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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

PBM Player Base: How many people currently play Hyborian War?

One question which never seems to be too very far from the minds of players of various play by mail games is: How big is my favorite PBM game's player base?

In other words, how many people currently play the game in question?

Absent the PBM game moderator or PBM company telling us, it largely ends up being an exercise in speculation on the part of the PBM player that is trying to figure out the answer to this question. That said, some guesses tend to be more along the lines of an educated guess than just speculating wildly, though that sort of speculating is occasionally encountered in play by mail circles.

Now, I should be off and about, and working on the next issue of Suspense & Decision magazine, but as Fate has seemingly decreed, I find myself, this morning, writing this blog post, instead. Last night, I was doing a little browsing at various different PBM websites and forums, and during my trek, I encountered a fairly recent forum thread over on the Warbarron.Com forum titled, Player base.

There, forum user Reywind posed the following question:

"Is it known what the current active player base is for HW?"


Thus far, the guesses from various players of the game in response to Reywind's question have ranged from a low of seventy-five to a high of around two hundred. Only the folks over at Reality Simulations, Inc., Lee Kline and crew, really know for certain, though.

Over the years since play by mail's golden heyday of yesteryear, when the PBM hobby and PBM industry were at the apex of the PBM player base, the numbers have continually dwindled. Occasionally, former players have returned to the PBM fold, and along the way, even some new players have become adherents of the play by mail faith. Through it all, human curiosity about how many people are playing this PBM game or that one has remained intact.

After all, the more players, the better the game, right?

Uh, not necessarily. There are many individual factors that, collectively, impact the current level of popularity or seeming lack of the same. Most people alive have never heard of Hyborian War, I suspect, and likewise, I dare suggest that most people who look to games and to gaming for entertainment have never heard of Hyborian War, either.

Back in the old days, PBM companies and PBM game moderators used to be quick to brag about the size of their respective player bases for the play by mail games. These days, not so much. After all, why brag about smaller numbers? If your number of players seem to be continually shrinking, relative to what it was like back in the golden era of play by mail, then why even bother to spend time and expending effort digging up the current hard numbers for a hobby that, by many accounts, is dead or dying?

Questions about a game's current player base, such as the one asked by Reywind cited above, help to promote discussion about a game, which facilitates word spreading beyond the confines of forums and discussion groups closed off to everyone except registered users.

Rick McDowell, the creative mind behind Alamaze, whom I occasionally converse with and with whom I have butted heads over the last several years on issues pertaining to PBM gaming, said this to me in an e-mail dated July 24th, 2017:

"I think our collective mutual interest is in getting more players."

While Rick McDowell and I may - and do - disagree on a number of different things, that particular statement by him is one with which I heartily concur.

Back when I used to take care of my Daddy, after he had strokes and before he died a bit after that, I would occasionally remind Daddy that, "Every day, we fight sickness, disease, we fight death, itself." And the reason that you fight is to survive - but not just to survive. You fight to come back from such episodes, from such bouts of an ill form, that you might thrive, anew. That you might accomplish or achieve or experience something worthwhile, even yet. You fight, because it is the right thing to do.

I count myself as an advocate for play by mail gaming, or PBM as it has been affectionately known to its many fans down through the years, because it is a hobby that has given much fun - and many memories of a positive nature - to me. I am inclined to believe that it is a hobby that has much merit to it.

It is a very social activity, even at its most indirect of moments. It encourages individuals to think. Indeed, it requires it, or their in-game positions will wilt and die in short order. From within PBM games, camaraderie and esprit de corps take root and thrive.

PBM is more than just a game. It's an experience!

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