OngoingWorlds blog

News & articles about play-by-post games, for roleplayers & writers


How will the Simming & Online Role Playing Universe End?

NASA's 9 Year Microwave Sky Image

NASA’s 9 Year Microwave Sky Image
“The Face of God”

Much like the origin of the universe, the beginnings of the simming and online role playing community remain shrouded in mystery.  Sure, we know that it developed out of fan fiction on primordial online services of the late 1980s and early 1990s, but we lack specifics, and many of the details we do have are quite vague.

Records exist for many of the major players and significant historical events, but we miss a lot of the nuance.  It is also highly likely that there are pockets of our cosmos that we don’t even know about it, and now may never know about.

In the approximately 25 years since our creation, clubs, much like stars, have come and gone.  And role-plays, much like planets have come and gone too.  The community is much different now than it was then.  Indeed, just as the physical universe is more mature and less volatile than it was during its early days, our demographic is older and our universe more stable as well.  But how will it all end?  Here are three possibilities:  The Big Freeze, The Big Crunch, and The Big Bounce.

Big Freeze

An ever-expanding universe

Wikipedia: Future of an expanding universe

Fate: The simming community continues to drift apart and lose energy as clubs and sims slowly fade out and die separately.

Sadly, this is similar to how most individual clubs and sims end–they simply fade away.  Participation dwindles as players lose interest.  Posting eventually reaches zero and the sim (or club) is dead.  Its website may linger on until the registration expires, but there is no action among role players.  How can we prevent this fate?  Stay active in the greater community!  Stay connected with individuals from outside clubs and games.  Share information and ideas with each other.  And finally, participate in inter-community events like FallFest, SciWorld, and the Tournament of Simulations.  Take pride in and promote community awards like the Squiddies and Simming Prize.  The more we all interact together, the more our energy will feed off of each other to prevent the Big Freeze.

Big Crunch

Hubble Ultra-Deep Field image

Wikipedia: Big Crunch

Fate: The simming community contracts into fewer and fewer clubs until it eventually collapses upon its own weight.

This also happens far too often within clubs.  Their real membership contracts as the the same role players are relied upon for more and more characters.  The weight of responsibilities eventually exceeds the players’ potential output and the club collapses.  I’m sure you’ve seen it happen!  How can we stop this scenario?  Recruit!  We should always be bringing new blood into the community.  Last year, I wrote an extensive article on how to recruit new players.

The Big Crunch can also happen when conflicting interests cause civil wars to breakout within clubs.  I’m not naive enough to think that I have the magic formula to stopping conflict in our community.  However, we would all be well served to encourage variety and different styles of role playing.  There should be room at the table for everyone.

Big Bounce

Andromeda Galaxy

Wikipedia: Big Bounce

Fate: Similar to the Big Crunch Theory, except that a new form of roleplaying develops and explodes out of the collapse.

We see examples of this when new clubs emerge after civil wars.  While the daughter clubs are distinctly independent, they always maintain some measure from their parent clubs.  If the role playing universe collapsed and re-emerged, how much would it resemble what we see today?

Perhaps this has already happened at least once in the past.  One could make the argument that the transition from the AOL days to the Internet era was a Big Bounce.  Numbers were abating and infighting was common in the AOL chatrooms.  Some clubs chose to migrate to the Internet.  Those who didn’t closed up shop.  After the Internet era began, groups were more isolated and play-by-post replaced chat as the primary medium.  The Big Bounce is a more optimistic concept–simming doesn’t end, but rather it simply reemerges as something new, albeit related.

Other Possibilities

An artist’s depiction of a multiverse

Back to my original point about there likely being other pockets of the community that we know nothing about:  Perhaps there are multiple roleplaying universes on the Internet (or elsewhere) and ours simply happens to be one of many.  Would this constitute a multi-verse?  I think so!

What about a steady-state universe?  Could simming continue like it is now seemingly indefinitely?  I doubt it.  Based on our evolution of the last 25 or so years, if there’s one thing we can be certain about, it’s that role playing will be markedly different 25 years from today.  But how so?  Your guess is probably as good as mine.

We can’t definitively identify how our community will end.  My money would be on the Big Bounce, for whatever that’s worth.  Regardless of what our future holds, what we can do is put our talents and abilities to work now to make the community the best it can be.  Furthermore, we can also create programs and institutions to ensure our viability for future generations.  We may not know exactly where we’re going, but the journey is going to be great fun.  Let’s go role play!


