Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Responsibilities to the hobby

There's an idea with a bit of currency in wargaming circles that wargamers should, in various ways, be active in promoting the hobby. The thinking goes that we are ambassadors for wargaming and are under an obligation to be good representatives. We ought to do things such as introduce wargaming to new people, support outreach endeavours, chip in and help at club or organizational level, put on games at shows or other public places, make an effort to encourage a more diverse wargaming community and so on.

For various reasons, it's not an idea that sits comfortably with me. When I see a 'how we can bring more young people into the hobby' or 'what you need to do to encourage female wargamers' or 'how to get your girlfriend to play wargames with you' type of infomercial, it grates a bit.

Certainly, these kinds of discussions are sometimes genuine, but other times its just browbeating.

First, wargaming is a broad hobby, and we must carve out our own little niche in it. We are not all the same. I don't have an affinity with a 40K wargamer just because we both play wargames of one type or another. Wargamers tend to be quite focused individuals, often with strong opinions. As drivers of progress in the hobby, annoyance, dissatisfaction and contrariness are probably just as important as their opposites.
"I hate that basing. I'm going to do mine differently."
"These rules suck. I'm going to write a new set."
"I don't like the atmosphere in this group. I'll start my own."
"I can't stand this WWII gaming. It's back to Napoleonics for me." 
Second, wargaming is hard work. It takes a lot of effort to paint well. It takes a lot of time to really learn rules. It can be expensive, and it requires a particular type of masochistic energy to devote oneself to creating a set of miniatures rules, designing a board game, or building a 500 figure strong army. We come to wargaming by a circuitous path. It's not always easy to find other gamers whose interests complement our own. Of course, we want to be open and welcoming to new people, but if you are going to be a wargamer, to a large extent you have to find your own way and make your own connections. It's condescending to think that a wargamer will be created by having someone mess about with Memoir '44 one time.

Third, wargaming is a hobby, not a job. We wargame for pleasure. It may be different if you have a promotional role in a club or association, but under normal circumstances it's something to do for fun. Why make it more like work than it needs to be? Why allow someone to set rules about how you can go about enjoying yourself?

Fourth, proselytizing is desperate and degrading when it's over something so demonstrably unimportant in the grand scheme of things as wargaming. It would be odd to scour the neighbourhood for baseball fans and then try to convince them to come and watch cricket. It's the same with those on a mission to to find a Monopoly player with the intention of convincing them to switch to DBA. People will gravitate towards things that interest them. You don't need to force it, much less feel obliged to make some kind of effort to convert muggles into gamers. Leave that kind of thing to missionaries, vegans, and marketing departments. If someone is keen on wargaming with you, it will become apparent organically.

Fifth, gaming is a social activity (well, maybe not solo gaming...). You want to be around people who share a similar interest in the occasion or event. You shouldn't feel the need to persuade people who clearly aren't going to be into it to give it a try just so you can tick some kind of 'embiggener of the hobby' box. If you want to have newcomers at your games, then that's great. If you want to bring more people into your gaming orbit, go for it. But don't let anyone make you feel that you are somehow not pulling your weight if you don't.

Sixth, you can play with whomever you like. You don't have to have a gaming group made up of people from various cultural backgrounds, differently-abled, of diverse loves, of a range of ages and a fifty-fifty gender split any more than you need to make sure that you've got a skinny person, a white wine drinker, a person with a perm and a red headed beardy bloke in the room. If that's your scene then fine, great, and good for you, but it's not a moral requirement, and no one should be trying to make it a moral requirement for others.

Seventh, wargaming is already an interesting hobby for certain character types and has been for decades. There are plenty of avenues by which a curious person can learn more about it. It doesn't need me or anyone else to be shouting about it from the rooftops. If you are comfortable with and enjoy the hobby yourself and communicate that enjoyment to others in a natural way when you need to; if you treat others you have hobby interactions with with the same level of respect you accord people in other aspects of your life, then you're doing fine, and you don't need to do any more.

