The Value of Unmonetized Culture

Many have made the case that this new “OGL” is an attempt to ensure the maximum profitability of WotC’s tabletop being developed.

This helped me realize that this OGL problem is a symptom of a much larger problem, one bigger than WotC or even the ttRPG industry.

In a monetized world, unmonetized culture can be forgotten. The latest strategy video game boasts detailed layers of strategy – but does it really offer a depth of gameplay greater than chess? When we buy booster pack after booster pack of a TCG are we really having more fun than our ancestors did with the standard 52 card deck?

Tabletop RPGs used to be called “pencil and paper RPGs”. And well . . . there is a limit to how many pencils and paper can be sold. But has moving away from the humble pencil and paper been good for the hobby? Are we having more fun with all these extras we buy (vtts, plastic minis, collectors dice, additional rulesets. . .) than the kids of yesteryear – who had a couple of pamphlets and maybe a crudely drawn map?

We watch TV shows with scripts that pale compared to the Greek myths, with the Divine Comedy, with the Le Morte d’Arthur. But public domain works are harder to monetize. So cheaper knockoff shows get made.

If corporations had existed when chess was invented they would try to sell us a “get a new board every month” subscription model, and somehow make the rules dependent on it.

Advertising impacts us, even if (perhaps especially if) we think it doesn’t. So in a monetized world we forget Chess, Bridge, Hearts . . .

One important lesson we should take from this OGL situation is that our society is forgetting the value of unmonetized culture.

So at your next game night, when picking your next book, when starting a new hobby – consider those ancient pleasures that don’t have a marketing budget.

In a monetized world, we can’t let unmonetized culture die.

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