|The Decline of Amtgard
It is strange to see a poll asking if Amtgard is growing, dying or maintaining. Dying is much too strong a word for what is happening with Amtgard. We are in decline, yes, but to say that Amtgard is dying would be to suggest that there is no hope for recovery, no way to stop the inevitable. This is not true.
Is Amtgard dying? Far from it. It's exploding in new areas. Look at the Central State Confederacy. New Amtgard groups are popping up like weeds. I do, on the other hand, think that Amtgard is in a state of decline in those kingdoms and places that have been around ten or more years.
A lot of the movers and shakers that were once heavily involved in the game have moved on. Not all of this is their fault. Some find that real life has taken over and they just don't have the time they used to have. Others just slowly fade away until people are asking "Whatever happened to So-and-so". The worst kind are those that work for recognition, receive it, then disappear, never to be seen again except when a old friend is also receiving recognition.
On that same note, for every two movers and shakers that have faded away, only one person is stepping forward to take their places. There just doesn't seem to be as many people stepping forward to say "I'll take care of that!" as there used to be. There is no new generation of movers and shakers. The old crew that has stuck around, and is ready to pass the torch on, finds that there are fewer and fewer people to give it to.
Another point is one that was brought up by Spearweasel in his "How Does Your Garden Grow" article. The two groups that make up Amtgard are moving further and further apart from each other. The stickjocks want to ditch and the roleplayers want to roleplay. It is becoming harder and harder to bring the two together into a happy union.
The game simply isn't what it was ten years ago. It's better. The fighting part of Amtgard has become a sport. With sticks being lighter, fighters being faster, and the whole gaming moving quicker, it's hard to be a newbie in this environment. Unless a park is made up mostly of newbies, and unless the local monarchs go out of their way to make the newbies feel welcome, it's a overwhelming experience. For example, if a newbie comes into a park like Granyte Spyre, they'll see fifteen knights and five others qualified for knighthood, not to mention the ten others who have been in the game forever and know their favorite class backwards and forwards. It's very difficult for newbies to walk into a full class battle game and feel like they are not in the way of the big boys.
What can be done?
First, for all those old timers who like to sit around the fire and warm their bones, it's time for you get up. You are the ones with the knowledge to make things happen. Do you have to make them happen yourself? No, but you can find a promising young student, give a few pointers, and offer some advice. I have a feeling there are lots of people that would love to do things, but are too embarrassed to say they don't know how. Just a nudge will sometime cause a avalanche.
And for the youngsters who see things needing to be done -- start doing them. If you don't know the answer to something, I bet that there's someone who does. Ask your local monarch. I bet they can, at the very least, point you in the right direction. Don't be afraid to start small. Try something at the local level. No one will ever fault you for trying. On that same note, you have to be willing to take the advice and criticism.
Is Amtgard going downhill in older kingdoms? No doubt about it. But at the bottom of every hill is the foot of a mountain, and we are nowhere near the top of that yet. No-one can do it alone. It means all of us, old men and whippersnappers alike, must work together to move forward.
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