When I was about eleven, the local library was doing a book week, and one of the events was Tolkien themed. I showed up out of curiosity, and it turned out to be a bunch of people around a table, playing this weird game with miniatures. They gave me a character. I was an elf who'd passed through Moria from the east, hunting some runaway princess. Awesome. I was hooked.
It took me at least a year to start up a gaming group in school, but I found Dragon magazine in the meantime. I still had only the haziest idea what roleplaying was about - my intro was MERP, I ended up buying the Red Box of D&D, and Dragon back then was mostly about AD&D and other games I'd never heard of. The magazine was like a set of narrow windows onto bizarre landscapes to me. One article would delve into solutions for stoneskin spells, another gave thirteen magical items themed around some style of magic that the Red Box never mentioned, the next gave detailed rules for different types of Battlemechs... The intimation of deeper structures, of rules and worlds and games and possibilties was intoxicating. The out-of-context references and allusions made the AD&D and all those other worlds I imagined far more interesting than they actually were.
When I came back to Dragon, when I came back to D&D, it was a fine magazine, but it was never as cool as it was back around issue 160, when I started.
Of course not. How could it be?
* * *
For every roleplaying game that gets run, there are ten that are merely dreamed of. Even the act of playing can sometimes be disappointing; in one light, actual play feels horribly reductionist and shallow compared to the wonderful possibilities inherent in the game. There are always more ideas than you can use, might-have-been games and alternate paths.
On a smaller scale - consider the lexicon game. The forward references are often so much better before their meaning is defined. It's the ragged edge of the Shared Imaginary Space - we have to curtail our imaginings so they can be comprehensible to others.
* * *
I should, perhaps, look at this dispassionately.
The loss of Dragon on the news-stands is a blow to the visibility of the hobby, but it's a sign of the times. Anyway, all those geek kids who might become games by picking up Dragon in a bookstore - they're already online, playing WoW. Dragon was fascinating to me when I was just starting out because it was so mysterious, an arcane tome in monthly segments. Nowadays, if I don't know a game, five minutes googling gives me all I needed to know, plus a flamewar about its combat system.
Maybe there's something to be said for hiding lights under bushels, for barriers to entry. For mystery and wonder and incomprehension and the allure of the unknown.
Here's to Dragon magazine, late and lamented - and to Dragon issue 360, and all the other possible issues containing games that can never be written.