I sometimes wish I lived in another time. It would be cool to see what my home town in Upstate New York was like during colonial times. I might miss indoor plumbing, but it would be more than made up for in the experience. I always wondered what it’d be like live during the heady days of the late 19th and early 20th century when Europe and North America were exploding with change. New inventions like electric light and steel were changing the face of the world, even as our societies were starting to grapple with the ramifications of industrialization.
This is partly because it can be hard to appreciate the changes going on around us. We live now. We push the sands of the hourglass one grain at a time. It would be nice to step fully into another reality and marinate in the differences.
Change is happening, though.
There is a new world growing up around us and it’s worth taking a moment to really appreciate the magnitude of what we’re living in. Right now.
Twenty years ago, we still relied on envelopes and paper to send messages to friends in other towns, bought our books at book stores and read the newspaper to find out what had already happened in the world. However, some people were already stretching the limits of this newfangled thing called the internet. Tracy Hickman’s Starshield project married novels (still published by big houses) with a shared-world setting influenced by his community. Finding his website and meeting other like-minded fans introduced me to the possibilities that lay beyond the store shelves. I discovered a world where creators worked side-by-side with their supporters to create something bigger, better and more beautiful.
If you were a tabletop gamer 15 years ago, you had two way to find games: you either subscribed to magazines like Shadis, or you asked the guy behind the counter at your local game store. By then, the internet was exploding with new information all around us, and new tools for experiencing our hobby meant we could really reach beyond our local area for the first time.
I wanted to help other people find those great things that were available from independent creators – things that were still pretty hard to find, unless you knew where to look – so in 1999 I started The Forge with the help of Ron Edwards. Thanks to his exhausting dedication to creator-owned game publishing, I think it’s safe to say that The Forge changed the face of tabletop roleplaying games.
During those heady days when Ron was shepherding the community that grew up around The Forge, and I was off on ‘government-sponsored camping trips in the desert’, more new technologies came along to help us fans support the creators who made the brilliant things we love. A little MP3 player from Apple and a simple technology called RSS spawned an explosion in both podcasting and blogging. The community now had tools they could use on their own to create – to write and talk about those things they loved, and to give back to and grow the community around them. Fear the Boot, The Tome Show – and even my own shows Atomic Array and RPG Countdown – bridged the gap between fan and creator.
Over the past few years, we’ve seen more opportunities for fans to support creators. Patreon is helping fans support EN World‘s creation of RPG articles and adventures, Geekdad‘s creation of content for all of us geeky parents, and Endzeitgeist make more game reviews. Kickstarter is helping fans directly support creators making everything from music to games and movies.
The fan is a truly powerful agent in the world of today. We unwashed masses have more power than ever – certainly more than the colonial farmer or 19th century industrial workers. We have the ability to find great creators and help them make more great things for us to enjoy. We can use social networks to tell our friends about these great things. And, we can use our very dollars to directly influence what gets made, not in the obscure ways of old that relied on traditional distribution channels.
Take Dead Gentlemen Productions and Zombie Orpheus Entertainment, for example. For years, they have created films and original series for us all to enjoy. You may have heard of Demon Hunters (1999), The Gamers (2002), The Gamers: Dorkness Rising (2008) or JourneyQuest (2010). If not, take the time to check out JourneyQuest on HULU.
These companies haven’t stopped there, though. You may recall that Gamerati helped with the Kickstarter for Standard Action Season 3? Zombie Orpheus was right there, supporting the Standard Action crew. Even while creating content for us all to enjoy, they are constantly working with and supporting other independent creators so that us fans have more.
The current Pilot Season Kickstarter that Zombie Orpheus is running does just that. They are working with three other independent creators to bring us pilots for four new original series. Four new pilots for four new shows – and then we all get to help them decide how many of them enter production as full series.
Just as I don’t have to rely on magazines and the whims of my local game store to determine which games I can play, we’re living in a time where we get to directly support the production of the film and television series _we_ want to see.
The important difference is that these creators – game publishers and film producers, alike – don’t have the budgets or distribution channels of the days of yore. That’s fine, if you ask me…
They have you.
You live in a world and at a time where your voice is heard more loudly and your influence is felt more keenly than ever. What will you do with that power?
* Tell your friends on Facebook about something cool you found.
* Tweet about something cool you want to see made
This isn’t the old world. This isn’t a new world.
This is your world.
What will you help make?