Friday, 19 June 2015


What legacy will the 70s and 80s generation of wargamers actually leave when they collectively fail their saving throws and go to the toolbox in the sky?

It's anyone's guess at the moment...

It's a complicated subset of the hobby, because many of those who led the charge as it were in the early days of gaming were very polarised. They either loved or hated fantasy and science fiction gaming, in the same way that the publishing world was split over the early sword and sorcery authors.

Wargaming was a hobby for gentleman tacticians, with set formulae for casualties, movement and the like based on men, mounts and cannon (OK, and bows, slings etc). There was no way to accurately quantify the effects of being an Orc or a Troll may have on the same formulae. And that meant that imaginary gaming was something to deride and shun as 'not proper wargaming'.

Hot on the heels of this 'Gen 1' came 'Gen 1.1', not the sons and daughters of those early pioneers, but those only a few years their junior, but for whom the comic books and literature was increasingly becoming less about WW2 and more about Judge Dredd, Slaine and other out of this world characters. It was a time when the cover of a rock album could sit next to a fantasy novel and be indistinguishable, where Tolkien was everywhere and age old social conventions were broken. In short it was a time of change.

The elder group may have led the way in establishing the hobby, but the younger generation with their new ideas and views were the generation which propelled the hobby into becoming an industry.

For the first time, there was a need for higher production standards, larger and more varied conventions, and a willing on the part of the young Turks to play whenever, whatever with whomever.

Some clubs diversified and others split as lines were drawn across periods and genre.

By the mid-90s the hobby was looking rather shabby, but then at the back end of that decade, the children of 'Gen 1.1' (yes, it seems that those Hi-Tec wearing, mullet bearing school boys had managed to breed - one assumes deliberately) began to take an interest as Magic The Gathering and Warhammer became the dominant products for the gaming hobby, for better or for worse.

The fathers of these kids now had the spending power to re-immerse themselves in the pastime of their youth and so the hobby was saved as a market in retro systems and a general gaming renaissance ensued.

Which leads us to the present...

A large section of 'Gen' 1 has seemingly become the metaphorical wargaming fly in amber, refusing to try anything that is too modern or which involves technology. In a world that is changing so rapidly that we can speak in real time with anyone, anywhere in the world from our computers, tablets and mobiles, this is unfathomable. There is always a generation gap of sorts, but even my 93 year old Grandmother has a DVD player, digital TV etc...

So, imagine that you have a 'traditional show' which not only prefers to ignore or pay mere lip service to the part of the hobby which spends the largest amounts, but decides that it prefers not to us modern means of communication and commerce - much to the consternation of traders wishing to attend - and you have a problem.

Add to this a general sense of what appears to be 'It's our show and we'll do what we fucking please, as long as the books balance' and you are going to see the death of some major shows, some of which have run for 2 decades or more.

Let's use a couple of illustrations to make a point here:

Were all kinds of gaming embraced - or at least tolerated, modern commerce and communications methods employed and awareness of the market attempted to even a basic degree, the wargames hobby would look like this:

Companies increasingly sell over the internet at discounted rates and shows - although still useful as a showcase for products - play a decreasing part in the act of commerce.

Instead with the elitism, commercial ignorance and general unwillingness which pervades certain parts of the hobby, it looks like this:

There will be some I am sure who remark that the above has better dentistry than your not so humble correspondent. This may be true, but proves my point about attitude and outlook.

We are at a point in the history of our hobby where the potential for a golden future is easily attainable. Unfortunately, unless the self-professed guardians of the hobby descend from their tarnished ivory towers and adapt and evolve their outlook, the legacy left will not be one to be proud of.

Certainly, one may indulge in collective back patting in isolation, but surely it would be better to be remembered for metaphorically sliding sideways into the grave, all guns blazing, than to merely kneel down by the ditch and wait passively for the bullet to the back of the head?

There is room for everyone in this hobby; room for everyone to make a difference, if they merely acknowledge that there are areas of space other than their own, and that because we all share the same love of playing imagination games, they can move freely between those spaces without become something less than they believe they are. In fact by looking into those other spaces we could all make the history of this fine hobby so much more than the sum of its parts

Alas, it seems that it's easier to castigate someone who thinks differently, than to speak to them and find out why...