Since first seeing this thread earlier today I've been musing on how to answer it.....
Where to begin? My thoughts may be rambling and scattered, because there are so many different pieces, so be warned
As with many of you, I've been here since 2001. I joined in the heyday of BG2, and in looking for information on that game, I stumbled into a forum environment that was simultaneously: respectful, rollicking and intelligent. Very soon thereafter I began writing in the fan fiction saga known as the Dark Flames, and I met a a wonderful group of people, many of whom became close friends. But it weren't just the DFers, the community in general actually felt like a virtual home in some ways, and I connected with many others as well.
I stayed, and I'm still here. Yet... of late I too have sometimes questioned why I remain. I browse through these forums.. so empty now they almost echo... for a long time I've felt a little as though I'm in a senior citizens home... watching my fellows depart.. one by one.
I have asked myself why I haven't left... I suppose it's a mixture of nostalgia, habit, loyalty and the fact that it doesn't take much to check on my forums every day or two.
For the most part, I agree with BS. He and I have discussed the issue extensively over MSN. There's a pervasive sense here... almost reminiscent of an oft-repeated scripture... that no game, no matter how in depth, no matter how thoughtful, no matter how complex.. will EVER equal BG2 and PS:T. And yes, before anyone says it, I too have been guilty of frequently voicing such sentiments. However, that was before Witcher and Dragon Age came out. As BS states, they are damned good games... but according to those who insist otherwise, they are still not good enough. I won't directly name names or point fingers, but all you need to do is poke around the Dragon Age forums a bit to find evidence of what I'm talking about. I like and respect many of the people who have dissed Witcher and DAO, and I'm sympathetic to their general dissatisfaction with many newer games... as I said, I've voiced my own complaints on the matter frequently enough.
But, at a certain point it just becomes irritating to read that "X" game will never hold a candle to the old favourites. Indeed, I have tried really hard to refrain from being overly negative over the last year or two because if the continued refrain annoys somebody like me, it must surely scare away any new or prospective member who's excited about "X" title.
I'm not by any means suggesting that we all become mindless sycophants. Many titles, both new and old, deserve criticism. Nonetheless, such a continuous and repetitive refrain is just as annoying as the mindless drooling that causes slime puddles at the fanboy sites. At times I've felt the only thing separating GB from places like RPG Codex or NMA is the language filter. And, I really do not mean that in a good way.
I will not visit the afore-mentioned sites because I see them as a bunch of whiny, wannabee "baddass" types who figure they have to hate everything in order to acquire "street cred." These are the same people who espouse the indie music scene, yet as soon as a band becomes popular the wannabee badasses
label the group as "sell outs" (even if said band hasn't, in fact, changed their style).
So... what to do?
I really do not know...
Apart from the culture of negativity that has grown at GB other factors have come into play. Gaming developers have realised the importance of building virtual communities around their titles; they are much
more aware of it now than in the days of BG2 when this site became so popular. This means that even when Dragon Age came out the bulk of players posted at the official forums.
There are other factors as well, namely in the form of IMs and social media like Facebook. I find it quite ironic that about half of my facebook contacts come from GB, and fairly often "threads" will begin there that resemble the joking conversations that used to occur on GB. Quite a few of those contacts have spoken about the decreased posting at GB. As I said... Ironic.
This does lead me to wonder though... if people are posting at FB rather than GB.. is it a time issue, a simple way to stay in touch with all contacts, both from GB and outside of it? Or, is it deeper?
But OK, that's probably enough waxing
Onto more practical considerations, I think there might be room to make the references to our forums a bit more prominent on the walkthrough pages. Right now the link is at the upper right hand side. I've worked with the public, and trust me, most people do NOT read anything unless it's staring directly at them in front of the nose. Even then, there's still a really good chance many will develop acute blindness and not see the thing madly waving its arm and demanding to be read. I'm not sure if this is basic stupidity or if it's a tendency to be oblivious to anything outside a narrow area of focus.
I also had a thought: While it would require close monitoring, for obvious reasons, I think it would make sense to put this question (in modified form) out to the general membership. Though, instead of talking about whether or not the forums have declined maybe couch it in terms of something like, "What would you like to see?" "What are your favourite things about GB?" "Which areas could use improvement?" etc.
Perhaps place the thread in SYM with the title: "Speak Your Mind."
I make the suggestion because most of us here are part of the "old and crusty" community...
Thus, you may get a fresher perspective by asking the more diversified member base.
If we were to do something like this, I'd advise allowing debate to flow freely... to encourage it, while maintaining a respectful exchange.
My few thoughts at the moment, anyway.