The Digital Evolution?: From Tabletop to Online Simulation
by Shane Toepfer — Georgia State University
June 29, 2012 – 00:00
Produced by Filsinger Games, Champions of the Galaxy was released in 1986 as a tabletop card-and-dice game, offering gamers the opportunity to simulate their own wrestling federation set one-hundred years in the future. The accompanying video is an introduction to the game’s mythos and possibilities, and for almost thirty years the game has cultivated a small, dedicated fanbase that purchases expansion sets each year, attends annual conventions, and congregates on the company’s online message forum to discuss the game.
In 2007 Filsinger Games introduced COTGOnline, an online simulation of the tabletop format of the game. This conversion to an online format was heralded as an evolutionary step for the game, a natural progression from its primitive origins into a new digital era. Many fans indicated that this online version would allow for newer gamers to get into the game, assuming the tabletop format was an obstacle to those more comfortable with digital formats. In addition, many in the community espoused the "unlimited possibilities" the online format would offer for the game and its fans. In many ways, this moment was indicative of the utopian promise of digital culture, a metaphorical rebirth for the game in a new historical moment.
However, COTGOnline was not without its problems. Most significantly, the game’s foundational feature, the control the game provides individual players, was diminished in the online format. With the traditional tabletop version of the game, players could modify the stats of individual cards with a mere pen or pencil. Now, with COTGOnline, one needed significant levels of technological proficiency to modify the stats of individual characters within the digital game. COTGOnline also cuts down on the implementation of "house rules," referring to the modifications in gameplay many make with their personal cards and dice. The corresponding video emphasizes the control one has with the game’s raw materials, but the digital version of the game actually limits that control rather than facilitates it.
Finally, the digital content within COTGOnline had an economic impact on the game’s fans. Players, in order to have access to the digital cards they already owned in tangible form, had to repurchase individual editions in digital formats. In this way, COTGOnline became an indicator of conspicuous consumption, an unnecessary luxury that only some fans could afford. Rather than ushering in a new era for the game, some members of the game’s existing fan community saw this digital evolution as an attempt to exploit the fanbase.
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