Where is the tabletop RPG hype cycle?

I want conversations about cool games to survive further than the end of their crowdfunding campaign.

Where is the tabletop RPG hype cycle?
Image: Sar Cousins/Rowan, Rook & Decard

February brought me two personal gifts from the world of video games: Elden Ring’s impending Shadow of the Erdtree expansion and Helldivers 2’s sudden explosion in popularity. The former reignited a storm of memes, fond recollections and that halcyon moment when we were all simultaneously playing and talking about the biggest game of 2022; the latter filled my social media feeds with videos of Starship Trooper-by-way-of-Warhammer dudes getting annihilated in increasingly ludicrous scenarios.

In the midst of this feast, it struck me that tabletop RPGs just can’t produce the same experience–a crystallized moment of pop culture relevance–even when we’re discussing the dragon-sized elephant in the room. Hypothetically, nothing is stopping Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder 2E or even MÖRK BORG from capturing the public imagination for a few days or weeks and stuffing the internet full of personal stories, amateur discussion, and emergent cultural connections (Remember Malevelon Creek, soldiers).

I don’t believe this industry would exactly benefit from a one-to-one recreation of an ecosystem that seems unable to focus on more than one popular release at a time. Hype is sort of built into the marketing machine surrounding video games in a similar fashion to tabletop’s Kickstarter reliance. If it doesn’t capture the attention of streamers, Twitter users and TikTok creators, it better be a Steam sleeper hit, a la Among Us or PalWorld. This isn’t sustainable, nor is it healthy.