Most people seem to stumble into the hobby almost by accident. Whether it was the curiosity switch being flicked when they spotted the little white booklets of D&D or watching a group roll those wacky polyhedrons around and shout words like "magic missile" or "pit trap", there were many who introduced roleplaying to themselves.
The rest of the populous was likely introduced through a friend or relative, and that introduction probably took place in the land lovingly fashioned by one Mr Gygax: that was my gateway drug and it was the game I shared with my high school friends, who I'm sure are eternally grateful.
Although D&D is the most played RPG in the world, it's probably safe to say that under the weight of its rule system, 4th edition or otherwise, it may not be the best game to bring to the newbie table. It's not that people are any stupider now and it's not about this current generation of World of Warcraft digi-geeks not wanting to get their fingers ink-smudged; it's just a scary world to step into when there are two book cases dedicated to D&D supplements.
Tunnels and Trolls, however, is easy to learn quickly (score one for old school transference to instant gratification cyber-culture) and there isn't a vault load of material to wind your head around. Instead of having to deal with various flavours of saving rolls, there is just one simple mechanic, the noble SR. Ordinary dice are used, although they will always be a D6 to me, which makes the conversion from familiar board games to RPGs much less taxing. The magic system is easier to grasp (though, much less in depth) than many other games and combat requires elementary mathematics at the most. Surely T&T is a great game to introduce to new players.
It's not that T&T is for the simple-minded, in fact it can be as complex as the player wishes, but it's a game that can be stripped to its bare bones and absorbed in a single sitting. And it's not that it's a mere stepping stone for "higher" games like D&D or Vampire, because as much enjoyment can be squeezed out of a T&T session as anything else. It's just a nice starting point to those who are perhaps wary of taking the RPG plunge (I'm making it sound like a cult initiation - fuel for Jack Chick) or who may not have the time to absorb a stack of rules, although I would urge everyone to try all games on offer. Moreover, the credit crisis/crunch/downfall/scaremongering has affected people's ability to splash out on big name systems and they may be more inclined to pay for the relatively cheap T&T rules, solos and GM modules.
Many may disagree with this, and it's understandable. But it doesn't change the fact that T&T is a good gateway RPG in these rocky times.