One of the fascinating things happening right now are the numerous discussions about how the actual play of D&D 4e either does or does not have either a "1st edition feel" or a "Basic D&D feel," both of which have been claimed by people playing 4e. These debates can get very heated, and it actually seems to me like there are players of 4e out there who really, really want 4e to be perceived in this way. But why? Who cares, and what does it matter? I only mentioned in passing in one blog post that I think 3.x publishers are partially responsible for the "old-school revival," and I think this relates to what I'm talking about here.
When 3.0 came out, as there always is with a new edition, there were flames galore on the internet. The shift represented a major change in the way D&D was presented. I remember being shocked as I thumbed through the new 3.0 core books. Forget about whether mechanics were in any way related to old editions, just looking at the art and presentation alienated my old-school senses. The stat blocks and variious powers/feats were completely alien to me. It was clear that this new game would play very different than 1e or even 2e. But lest we dwell on the rules too much, I want to move on to the main topic.
The point I'm getting around to is that 3.x, despite people like me who dreaded it, was received with great enthusiasm. People were very unapologetic at accepting it, basking it its differences compared to older editions. there were a number of people who welcomed the change. One thing that is very different about then versus now is that you never saw anyone talking about the "1st edition feel" At that time I don't think as many people really even cared about that, much less found it something desirable to inject into the new edition.
That is, until the marketing efforts of Goodman Games and Necromancer Games. I honestly think that their marketing is very much responsible for the internet phenomenon we have now where it is so important to some people that 4e have that old-school feel. Whereas in the shift to 3.x no one cared, in this shift to 4.0 people have been told over and over by marketing that the old-school feel is both desirable and maybe the best way to play....but it butts heads with the idea of what system to use.
The problem with the "1st edition feel" is that not only does that mean something different to many people, but it is also warped to mean whatever it needs to mean to be attributed to 4th edition. But rather than argue the finer points of that, I think it is enough to acknowledge, and I think many people would agree with me, that this whole desire to play like the old-school but to do it with the current rules, if that is even possible, is a desire injected by 3.x publishers.
So I think what all of this means to the "old-school revival" is that more and more people are starting to explore the idea that maybe, just maybe, the best way to get that old-school feel is to actually play the old-school games. That maybe, just maybe, those games are not "evolutionarily obsolete systems" after all.
Keep in mind that I'm not saying that either 3.x or 4.o are bad games, because they may very well be, but frankly I don't care because they don't interest or appeal to me. That they can be "old-school," though, at least in terms of what I think is old-school, no, not for me. And that's ok, they don't have to be anything other than what they are, which are games designed both in system and aesthetics to appeal to a specific market of which I am not a part. But the really interesting thing is that this marketing of "old-school feel" is bridging this gap between old-school and the new audience WotC is aiming for, and I think that bridge will help bring in new people who may not switch over to older games, but who may at least develop an appreciation for them.