I'd be curious to hear what others think of the concept, and if anyone else has managed to make money Gamesmastering.
Where I'm going with this is ... I think the future holds in store for us the opportunity for a much more dynamic form of entertainment than simply going to the movies or playing video games. The problem with these activities is that they are essentially passive. Yes, even playing a video game is passive in the sense that you're not really creating something, but are following along in the groove of someone else's creation. I'm thinking of first person RPGs like World of Warcraft. In that style of game you are in someone else's world. Yes, you can run around and do stuff in that world, but you can't really help to create it, nor can you really affect it very much by your actions. That kind of gaming, while obviously far more active than a movie, is still passive in comparison to your average run-in-the-mill tabletop RPG. In those games you participate in the creation of the actual history of the world. You are, as it were, a main character in that story. And that's a lot of what makes it so great.
In the future I believe we will have the tools, and I'm working on one aspect of that with the Elthos RPG system, that will allow for a much more dynamic form of interactive gaming. Roll20 has brought us into a collaborative virtual gaming space and that's a big step in the direction I'm pointing to. The next step, I believe, will be an online utility that parallels Roll20 and allows Gamesmasters to create their Worlds online, and play out campaigns in that world. The Elthos Gamesmaster's Toolbox and World Weaver's Studio is designed to make Creating Worlds, and Gamesmastering them much easier by providing Gamesmastering functions that handle the number crunching and record keeping, leaving the Gamesmaster free to do the more creative work involved with story and world development.
Finally, I envision a further phase in which these worlds are tied to graphics engines that allow the Players and GMs to go fully into their Virtual Worlds en mass, and play in ways that games like WOW don't quite allow (yet). With Live Gamesmasters who not only run the major NPCs (and mostly act like Admins in an IRC Chat Channel), but allow them to manage a large number of groups of players in their Worlds - all with the same virtues of tabletop RPGs, but with the added advantages of stability (ie - not losing track of stuff), accuracy (the computer does the number crunching), transparency (the computer could allow people to determine who did what when, and what the odds were / are), and enjoyment of mind blowing visualizations of people's worlds.
This all will give rise, I hope and believe, to a class of Professional Gamesmasters. These people will have a combination of necessary skills to entertain large numbers of people with fantastic worlds, and exciting adventures in an online environment that I suspect will be emerging in the next decade or so. The skills necessary for Professional Gamesmastering involve knowing the tools, as well as all of the current challenges that GMs face, such as social skills, math skills, knowledge of history, of story arcs and character development, and of the ability to improvisationally represent multiple non-player characters as well as monsters (to name a few off the top of my head). Yes, there's a lot of skills required for the successful Gamesmaster. But mastering those skills is incredibly rewarding. And I would love to see a future in which those Gamesmasters who excel in their art are also able to be rewarded financially as well, so that they can take the hobby to the next level and make it into an experience that extends and enhances the entertainment possibilities for society.
Yes, people will still read books. I know I will. But I would also really enjoy being able to play the hero of a story that I am helping to create in a fantastic virtual world whose concepts I would never have imagined on my own. And that, friends, I'd be willing to pay for. I think many other people would, too. And that would be the basis for starting to think about Professional Gamesmastering as a serious pursuit.
Would you be interested in a gig as a Professional Gamesmaster if the tools and infrastructure were available to you? I would. Would you be interested in participating in the advancement of this concept? I would.
I'd love to hear peoples thoughts on this!