While I fondly look back at the halcyon days of my youthful gaming, I’ve also aged. Part of that aging process has included, mercifully, maturation. Basically, I’m not a kid anymore. The thing is, I still love games. When I go back now and look at older TSR publications, I can’t help but notice how different the art looks in contemporary gaming as opposed to how it looked in books that were published decades ago. Some of Larry Elmore’s artwork reflects this older style of fantasy art. I have a hard time believing that people would embrace his artistic approach, but it still stands as a major contribution to gaming. Some of his art will stand the test of time. His cover for the Basic Edition Red Box has become a sort of iconic image in TTRPG. All the cleavage and chain mail bikinis, not so much. It just really goes to show that, while the games have changed mechanically, they have also changed aesthetically.
And a lot of that change has been political/ideological. This is something that I think is ultimately a good thing. This could easily turn into a long post discussing perspectives in art history. For example, the art reflects the tastes of the people viewing it. As the gaming industry realigns itself to become more inclusive (something long overdue), it has necessarily altered how it presents itself. This doesn’t mean there aren’t damsels in distress. There are. There are also gentleman in distress, and female fighters who kick in doors to rescue them.
The hobby is changing, and I think its fun and exciting to see the changes over time. Ultimately, what is was, and what it is, as well as it will be all have a sort of genealogy. This all reflects the permutations in what the hobby means to people, because this is a niche industry, and its the gamers within the hobby that drive these changes. With all due respect to Elmore, and the artists of his era, I think we’re on the right path.