I should begin with a declaration of where I stand. While I love both universes, if you pointed a gun at my head and made me pick only one, it'd be Star Trek. Since hypothetical men with guns and obscure, arbitrary demands are relatively rare though, I've had the pleasure of sampling both thoroughly. And I've noticed that somehow, the Star Wars universe has been far, far more successful in the realm of gaming than Star Trek.
This disparity seems to apply only to gaming. It's hard to quantify a thing like how fervent a fandom is, but I'm disinclined to believe that one significantly outclasses the other in general. But in the gaming world, the gap is noticeable. While there have been duds, Star Wars has had some huge hits: Battlefront, Dark Forces, Rogue Squadron, Shadows of the Empire, KotOR etc. I'm hard pressed to name a single Star Trek game, and I've played a few. They've been largely awful and forgettable.
Why is this? Why have star trek games fallen so flat on their face when Star Wars games succeed so well. It has to do with the nature of the protagonists and the conflicts in both universes. In Star Trek, the protagonists are part of a crew. They're a team from the beginning and they work together as a team to address conflicts. In Star Wars, the protagonists are a motley bunch. They're generally on the same side *cough*Lando*cough*, but they're often working on things alone. Luke goes off on his own to Dagoba, Anakin runs off to Tatooine in Episode two. When they are working together, they're often engaged in their own conflicts. Return of the Jedi has three parallel conflicts running towards the end. The same thing happens in episodes one and three. In three the difference is the most pronounced. Obi-Wan and Yoda are engaged in two separate conflicts in pursuit of a common goal, namely, eliminating the Sith. But they're on opposite sides of the galaxy from each other. The conflicts couldn't be further apart.
And because the protagonist has to bear the burden of conflict alone, they appear more badass. Even if the sides are evenly matched, the one on one combatant appears more badass than the team vs. team combatants. He or she has total responsibility for success or failure. There's something alluring about the lone cowboy riding into town, and Star Wars really taps into that.
I believe this is why Star Wars succeeds in the gaming arena where Star Trek tends to stumble. People want to play a badass, not just a team member. But what about tabletop gaming? In theory, the things that hold Star Trek back in video games should work in its favor for tabletop gaming. Tabletop gaming is a social experience; the crew from Star Trek translates well to a gaming group. Multiple simultaneous conflicts, while exciting in movies, can be pretty boring for the players since they have to passively watch conflicts that they're not involved in. And it can be tricky for the GM to manage these different scenes.
It's hard to say which has been more successful; I've played the latest incarnations of both. Both are now defunct, with Decipher having gone out of the RPG business altogether and WotC opting not to renew their license to produce Star Wars related material. But Star Wars d20 had 3 versions over the course of a decade while the Decipher version of Star Trek lasted only 3 years. Longevity is a poor measure of success, but the Star Wars RPGs have both lasted at least a decade while the Star Trek RPG license has seen significantly more turnover.
I think it has to do with how people approach gaming. Even though it's a fundamentally collaborative experience, I don't think people see it in that light. In general people focus on their character and not the bigger picture of the game as a whole. There's a line of thinking (perhaps an out of date one), that the big picture stuff is the GM's job, and the PCs should be focused on their character. In that light, the heightened level of badassness that Star Wars provides looks pretty good. But that line of thinking leads to a team of badasses, which I don't think really leads to good roleplaying.
Does this mean that Star Wars is an inferior universe for roleplaying? No, of course not. There's plenty of room for good, team oriented RP in Star Wars just as there is in Star Trek. The virtues of Star Trek for RP are just a little trickier to spot, which I think has led to this disparity.
I donated platelets on Monday. The last time I went in to give blood they asked me if I'd thought about it. So I let them take a little extra blood to test to see if I was eligible. Turns out most folks aren't eligible; you need to have enough platelets that they can take enough for a unit of platelets and still leave you with enough to not bleed to death. The process involves injecting anti-coagulants into you as well, so it's extra bad if you're low on your personal supply of platelets. I got a call a couple weeks ago saying I was eligible, so I scheduled a date.
I came in and checked in with the receptionist. Went through the paperwork and the finger stick, then they hooked me up to the platelet collecting machine. Apparently back in the day, they'd put a needle in each arm and take the blood out of one arm and then feed it back in the other. But the machinery's a little more sophisticated today, the thing takes stuff out and then returns it back in all via the same needle. It monitors blood pressure automatically and stuff like that, so the phlebologist can mostly just ignore it. The machine beeps if I need a blanket or anything. That's the one thing about giving platelets, is that while the machine is sorting the platelets out of your blood, the blood is cooling off to the point of being at about room temperature when they put it back in you, so they pile on blankets to keep you warm during the process. I never felt cold during the whole process though, they were pretty good about keeping my temperature from falling. And it's better than the light-headedness that sometimes accompanies whole blood donation.
The whole process took about an hour and a half. They set me up with a mini-dvd player and some headphones, so I just watched a movie the whole time. They had a half decent selection of movies too; I watched Frost/Nixon, which I'd always wanted to see but had never really gotten around to. Then at the end they bandaged me up and I went on my way.
There's a Dos Equis ad campaign which features a character only referred to as "The Most Interesting Man in the World". Said man does interesting things, and advocates drinking the aforementioned beer. There's a little bit of the whole Chuck Norris fad at the core of the whole thing, with the commercials taking the form of a series of anecdotes, generally, "He once ________ just to _______", or something along those lines.
I mention this so you have some baseline grasp of the joke when I mention that XKCD did a strip parodying the ad campaign, featuring "The Least Interesting Man in the World". One of the panels, I forget which has the caption "He has 5 livejournal posts, all of them apologies for not posting more." In the strip the guy's typing out an LJ post with something along the lines of "Sorry guys, things have been pretty crazy lately".
I mention this (It's a long way to go to get to my actual point, but thanks for sticking it out), because I have a not unsubstantiated fear that I am becoming that guy. So, as step one, I'm not apologizing for not posting more frequently. In fact, I blame you. Yes you. You know what you've done. But I'm going to try to post more, including AP reports and also just the crap that's on my mind. Possibly retroactive to some older games, but I make no promises.
Lastly, I'm going to through this one out to the crowd for comments. Have any of you ever been close to becoming that guy/gal, only to step away from the brink at the last moment? I'm speaking in the broadest possible sense here, not just referring to "that guy" as an LJ absentee thing. Any sort of "that guy". Thought provoking answers will receive cookies.
I read on the side of a coke can that they're a "proud sponsor of active living". And that's when I realized it. I'm not an active live-r at all. I'm a passive live-r. I mean, sure, I eat and stuff, but that's just providing the fuel for living. All the work is done by my body without me having to lift a finger. I even maintain homeostasis without even thinking. Lizards don't. They have to sun themselves on a rock when they get cold. That's real active living. In summary, I aspire to be cold-blooded one day.