Thursday, May 15, 2008

GI Joe and OD&D



I’m noticing a trend lately that I find interesting not for its own sake but for the larger picture it paints of age, nostalgia and trying to recapture youth- The movement to get back to an “old school” style of gaming.
What I find amusing is that I’ve been on this ride before with my buddies who collect action figures. A few years back there was a huge resurgence in nostalgia amongst us guys who played with GI Joes back in the late 60’s through the mid 70’s. The net filled up with message boards and websites where middle aged men would wax nostalgic about their GI Joe collections and their most recent attempts to reacquire the lost treasures of their youth. The boards would buzz with opinion and debate over which Joes were better, whose collections were the most authentic, which companies were re-releasing which figures to cash in on the nostalgia craze and how every effort to do so sucked.
We would bitch and whine about how kids these days wouldn’t know a fun toy if it bit them in the ass. We complained about the little GI Joes, the “Real American Hero” GI Joes from the late 80’s (which of course would offend the “young pup” collectors who grew up in the 80’s watching GI Joe and He Man), We would complain about the high prices and low quality of the new stuff coming out and how it would never compare to what we had “back in the day.”

Back in the day…
That’s the key isn’t it?
A few years ago the GI Joe guys started hitting middle age. Suddenly there was a rush to get back to simpler times, where backyard adventures filled our summer days. Nothing now would ever, could ever, bring those days of bottle rockets and dirt clod fights back.
So we did the next best thing. We went on EBay and paid outrageous prices for moth eaten tokens of our youth and cleaned them, patched them up and put them on display. Eventually, the craze wore down. The casual collector picked up a $9.00 anniversary Land Adventurer at Wal Mart and moved on. The rest of us die hard’s still haunt the boards and still wait for the re release of the Mobile Command Center, much like Linus waiting for the Great Pumpkin.

So now, a few years later a new group of guys are reaching their 40’s. These guys didn’t have much to do with Kung Fu grips or Big Jim’s P.A.C.K. They were too busy trying not to get killed in the Tomb of Horrors or have all their levels drained by a Succubus. These are the guys waking up and finding a new version of D&D coming very soon. And there are many who say it looks nothing like the D&D we played as we listened to “Led Zeppelin, Iron Maiden, or The Red Hot Chili Peppers. This is some new fangled D&D. Hence, the movement to recapture simpler times. To get back to late night sessions at mom’s dinner table. Nights filled with character sheets, funny dice, graph paper, clunky lead miniatures and of course Taco Bell wrappers. Can we get back to “old school?” I really don’t know. It didn’t work for the GI Joe guys. But if there’s a chance of recapturing a sliver of that excitement the first time you went up a level, then I’d say it’s worth a shot.