  • Kayla Kennard

    YES !

  • Kevin Matrix

    This is an amusing way of looking at things, what simms would be black holes?

    • Charles Star

      I’m not sure I know how to answer your question!

  • Corn Badger

    It will always be repeating big bounces as long as there are fans that like to roleplay.

  • Chas

    Interesting article. Well done. (And I appreciate the plugs for SciWorld, etc!) I don’t know if the underlying concept of simming will ever go away – it’s safe to say that concept has undergone a few big bounces, as well as spinning off of alternate universes. Back in the day it was fanzines. Those mostly died, but the concept transformed into simming. Fan fic is another parallel universe. Virtual words like Second Life yet another. On that general level, I believe there will always people who come together and develop shared stories. As far as simming itself – I don’t know. What are people seeing out in the community? It’s not as popular of a hobby as it once was, but it seems to be holding its own, and there’s probably more diversity and variety out there now then there ever was before.

    • Charles Star

      What would you say were the big bounces thus far? Here’s what comes to mind for me: Simming’s beginnings on primordial online services (early 1990s), AOL club explosion (mid-1990s), Internet migration (late 1990s-early 2000s), End of the political Simming League (mid-2000s), and the re-emergence of the interactive greater simming community (early 2010s).

  • Silent Hunter

    Star Trek RP is likely to fade away soon unless there’s a major boost with the new TV series or film. Simming itself is very healthy in general.

    • Charles Star

      Rumors of our demise have been greatly exaggerated! I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the upcoming television series will inject some new life into Star Trek simming. We have too many 30 and 40 year olds–we need more teens and 20s.

      • Teens and 20-somethings will have probably come onboard the Star Trek bandwagon from the new Abrams films houg, and from what I’ve seen, there a major divide between those 2 parts of the fandom. Can the community handle that?

        • Charles Star

          Ha, great question! I don’t think the movies have really generated a lot of simmers, even going back to the TOS and TNG films. Most of Star Trek simming (in my opinion) was fueled by the TV shows, particularly TNG & DSN. That’s really where the simming canon comes from that most games still use today.

          Based on who’s involved with the upcoming show, I’m cautiously optimistic. I think they know that to make it a long term success (i.e., to have it last more than a season or two), they’ve got to be true to the original brand where Abrams wasn’t and make it “cool” for today. No small task!

          • Silent Hunter

            ‘Doctor Who’ managed to do it, but agree, that’s not easy.

          • Charles Star

            Interesting… as a fan of Doctor Who, what have they done to keep it fresh while still respecting the traditions?

          • Silent Hunter

            That’s going to produce a rather long and complex answer if you want me to do it in full, but three obvious points stand out.
            * Drawing influences from ‘Buffy’ in dialogue style and a focus on backgrounds of the characters.
            * High quality special effects.
            * Casting highly talented actors in lead roles rather than light entertainment figures as had been rumoured when the revival was announced.

  • Pamela Brooker

    Well, simming as we have seen it, probably will die a horrible death or rather, several horrible deaths, because its all based on specific shows like star trek or battlestar galactica, and as the fan base moves from one show to the next new cool thing, interest in writing or playing in that universe dies. Another issue is that many people see it as a game, while some of us see it as collaborative writing. The verse it is written in becomes a backdrop and merely the painting on the wall as we work to develop a story worth reading.. Truth told though, most people want to be fans for a day and write a few things till thery find out what it takes and what their commitment needs to be then they disappear off to another genre. The “cool” factor plays a major role there. Star Trek isnt cool any more. BSG isnt cool any more. Theres nothing there to inspire the simmers, and the writers are so few and far between that much of the time they are writing alone. Even as I write these words, i know that something new and very different in idea design and format has to be developed or simming will continue to spiral downhill until it disappears in as quiet of a whisper as it started.

  • Charles Star

    In case anyone cares, I conducted a poll on two popular role playing message boards. Here are the results as of today:

    * Big Freeze: 1 vote
    * Big Crunch: 0
    * Big Bounce: 7
    * Steady State: 3
    * Other: 1

    Hardly scientific, but Big Bounce seems to be the most popular answer. One of the more interesting message board responses suggested singularity as a possibility: all RPs eventually becoming a single RP! Maybe that accounts for the “other” vote.