Friday 29th May 2015,
Comic Booked

Unpainted Lead: Tabletop Games in Digital

Richard Wilcox 06/19/2012 Reviews

I remember as a kid I dreamt of a world in digital. Homework would no longer be hand written but rather typed up and brought in on 5.25 floppy disks. Yes I am aware that mentioning 5.25 floppies might date me, but at least I didn’t infer bringing in work done on Reel to Reels. Technology had seemingly limitless potential in working within a digital landscape where one could easily create a piece of work and via the miracle of the internet send it wherever in the world within an instant. A world where an idea sent into the web could spread faster than wildfire and cultivate influence and support throughout nations regardless of the idea’s originator. This was the future my young mind saw, and over time the information cultivating organism known as the internet has expanded its reach.

Growing older, I recall my early gaming experiences as my friends and I would be crunched together, five teenagers sitting at a two man table in our Dungeon Masters trailer. It was a time of victories and defeat as we fought through hordes of evil, saved holy priests and accidentally brought the downfall of a nation… or two. Between character sheets, core game books, source books, dice, drinks, snacks, and elbows, I am still shocked at how we had all fit inside the cramped space. Needless to say, many game nights had been interrupted by flatulence a tad more than any of us would have cared to admit.

During such games the idea of digital books came. No, I am in no way attempting to say “I thought of it first” when it comes to the massive eBook market we see this day (Though that would have been cool if I did). I had though, thought of how nice it would be to have a handy laptop loaded with game rules for all of our reference needs, but even then the sheer bulky size of those laptops quieted my million dollar idea.

And now we’re here today… in the future!

(I do hope you read that last bit in a loud powerful voice while staring upwards and onwards while raising a commanding finger to emphasize the point)

We have access to the very technologies my young self had dreamed about. It’s no new thing that role-playing games and even comic books have taken on new and wonderful forms via the invention of the tablet computer especially. Where in place of a library of gaming books stacked at the gaming table players have libraries of gaming books downloaded on their handheld devices taking up significantly less space on the table, thus making room for more snacks.

Recently Games Workshop announced the release of its own products going digital. This is as huge of a step for tabletop wargaming as I foresee the digital gaming table being the next logical leap. And quite frankly, with so many awesome projector-based digital gaming table prototypes I’ve seen online, it’s only a matter of time before someone creates a market for them.

To borrow a quote from Pixar’s visionary John Lasseter:

The art challenges the technology, and the technology inspires the art.

In turn, tabletop gaming, challenges the video game industry to present aspects of wargaming and role-playing to its fullest ability and as such the video gaming industry has inspired tabletop gaming to expand, grow, and evolve as technology becomes more and more available. And as tabletop gaming moves in this direction I suspect we will get to a time where sitting at the kitchen table with friends playing a tabletop RPG will be indistinguishable from a video game, and yet remain as open and customizable and any pen and paper game we play now.

What do you think? Do you agree that tabletop gaming is inching closer to being like video games? Should tabletop gaming be like video games? Where do you see the future of tabletop gaming heading?

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About The Author

I like to play games, write about them and sometimes make them. Sometimes I make films too.

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