Serious Game Industry 17$ Billion By 2023

We’ll be involved in running HLG Con in Atlantic City in October. Please buy tickets and come hang-out with us! Then learn about the Serious Game industry below.

And now, for something completely different.

A few months ago we were invited to participate in the Serious Play Conference as press. When we received this invitation I almost exploded with joy. I had wanted to attend the event and couldn’t quite afford the cost this year. Then, I had a minor health crisis that required some surgery. AND, that surgery was scheduled right in the middle of the Serious Play Conference, so we had to miss this amazing event. Which was a shame.

So, what is this event, why is important to Keep, and why would you want to know about them and some of the information that came out of the event? Well, the Serious Play Conference is about those organizations that create simulations and ‘games’ that focus on real world issues. These games might be Military Simulations, training programs, and educational gamification. There were dozens of panels in 2018 that look at gaming from angles that we touch on here but often don’t dive deeply into. The biggest news to come out of the event is that there is evidence to suggest that the industry of serious games will be valued at $17 Billion dollars by 2023, which is a serious bit of business.

What is unclear in the METAARI Report is if the use of the types of games we cover on this blog most frequently are an element in the impact of that market. To be clear, reports indicate that the TT RPG and Larp only constitute a minor fraction of the Hobby Games Industry per year, as little as $50 million per year is likely close to accurate for 2017. So, if the METAARI Report does include the small amount of the industry using D&D and other ttrpgs as art and recreational therapy and other cognitive behavioral support, they are likely a very small fraction of the total impact that the report focuses upon.

Does this mean anything for us as creators of analog games in the long-run? Potentially. If the serious impact potential of analog games can be tapped, this creates a potential for large investment unseen previously. However, the largest issue is that the market that takes games seriously are not looking at analog games, but frequently, are looking at ways to digitize, and incorporate AR and VR into their work. There are oppourtunities but also challenges in explaining why analog gaming can be a force for social change, and the METARRI Report and the Serious Play Conference are not focused on looking at how our games fit into that large pie. When they do, then there could be increased investment and growth in our industry in ways that work to create social impact.

The other side of the coin is, does the RPG industry want to be seen as “Serious” and that’s a hard question to answer. The large majority of RPG gamers play these games as a form of entertainment. Yes, entertainment has all the layers of ‘deep media’ etc, but escapism and pure entertainment are the focuses of RPGs for most people. The fraction of companies, organizations, and practitioners utilizing analog gaming for purpose is dramatically small. On top of that, the majority of conversations on social media about games are focused on the fun elements. Of course, Larp creators and players are more focused on the academic import of their part of the hobby. See Living Games Conference as an example of the academic focuses larp creators dive head first into.

The future of games is bright and the future of analog gaming is brighter than I would ever have anticipated back in the 90s. This is the time to invest heavily into this small segment of the entertainment and ‘Play’ communities. The impact of gaming on all fronts is going to increase. The question will be: Does this medium survives the transition in a way that we all feel is healthy in the long-term?

Josh is the owner of this blog and his opinion may not be the opinion of others that have posted articles here. 


the_players_guide_to_the_sabbatPart 2, Part 3
Most gamers with meaningful RPG experience have done one-shot games at some point in their gaming career. You and your friends are hanging out, you want to role-play, but no one has a game prepped. So you either pull out a quick module or someone says, “Eh I can wing it, slap some characters together”. My first one shot was a Sabbat game where we rolled dice to randomly choose a pre gen from the first edition Sabbat Player’s Guide. I ended up pulling the Ventrue Know It All. I have never been quite so frustrated with a stat sheet before, but it did push me to creatively work with the resources at my disposal.

One-shot games tend to be light on narrative, and heavy on ham fisted quest givers because everyone wants to get right to the meat of the session. You only have one night to enjoy the experience after all. That said, one-shot games do vary in composition. If everyone is experienced, maybe they make their own characters very quickly. Maybe you end up using something like the new Ready Made Character books from Onyx Path and already have structured character relationships, something that was never available back in the day. Ultimately, they tend to be fast, loose, epic romps; because, who cares if you die, you weren’t going to play that character again anyway.

That was my experience with one-shot games until this past August when I attended Gen Con for the first time. Gen Con was my first full blown game convention, and I played in two con games that weekend. The first was a Changeling: The Dreaming session, and the second was a Numenera game. In many ways they couldn’t have been more different, but in a few specific respects they were more similar to each other than any other one-shot games I had ever played before.

