If we had thought that way prior to D&D's publication, the MOST INNOVATIVE GAME in the history of games would have never been published. That D&D set a standard to be overcome is a matter of historical fact. The very day that people form companies and cease being amateurs by accepting money for their products they approach the realm of professionals. There is no differentiating; one cannot slide this way or that by whim nor escape their separate truths while embracing either. In rising above the amateur state one must embrace a professional acumen that is always being propelled to the forefront and through which you take a hard look at yourself, your philosophies and your ways and means. If indeed much of what brands itself as emulating the past stands out and proclaims itself as new, then I say: prove it. Prove it like the fans turned amateurs turned professionals did to make something innovative, who strived to continue improving upon that innovation, and who continue to do so today. Embrace professionalism and the future of imagination as the originators of the game did or stop accepting money and remain amateurs--it is not a two-way street of convenience. It's earned, just as E. Gary Gygax and David Arneson earned it.
To true creators, innovators and those individuals with plans of making careers out of their writing and design like I have done, please follow this advice as a saviour-path to it: Flee! Run as fast as you can from such abhorrent thoughts and suggestions that your creative paths are best suited to the past. Separate yourselves from those who do not know or do not care and those who say they do even though in your heart you feel otherwise. Upon the singular plain of your own creative spirit will you find the true expressions of your soul and mind and not in the endless circling caravan of regurgitated thought or upon a merry-go-round of the mind. Divorce yourself from the group; for at that time you will have the complete freedom to express yourself; in that hour will come your best work; and in that serene moment you will arrive at your truth.
"Being involved in the RPG industry as long as you have, surely you’ve collected bits of wisdom and knowledge along the way. Is there any advice you could give to budding game designers?
"RJK: Seriously: Throw out everything you think you know, including the rules. Challenge established norms, redefine what imagination and creativity “really” are, ignore the jealous and the pundits (re: critics), push past the mundane and open up possibilities, don’t close them, no matter how absurd someone says you are, or how off base they say you appear to be. With that, follow the words of my oft-quoted author, Orson Scott Card: “How can we experience the literature of the strange if we stay in well mapped lands?”-- my advice from one of the many interviews I've given.
"If we all think alike, if we all become uniform and bland, we shrivel up and die, and the great process shudders to an end. Uniformity is death, in economics or in biology. Diversity within communication and cooperation is life. Everything your forebears, your ancestors, everything you have ever done, will have been for naught, if we ignore these basic bacterial lessons." Autopoiesis and the Grand Scheme, Greg Bear
"Most of the time I look at my work as an ocean of missed opportunities...My lack of talent & knowledge bedevils me no end... But I realized a long time ago that my art is a race I run alone..." Michael Bair