That was when you didn’t have to specify “tabletop” when describing an RPG because all RPGs were tabletop, played with paper, pencil & dice. SF was played with 2 plastic 10-sided die, a decahedron that had number shaped indentations on each face that could be filled in with a white wax crayon.
The back of the boxed set promised that players could:
“Play the role of a Dralasite, Vrusk, Human or Yazirian.
By playing one of these, you become a member of the Galactic Task Force. Your mission is to defend the galaxy against ruthless adversaries. It’s a tough job, but you’re equipped for just about anything!”
I don’t know anything about protecting the galaxy from adversaries but as newly minted teenage boys we weren’t just Murder Hobos but Interstellar Murder Hobos exploring the Big Busted Bikini Babes of Amazonia.
It wasn’t too long after that that we started getting more in depth with our games, they were one dimensional yet fun.
Incontrovertible Rule of Gaming 1
You aren’t doing it wrong if you are having fun.
RPGs brought out an entirely new paradigm, a quantum shift in imagination for me. It was like a game of Playing Pretend, you know cops & robbers, but with more gravitas. Because a player of RPGs engaged more of their imagination it felt more real than pretending that your bike was a horse & you were the cowboy. You were doing this with your friends, having these adventures that you couldn’t have in real life, being something that you weren’t & probably never would be.
It was a panacea for being outcasts; it blurred that line between reality, imagination and rejection.
I remember the first SF game I ever played in was a trip on board a space-cruiser that was set upon by Sathar (the default SF villain species) in a plot to mind control the passengers as sleeper agents. Pretty good stuff for junior high kids.
With SF being a success TSR soon expanded with space combat rules called Knight Hawks, those rules hold up surprisingly well for being close to 40 years old.
My first RPG that was mine & not someone else’s was, of course, the Red Box Dungeons and Dragons.
To stay with the drug analogy, if SF was pot then Red Box D&D was black tar heroin.