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.
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.
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.
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.
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!