Today guest poster LogicalPhallacy joins us to explain exactly what is meant by the “Model Train Ghetto,” and share the most hilarious image of John Lithgow I have ever seen.
So if you’ve been reading this site, you’ve most certainly seen the term “Model Train Ghetto” tossed around, or references to model trains. I think it’s high time that we discussed that. You see model trains are a definitive example of an insular hobby. To get into model trains requires an investment. A real model railway can easily total in the hundreds of dollars, and of course there are multiple competing standards of rail gauge, train size, props etc.. All this together means that model trains are a bitch to get into.
This is a shame because what was once a hobby that would bring joy to a child’s eyes on Christmas morning, is now an industry that caters to a rather select few. Even the Wikipedia article is a mountain of technical terms and details about the different competing standards. Where the model train community might describe itself as refined, exclusive, and well known, most would describe it as expensive, lonely, and the butt of many jokes.
RPGs are running a risk of becoming model trains. How so?
Historically there was a time when model trains were a popular gift, the sort of thing that you give a child to occupy their time, or to play with with their friends. Then over time the trains got more complex, and the hobby got more and more focused. The kids grew up and kept their model trains, but not too many new kids came in. Now we see an interesting situation: it is hard to find a model train set for a kid to just get into, and you don’t go looking in a toy store for one, you go to a hobby shop.
Likewise, there was a time when an RPG (“Red Box” Dungeons and Dragons) was a popular gift, the sort of thing that you give a child to occupy the time, or to play with friends. Then over time the games got more varied, and the hobby got more and more focused. The kids grew up and kept their games, but not as many new kids came in. I’ll stop there to avoid belaboring the point, but the parallels are pretty clear.
So what are RPGs to do? Well that is where this blog comes in. There are some people who actively want RPGs to be like model trains. They frequent forums to talk about the good old days, and how to relive them best and most accurately. They actively shun newcomers and argue for a more “exclusive” game. In this hobby we tend to call them grognards, but we might as well call them conductors.