rules, sure you can try in a pencil and paper game. In a computer game that is not really an option.

In the old days of my youth, pencil and paper games had community and computer games generally did not. Today of course many if not all online games have some sort of community. However, I think that the pencil and paper community tends to a more diverse group and in many ways stronger. While you can play pencil and paper games via a virtual tabletop setup on a computer, the traditional face to face gaming provides what I believe a more satisfying social activity. Your view on that of course may vary. For the pencil and paper gamer, the social group tends to not be as linked to a certain game. For example in the gaming groups I have had, we played D&D, Traveller, Rolemaster, Champions, Savage Worlds, etc. It didn't matter what the game was, rather our little social group was more important than the game we were playing. I've played online games and for the most part, I do not believe I have gotten the same social gratification that I have gotten with face to face pencil and paper gaming. I am curious what has been your experience as gamer of either computer games, or pencil and paper games has been?

I guess you could say that I while computer games are fun, I certainly had more fun doing pencil and paper games. How about you?