Thursday, 24 March 2016

Writing History With Toys

I recently had a really good conversation or two, about this and that, including figures, games, shows, attitudes to the hobby back in the dark ages and nowadays.

I brought up, as I have done on this blog in the past, the notion that we all have a collective responsibility for the legacy of this hobby. One person in our group of very mixed personalities, but whom was about 7-9 years behind the majority in terms of time served in the hobby, remarked that he really didn't care, about leaving a legacy or indeed what happened to the hobby.

Now, I personally believe that the older generation of gamers who 'came up' between say 1975 and 1985 were some of the most enthusiastic advocates the hobby will ever see.

The lack of 'corn fed' product lines meant that they had to more often than not, use a great deal of imagination and creativity - and did.

A good example is paints. I studied art as many others did, and the materials we used were often purchased from art supplies shops, combined with a dizzying array of model paints which truth be told, were vary varied in quality. However, we learned how to get the best out of them and some people truly excelled.

Peter 'Greblord' Armstrong, to this day still uses materials that even I have not tried or heard of. He is a prime example of the way it was and still should be done.

How many of us converted models with putties and knives? How many of us produced our own roleplaying scenarios in a similar manner to the few which were professionally produced by the game companies? How many of us tried to recreate battles we had read of in books, using rules which were not the big glossy hardcover presentations we take for granted these days?

Pretty much everybody, I'd guess.

In the mid to late 80s, as computers started to appear, we saw efforts to make the hobby 'sexy' and to mutate or evolve - it depends on your world view - into the hobby we have today.

The generation who got 'tuned in' during those years look at you agog when you tell them what it was like just 5 years or so earlier.

To this day, one of the finest games I ever saw was a starship combat game using models built from household items such as funnels and ballcocks. I think it may have been the venerable South London Warlords who pulled off that masterpiece.

It sounds crass these days, but if you saw it, you could not but be impressed. It was not just the skill, but the passion and drive which carried it.

Today, it seems that for most people to play a game you are expected to adhere slavishly to using 'official' this and that.

Nay, nay... That stifles creativity.

If you think that an Essex Miniatures 25mm Gnoll is how you envisage a Hobgoblin, why shouldn't you use those models instead? If you like a 1976 Hinchcliffe Landsknecht over a modern figure, why not us it? At the end of the day it is a game counter. You breathe the 'life' into it when you paint it and play a game with it. Your imagination is what animates it and writes the history of that figure and it's white metal comrades.

And so, this is the history of the hobby. We are are writing it as we play our games and create our worlds in miniature. I am not 'down' on the modern, but I do think that we need to be a little more proactive in the recording of our history so that our hobby is more than just a late 20th century 'fashion' in the annals of popular culture.

I'm already planning how I can get as many gamers - not just industry types, but you, the average man or woman with a love of games - to record their memories. I aim to publish as many many as I can and archive all of them, so that there is a picture of the evolution of the hobby. We have already lost so many grandees of our hobby that we really do need to take action, because there are a generation of 'Hipsters' who are re-writing the history by presenting the hobby's evolution in a manner which makes it a an idealised fashion statement of 'cool' or who try to reinvent the games with 'clones' which are simply not as good as the original, no matter how dire the original was, because they lack the genuine sparks of 'new territory' enthusiasm. It's not just about making figures that look like old Citadel Miniatures offerings, but also about actually having the same originality as the sculptors of yore.

Today for instance I walked into what is certainly a superb game store, but not a single game caught my eye. So many games are simply the same game with different graphics, but people buy them up, because they have to be constantly on the cutting edge of 'cool'.

I do sometimes buy a new game, but it has to capture me in the same way as those games I bought 35 years ago. They have to demonstrate all the qualities which would have me talking about them in 3 decades. Hopefully I will inspire my daughter and her 3 boys to pick up the standard when I fail my saving throw versus death...

We shall see.



  1. I've rediscovered that feeling in the last week. Although I had the original rule book at the time, I never got to play a game of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. The other afternoon whilst noodling about I was reminded of the 2005 edition. Having acquired a copy, I am spellbound by the quality and humour that went into the production. It recreated the feeling I had when I first got hold of the red box basic D&D set which is something doesn't happen often these days. Another is Imperial Assault by FFG, not so much for the game, but for the models. They are surprisingly good! Beyond the Gates of Antares is another - it reminds me of Rogue Trader just for the sheer open nature of the universe.

  2. If it ain't got the feel, it don't make me squeal... :)


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