Friday, 3 January 2014

Ebony And Ivory...

I am a 35 year veteran of this hobby, and the one thing that has constantly astounded me over the years is the attitudes of the different 'camps' which seem to exist in a hobby which at the end of the day, boils down to moving small models or counters representing things across some type of representation of a battlefield in the hope of removing from that field the small models or counters belonging to someone else.

However, in many (not all) clubs there is a sense that historical games are superior to fantasy games, or that fantasy gamers are less 'up their own' than historical gamers etc.

Now, I am watching the blossoming of 'Generation Millenium', the third reincarnation of the hobby as the sons of the kids of the late 70s and 80s, arguably the 'Golden Age' of the hobby are being introduced.

The problem is that my generation for the most part, desperate, it would appear to retain it's sense of being the 'top dog' generation is not encouraging the youth of today to really get into their hobby. Let me take as a point of reference, my own club, one of the oldest and arguably wealthiest clubs in the U,K, with an annual 2 day show that is in a prime venue and which at £5 for a two day ticket is very, very accessible.

When I joined that club in the dawn of the 8th decade of the 20th century, fantasy gamers were shunned and actually banned from playing fantasy games. There are revisionists who will say that this is not the case, but having hunted down many of those with whom I wasted away my youth they all agree that it was indeed verboten to indulge in a little hot Orc action.

The 80s saw a massive surge of interest as Dungeons and Dragons and then (after a very poor start with 1st edition) 2nd edition Warhammer. Kids like me were put in touch with older (usually historical gamers) and our eyes were opened to the myriad possibilities of this fine hobby. At my own club, I conservatively estimate that we had about 20 new members in the 'junior' category alone, all fantasy fans to a man and all from different parts of the city.

We argued, we demonstrated that we would not bring about the destruction of Western civilisation and we proved to our 'betters' that just as we embraced their historical games we should be allowed to play ours. And thus at last, we were allowed to play fantasy games on the understanding that miniatures were employed on a tabletop, in doing so. No problem there...

In 2013 there are only two of those pre-pubescent pirates of yore, in that club. And we are old...

The Grognards of my club are historical gamers, the local fantasy gamers boycott the show, the club and generally mutter into their ale. I am a gamer... That's it. I play games, and I enjoy them.

The art to a thriving hobby and industry is is to be inclusive, not exclusive. No matter what rules, the shape of the figures of the 'period', a good game will be enjoyed by anyone who lives to play and does not seek to stand apart from his or her fellow enthusiasts.

Show organisers who arrogantly ignore the fantasy and science fiction elements of this hobby are certainly losing out in terms of footfall and more importantly revenue. Without a shadow of a doubt fantasy is where the REAL money is.

What does it matter what's on display at a show, so long as it is eye catching, attractive, exciting and 'pulling in the punters'?

Despite my own best efforts, the organisers of my show will not leave their ivory towers (careful Mark, that may be construed as a fantasy themed comment) and alas I see that unless significant effort ( a dirty word in local gaming circles) is made to embrace the holistic view and engage with empathy, the upcoming generation and those who feel disenfranchised, that show and indeed my club will wither and die.

Every time I have surmounted one bastion of excuses, another is speedily built. This is not the way.

So, be you fantasy, historical, board, tabletop - whatever, try and simply think of yourself as a 'player of games' and engage with those who might also see the world in a broader way if only some common ground can be cleared between the factional trenches.

As Messrs McCartney and Wonder sang, 'Why can't we?'