Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Different ENWorld

I've been a visitor and poster at the ENWorld site nearly since its inception. My original account dates to Jan-2002, and I was clearly reading the site prior to that (2001 or likely even 2000). At the time I had a playgroup at the video game company where I worked in Boston that started in 1999 with 2E AD&D (I held my nose and agreed), quickly switched over to 3E in 2000, and continued every week up until I moved to NYC in late 2005.

If anything, I've spent too many hours of too many days sucked into the discussion at ENWorld. No matter what else, people care about their gaming there. A lot of people agreed that it was one of the more civil and welcoming public forums on the Internet. Staffers from Wizards of the Coast would regularly pop in and comment on discussions. Up until this year, Gygax maintained mammoth discussion threads as he participated in generous Q-and-A sessions. (When ENWorld ran into financial difficulties a few years ago, Gygax among other offered to fund the whole site, as I recall.)

Now, I think there's been a sea change since 4E D&D was announced last year. ENWorld is in a terribly awkward position since the release of 4E. Recall that it was originally called "Eric Noah's Unofficial 3E News Site". Up until this year, ENWorld was explicitly dedicated to one edition of the game -- 3E -- that also happened to be the currently-published edition of the game. Everyone that visited had some kind of agreement about the context under which they were posting.

When 4E was released, ENWorld's mission statement had to change (you can't both be 3E and currently-published brand-name D&D anymore). They chose to become big-tent and welcome discussions of 4E, 3E, everything. There's been some forward-and-backwards to that attempt (first, 4E got put in the title bar by itself; then 4E & 3E; now no edition appears in the title bar).

But of course 4E is enormously fractious, it's enormously different from any prior versions of the game, and ENWorld is trying to straddle this huge fissure cut directly through the D&D player community. I didn't want to say this last summer (when 4E was officially released), but waited a few months to see if the tension level would simmer down. From what I can see, it has not.

ENWorld has apparently become the site for a perpetual ongoing edition war. It seems like the majority of threads that I visit in the General forum turn into edition wars, usually between 3E and 4E. But sometimes 3.0 and 3.5. Sometimes 1E vs. 4E. Sometimes 2E and everything else. People can't agree on the very terms of debate anymore; people can't agree on what counts as reliable sources for anything to do with the publishing or game-design business. Posters seem aggravated, moderators seem consistently more aggravated and snide than they were before.

I don't think there's any way around this -- If 4E is as fractious as it seems, and ENWorld invites a multi-edition discussion, then these arguments will continue ad infintum. One of the wackiest claims is that ENWorld was equivalently argumentative when 3E was released, which (a) doesn't remotely match my recollection, and (b) doesn't make any sense because the whole site was dedicated to 3E from the get-go.

It seems like most D&D gaming forums I can think of are dedicated to one edition (brand) or another, not everything. ENWorld is particularly vulnerable because they'd grown a very dedicated membership to one edition from 2000-2008, and much of that membership is very willing to defend against criticism from players of the new game.

Part of me really wishes that ENWorld had bitten the bullet and dedicated itself to one version of the game, either 3E or 4E, but not both (or all). But they didn't, and perhaps they couldn't -- in any event, it will clearly be a very different ENWorld from here on out.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, just as I got my community supporter account sorted out, I started realizing the very same thing. No matter what you talked about, it degenerated into edition wars. These days I visit maybe once a week and skim the threads, read the first page at most.

    Some time before that I was sad to see the review section broken for weeks and weeks. I didn't want to go 4E myself, but the 3E discussion at EN World was no fun, either. So now I'm quietly browsing the old school forums, trying to find a place that is as lively and as interesting as EN World was two or three years ago.