BACK IN THE DAY
The OSR authors started as bloggers, and they blogged instead of forumed because forums generally suck but the ideas behind the suck took on three major shapes:
The TSR D&D Fan Critique
- Their first objection to OSR stuff was that it was new and not old or, as they might put it, not in the same spirit as the things they liked.
- This morphed into "the OSR with their blogs and using their real names are tall poppies and we hate that" or, as they might put it "preening, money-hungry, arrogant..." etc.
The WOTC D&D Fan Critique
At the time this was D&D 3.5 and then D&D 4e in 2008:
- They saw old school as fundamentally creaky and pointless and said the only reason to play was nostalgia.
- By the time of 4e this changed to "the only reason to play was nostalgia and everyone who likes it is a white Republican and uninclusive". Which is weird because Jeff "universally accepted lefty" Rients had been blogging for 4 years at that point but whatever.
PostForge/Indie Gamers/Story-Gamer Critique
This was a self-consciously "let's change things" avant-garde scene which started in the early '00s.
- They had a critique of D&D in general that it mechanically somehow failed to be a fun adventure game.
- Some of them had another critique of D&D in general that it was bad to want a fun adventure game anyway because it wasn't deep or about crying and didn't involve role-playing. And violence is bad and of course games have to....be instructions? idk.
- Their main problem with Old School was that, first, it was a kind of D&D, so already had problems, and that some of the bloggers actually were trying to be articulate in a defense of the game as fun which made it all worse.
FAST FORWARD FIFTEEN YEARS
After five years of mostly blogging, then five years of tentative steps into the market and then five years of being important enough that everyone in the industry knows at least someone in the OSR, things have changed. Summarizing all the reasons why is another post but basically OSR designers made hard-to-deny commercial headway on all fronts and so now....
The TSR Fan Critique was always kinda doomed because none of them could put out their own product without being muddled in with the existing OSR. And the OSR was nice to people who put out things it liked. And were they not Old and School and Re-Nascent?
Their critique eventually just became "All the OSR people are preening, money-hungry and arrogant except these few dozen specific people who made the games I like".
The WOTC D&D Fan Critique softened because of the 5th edition of D&D, basically, which was, if not old-school, than way more old-school friendly than the previous two editions and 5e's marketing involved using the '80s legacy (Stranger Things, etc) as a cool retronew thing rather than trying to go "D&D is still relevant despite..." which they'd been trying to do since the '90s.
(The weirdest part was when Something Awful stopped being like "Old School is all Republicans" and actually started an ongoing Old School thread. They switched to "Ok, we just hate Zak and James who we will say are Republicans and uninclusive despite running the most diverse shops in RPGs" but this was actually an improvement.)
The PostForge/Indie Gamers/Story-Gamer Critique suffered because of larger social changes. They had to go from the post-'90s snobby-rejectionism-as-the-cutting-edge-of-creative-critique to talking-about-inclusion-on-the-internet-with-people-you-avoid-irl-is-the-cutting-edge-of-creative-critique. It was cool to say "If you like Twilight that's great! Sparkles! (Even though it's problematic! Sparkles!)" and so it became uncool to yuck on someone's yum.
Also: as a movement interested in not just game design principles but also self-publishing and engaging a wider audience for independent games, it was hard to argue with people who were, well....self-publishing and engaging a wider audience for independent games. And making things that looked good doing it. And being, objectively, more inclusive than everyone else. The most popular indie gamer forums now can't shut up about Old School games.
The most interesting thing about this was how they did deal with their old critique. They often would flatter OSR creators by saying "Well Old School D&D was bad back in the day, but you guys fixed that with clearer procedures and prose", though the condescending edge that somehow old school is a guilty pleasure for when you just really want mcnuggets has not gone away, mostly because social media still incentivizes rageposts about What Popular Media Doesn't Get About Itself That I Personally Do And You Will Too If You ReTweet This.
The current hip line on old school play and D&D is that Ok, it's fun but that isn't well-explained by the products and some will be confused.
Honestly, I used to have some sympathy for this argument because it was often made by people who'd flatter me and Jeff and other bloggers by saying "Oh now I get it since you explained it" but I've come around to hard elitism on the subject:
No, the prose and marketing aren't ever perfect, but seriously even '70s D&D at its creakiest is easier to understand than, like, Paradise Lost or Cronopios and Famas and if you can't understand those I don't get why you think you get to tell creators how you'd do it better. If you played any kind of D&D and didn't have fun and blamed the game instead of your friends you're probably a moron. Children play it. Get a grip.
Basically all the designers who have made these 180 turns on old-school games are still around and none of them have apologized for taking stands that they now admit are completely wrong despite buying, promoting and even making Old School-style RPG stuff by the thousands.
Or, to put it another way, they haven't learned anything, and learning is the only good reason to be wrong.
I've said before: it's weird to have a popular blog whose audience is made entirely of people you're pretty sure can't read, but maybe some future civilization will appreciate this message in a bottle. Don't do what we did. Don't expect things of people. Light the fuse and run.