The first, and most obvious similarity that separated these games from my previous one-shot experiences was the majority of the players did not know the game world. Cons provide a unique opportunity to have someone else teach you a new game system. When you’re somewhere like Gen Con you can get a lesson in just about any game system you want. For the Changeling game I was the only person with direct Changeling: The Dreaming experience, though everyone was familiar with the Storyteller system in one form or another. At the Numenera table I was in the I know nothing about this game camp, and I believe only two of the 5 player troupe had direct Numenera game experience.


I believe the other similarities between these games were related to this dynamic. The players at both tables threw themselves into the game in a way I had never experienced before. I am used to the player makeup that tends to come together in a home tabletop environment, the standout domineering player, the rules lawyer, the timid player who doesn’t really know how to influence the narrative, the stat obsessed character stereotype. We’ve all had players at our tables that fall into these all too familiar archetypes. Neither of these con games worked that way, though. In each con game, every player found a space to have really standout moments, and everyone kept up with the breakneck pace of the sessions. I immediately knew I was hooked on this format.

Shortly after GenCon I found out my hometown of Chicago had a brand new game convention called ValorCon, just moving into its second year and they were still accepting Game Runner applications. So I decided to take a stab at running a couple con games. My pitches were accepted after almost being lost to form submission limbo, which I was phenomenally excited about. The two GenCon sessions I attended suffered from opposite extremes in terms of what was good and bad about them, and I wanted to try to capture the best things about both sessions.

Changeling the Dreaming

At the Changeling session we all made our own characters, the only hard copy of the book was brought by a player out of pure luck. The storyteller only had a copy of the game on his phone that he passed around the table. Needless to say this made going through character creation and gaming with players new to Changeling difficult. However, he was a stellar storyteller who thought incredibly well on his feet. We went very off the rails compared to previous groups that he had run the same scenario for but he was always ready with solid scenes and an excellent dramatic dynamic.


The Numenera game I attended had an incredibly well prepped GM. He had character templates, and all the powers were on our stat sheets. Our characters had pre-existing relationships with each other which made diving into the session very smooth. The problem was, when we went off the planned course of the module he was completely thrown for a loop. The players in the Numenera group were energetic and dynamic, and we were raucous and disrespectful to his NPCs in a way he was not prepared for. The game didn’t fall apart due to his more structured GM style, but it definitely hurt his ability to keep the pace of the session moving.


My ValorCon Sessions

When I sat down to create my modules I wanted to craft something that would let me get the most use out of my 4 hour sessions, and let people focus on really learning the system without books and character creation getting in the way, but I also didn’t want a module so rigid that the players wouldn’t feel like they had agency. So I decided that instead of using a pre made module, like the Numenera game I played in, I’d create the setting and modules myself, with characters that really fit in that setting. I put together character packets that included backstory, the character sheets, and printouts of the powers the characters had access to. However, I did not plan any scenes past the first two of each session. I laid out what was happening in the background for myself, and the player’s’ relationships to the action of the game, but I left the direction of that action to the players.

The resulting game was incredibly accessible. I had at least one player in each game with no prior White Wolf experience, though everyone was an experienced role-player. I gave a crash course introduction to the dice systems, including a house rule I use for initiative and defensive actions. All of the players took to their roles immediately, and even the ones who had never thrown a fistfull of D10s before made dynamic use of all of their powers. Especially in the Wraith game, where the players were juggling mixed motivations due to their shadows, and two sets of powers, I was incredibly impressed at how smooth game play was when I provided each player with exactly what they needed to play.

Having now played and run con games, I can say if you haven’t taken the dive and attended a game con you should make it a priority. They create a unique space for gaming experimentation and provide really dynamic opportunities to experience new game systems. While running my ValorCon games I encountered some very unique challenges related to the public nature of the sessions, and being unfamiliar with my players that I will be detailing in later installments of this series.

Victor Kinzer has been roleplaying since he first picked up Vampire Dark Ages in high school.  He nabbed it as soon as it was released (he might have been lusting after other Vampire books for a while at that point) and hasn’t looked back since.  He role plays his way through the vast and treacherous waters of north Chicago, and is hacking away at the next great cyberpunk saga at  He is an occasional guest on Tempus Tenebrarum (, and is working to get in on the con game master circuit.  During the rest of his life he works in Research Compliance IT, which might inform more of his World of Darkness storylines than he readily admits.

*Note, all opinions are the opinions of their respective Authors and may not represent the opinion of the Editor or any other Author of Keep On the Heathlands.




So you and your friends have decided to try out this “RPG” thing.  Your groups want to give it a try and see what all the buzz is about. Before you go diving in, there are some steps that, as a group, you all must take into account.  When deciding on a new game I recommend that 5 questions need to be addressed and answered. They are as follows:




1)  What is the time frame we are all willing to put into the game?

