I’m going through my old books, just as I do every time I visit my childhood home. I found a stash from the late 70s-early 80s that included those books where you are the hero, murder mysteries published as document files where you have to piece the solution by yourself based on the clues provided (and the solution is provided in a sealed envelope), and host-a-murder box sets. They were contemporary with early RPGs and, to my mind at the time, very much of the same family. They were all bought in mainstream bookstores; I didn’t see the inside of a game/hobby/RPG store until the mid-80s.
It seems to me that there was an interest at the time to bridge fiction and action, to make stories more participative and immersive. And it also seems to me that nowadays, that wish has been largely turned towards the MMORPGs, the Wiis and the WoWs of a scripted and circumscribed participation. Then on the other side of the split, those who want interact and play with humans, face-to-face, turned to “Euro” style boardgames.
It seems to be more difficult to find people who both want to interact with other people and to want participative fiction. I can’t complain too much for my own case, as I get a lot of gaming these days1, but most gamers report having trouble finding other gamers of like mind.
Was there a time in their first decade of existence when role-playing games might have captured more general interest if they hadn’t received bad press from the American religious right, if they hadn’t soon had to compete with computer and console games, etc.?
1 Largely because I go out and try to activate the local gaming community!