One of the things that has changed, and makes gaming different for me now is there’s a lot more to draw from. My role playing (and other gaming) has gone through roughly 3 phases. And in each phase I had very different inspirations, which fueled what games I played, and how I played them.
When I first started playing D&D, up through high school I only played D&D. I was only barely aware that there were other games out there. But I wasn’t really reading a lot of ‘traditional’ fantasy books, other than Lord of the Rings. I was mainly into Conan, and shoot ’em up types (James Bond, Robert Ludlum, Eric Van Lustbader.) So when we did play most of my games were more broad strokes, empire building, and not as much regular fantasy material.
The second phase, my college years and beyond, were all about experimenting. I learned about different game systems (GURPS, Cyberpunk, Shadowrun, Deadlands, Savage Worlds.) And my reading tastes broadened even more. So while I played more, and really got into characters, they were more diverse. Ranging from Street Samurai to gunfighters. Which appealed to my love of diverse inspirations. But there was also a lot of confusion and dissatisfaction with the constant change.
I would say that I am now in phase 3. I have settled back into D&D and fantasy role playing. If the right group asked I might play something else, but really this is what I want to play (and run.) And while I still seek out a broad range of books, it is not as diverse as it once was. And to be honest I am using all of that inspiration and using it for D&D rather than going off into the rabbit hole of ‘what game system could I replicate that book/movie with?’
It helps that there is so much more out there. There are so many purely D&D inspired books out there, many of them well written. And of course in a world where the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit have been made into spectacular movies, where comic book stories now appear on the big (and small) screen, it is much easier to get people into the games. Kids are far more interested in playing a game full of knights, orcs, elves, dragons when they can just watch a movie to get an idea of what you are talking about.
My only real dilemma is keeping things straight. Playing in one system, while running a similar but slightly different system could get confusing. And explaining what a Troll is can get confusing when what the movies call a troll is not what the game systems describe. But if that is my biggest problem in this third phase, I will will take it.