2) Where will the game be played and who will host the game?

3) What game will the group run?

4) Who will be running the game if a Game Master (GM) is needed?

5) Are there any topics or themes that are to be off limits in the roleplaying setting?


Each of these will be covered in a future article over the next few weeks.

Don’t worry!  I will give examples of the discussions, in italics, that should be taking place for a satisfying gaming experience to be had by all.  I also highly recommend reading over Josh’s excellent entry on using gaming as a form of dialog. That Blog Article touches on many ideas that I feel are also central to this thing I call the Social Contract.


1) What is the time frame we are all willing to put into the game?


The first thing you need to decide is how much time your group is willing to set aside for a game. I start with this question as it sets the stage for the rest of the questions to come.  This helps to set expectations.  Everyone involved will be aware what time requirements will be required in order to take part in the game, either as a player or a GM.  Once the time factor is decided, there are three sub questions with regards to time frame. These are as follows:



1a) How many days per week/month will the group meet to play the game?

2a) How long is each session going to last?

3a) How long will the story run for i.e short arc vs. campaign?

Looking at that first sub question: How many days a week/month will the group meet to play the game? Sure it sounds silly but it’s one that must be noted. For 99.999% of groups this will be easy to determine based on schedules and other commitments.

For example, I have a few ongoing groups and these groups meet not only on different days of the week but also with different frequency.  One of these groups meets every Thursday in person.  Another one of my groups meets every other Saturday via Skype.  The point is different groups with different agreements and expectations of when and how often they will meet.

Now we know when we will meet.  How long can we meet for?  This is important for many different reasons.  The main one being making sure that the GM running the game has enough content prepared and ready to fill the agreed timeframe.

There is a ratio I use to determine how many hours I like a session to last depending on the number of players. I will go into that in a later entry. For now just understand that your GM will spend time out of game putting together the story.

That is if a GM is needed. Just wait I will get to that under the “what game will the group run” question.

While the timeframe for how long each session will last is important for the GM, it also helps the players.  For me it lets me know who many scenes I  can expect to be in or be center stage for.  This is another topic which I will touch on in a later entry but, a player should have at least one scene highlighting her or his character.  From a standpoint of length of each session this means that one can roughly determine how long your scene will last.  This can help to keep the story moving along and prevent players from monopolizing both scenes and time.

Now we know when we will meet and how long each session will last. What is the time frame for the game we are playing? How long will this story last?  This is important because life has a tendency to interfere with gaming. Some groups like to do a series of one shot games (think of these like a sketch comedy show, that always uses the same actors, but in different roles each episode), others a mini-campaign of 6 or 7  game sessions (this is like a television mini-series) and still others like massive year-spanning campaigns (an example of this would be an hour long Drama’s entire series production run).

What will work best for your group is part of the contract, for example, your group decides to dedicate your free time once a week for 4 to 5 hours per session, what is the end date for this particular game?

I have played in plenty of one shot style games where a whole story is told in one session. On the extreme opposite of this I ran a decade-long Vampire: the Requiem game that started from the time the main 1st edition book was released in 2004, and ended in 2014. … yes we met weekly.

Both of the above examples show two very different games in terms of length of story.  Knowing how long that story will go on for will help in deciding what the group as a whole can commit to.

With regards to the Vampire game mentioned above I had plenty of people who shied away from it because it was both daunting to them and they didn’t want to commit to something like that in terms of length.

Also, knowing the length of each story or campaign allows the possibility for players to rotate who runs the game as GM.

For example, both my Thursday and Saturday groups mentioned above rotate between GM’s. Once one story is finished another GM will step up and run a game. Each campaign runs about 5 or 6 months on average. This for us helps with a few things; one, no one person gets burnt out on running and never getting to play, and two, it allows us to try many different and diverse games.

Make sure everyone is okay with both the frequency and length of the game.  Yes, you will need to be willing to make compromises; so make sure those diplomacy stats are high and not used as a dump stat.

In recap, we have an understanding so far of what frequency we’ll be meeting and how long the game we are going to run shall last. With one big question out of the way we can tackle the next one:

Where are we doing this thing at anyway?

Where indeed?

That I shall cover next week…


Scott is a true analog gamer doing everything from pen and paper RPG’s to board games and everything in-between. He started out with Advanced D&D 2nd edition at the age of 10. From there he likes all genres and types, from the well known big names to smaller indie print publishers. Scott is Vice-President of The Wrecking Crew