In 2008, Gary Gygax died and the Fourth Edition of D&D appeared. Both were lamented by players of older editions of D&D. Calls to "take back our hobby!" began and talk of an "Old-School movement" grew into assertions. The blog race was on to identify the genetic code of early D&D rules and practices that would resuscitate the Original Way of gaming. For a couple of years, there was a lot of energy and debate about what that would mean.
In 2010, the first OSR blog devoted to slandering other OSR bloggers and OSR game designers began. It is so foul that I'm not giving a link to it. Others followed in spirit. OSR trolls appeared, too, some individuals who have spent years of their lives leaving nasty remarks on OSR blogs. As I looked into the development of the OSR, the same names would come up again and again spewing negativity. This kind of contentiousness slowly came to characterize the OSR movement, as its own participants would describe it (below).
In 2012, talk continued about whether the OSR was dying. There was the sense that it had achieved its goals already. So what would it mean now? More OSR products, as long as they were not from Wizards of the Coast. It was no longer about recovering D&D. It was about DIY gaming under an "old-school" D&D umbrella.
At the end of the year, one of the founders of the OSR, James Maliszewski, stopped writing his Grognardia blog. The knives came out the next year as fellow gamers skewered him for not delivering the megadungeon he promised, despite his personal problems.
In 2013, there was evidence of still more discussion about the death of the OSR.
In 2014, D&D 5th edition came out. Subsequent discussions considered whether 5e is an OSR game, could be used for an OSR game, or was influenced by the OSR scene.
In 2018, the fractiousness continued. For example, one OSR blogger ended his blog because of perceived politicization of the OSR. OSR commentators revealed how correct he was by their mean-spirited responses to his calling it quits. An OSR artist "withdrew" because of "the toxicity of the scene." Wherever one stands on the individuals involved, the point is that the nastiness of the OSR community was recognized by its own participants.
At the beginning of 2019, one blogger observed that the OSR was "fractured, fragmented, and splintered." A month later, one hitherto highly regarded, but contentious, OSR designer was accused of rape. The scandal prompted OSR folks to take sides and to repent of their relationships over the subsequent months.
G+ was a Google-based social network that had been home to much of the OSR interaction for several years. It was also the medium for rifts between OSR participants. When it closed up in March 2019, players scattered to other, mutually antagonistic forums that trash-talked each other. OSR now had political sides riven by bitter mutual imprecations. By the middle of the year, players were talking about "post-OSR" and posing alternatives.
At the end of 2019, one blogger pointed out at length that OSR now meant mutually contradictory things. By including variant meanings, this differed from most other blog posts and messages, recurring since 2008, that attempted to define what was really OSR. OSR had become incoherent ("amorphous"), not only socially, but with respect to its meaning.
In 2020, the man in charge of Judges Guild, one of the "old-school" companies that had designed RPG supplements since the '70s, was acknowledged as racist. Designers had already begun actively to distance themselves from the OSR. For example, Joseph Goodman, of Goodman Games, publisher of Dungeon Crawl Classics, stated that DCC was simply not an OSR game. But DCC included an appendix with a list of OSR blogs to follow for inspiration. This was a change in stance. Another OSR game designer basically said that his game is only OSR by association, and that the OSR has become balkanized and that the label OSR "has started to lose traction."
Internet trolls. Bullying. Allegations of rape. Racism. Political divisions. Spats and name-calling and mutual recriminations. A fractured movement of fantasy gaming that has been declared dead, over and over, for nine years.
I have simply offered links to some of what OSR gamers have said. I could have given more links to all of these unpleasant aspects of the OSR, but these are enough.
This is how the OSR movement looks to a veteran gamer who has returned to playing role-playing games only several months ago. You don't have to search far to find this kind of thing.
What does the OSR have to offer old gamers like me or new gamers like my kids in 2020?
I guess you just had to be there!