When you want to find people to play games with, go ahead and do it, just as you do when you want to find people to go running with, jam with, go bowling with, have round for your year-end barbecue, or whatever. Equally, if someone doesn't strike you as the kind of person you want to spend five hours hunched over a table with, don't feel obliged to just because you are both wargamers.

Eighth, wargaming requires individual commitment. Your inviting someone over for a game does not make them a wargamer any more than your eating a perfectly cooked scallop makes you a French chef. Enjoy what you do. When you do it with others, try your best to make sure that they enjoy it too. It may plant a seed, it may not, but it doesn't really matter. If the event is a success, then that's all that's important.

Enjoy wargaming in your own way, and don't listen to people who might want to tell you otherwise.

Enjoyment is the only currency we need to deal in, in my book.

30 comments:

  1. Couldn’t agree more.

    A while back, I also wrote a blogpost about this, more or less along the same lines. See http://snv-ttm.blogspot.com/2016/05/how-to-attract-new-blood-to-wargaming.html

    I’m also pretty relaxed about ‘growing the hobby’. If the hobby dies, out, it dies out. If it would exist for another 500 years, that’s ok too, but it’s not really as if I feel responsible for that ;-)

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  2. I feel very much the same way. On the other hand, I belong to a small club which has benefited from recruiting new people as it helps to pay the rent!

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    1. Agreed. Keeping your group viable is an important thing and vital to your own enjoyment. It's concrete and necessary in the way that buying new paints and brushes is concrete and necessary. If you don't do it, you can't play in the way you want to!

      Cheers,
      Aaron

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  3. "You don't need to force it"

    That is the key phrase.

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    1. I probably could have saved a lot of time and effort by just stopping with that, really! :D

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  4. Wargaming, for me, is still a hobby. I am bound by no obligation to recruit. If my efforts provide inspiration and encouragement to outsiders, terrific. If not, that is fine too.

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    1. There are three sides to it really: supporting people entirely new to wargaming, reminding ex- or could-be wargamers that there are opportunities to get involved, and building connections with established / inveterate / confirmed wargamers.

      I'm sure that most of us are happy to do all of those things given the right circumstances, but because we want to - or it seems a natural response - not because we feel it to be some kind of duty.

      Your efforts certainly do provide inspiration and encouragement to others. I know they do to me. Thanks!

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  5. Growing the hobby makes sense if you have a business that sells hobby stuff.

    It may make sense if you're a club looking to ttract new recruits - though I'd suggest you'll be drawing established gamers to the club.

    It seems strictly optional for the rest of us.

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    1. Yes, good points, Stephen. I should probably have mentioned that it's different when you make your livelihood from it!

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  6. Spot on. On top their mendacity, I find the bombastic blatherers of “growing the hobby” to be generally clueless as well. Your blog, for instance, is probably more effective and doing more to “grow the hobby” than any of the schemes we’ve seen advanced for doing so, few of which are grounded in how people actually experience, come into, and sustain the hobby.

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    1. I think most of us probably do end up 'growing the hobby' in some way, but in my view, that's a happy by-product, and shouldn't be the focus.

      That said, I don't want to denigrate the people who give their free time and go and set up wargames clubs in schools or put on painting clinics and that kind of thing. They do great work, but it's their way of enjoying the hobby. Not everyone is cut out to do that, and not everyone wants to do that.

      Each to their own!

      Anyway, cheers to you Ed, and hope 2019 is off to a good start for you!

      Aaron

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  7. I find the concept of going out and deliberately recruiting and growing the hobby to be a little strange. I say this from the perspective that I have a passion for the hobby that was ignited by the discovery of a product rather than being coaxed into it. It is a passion that comes from within and not something that can be thought of as a commodity or just something to do.

    If someone said to me, ‘that looks really interesting, can you show me how to play’, I would say yes. I would not however go to someone and say ‘if you are looking for a hobby, I can show you some wargames that might tickle your fancy!’. I think that is the difference.

    I don’t see the need to go on a crusade and ensure this bobby survives for another 100 years or more, the hobby is a love in me and so will stay alive until such times that myself and the hobby part company.

    I am however, reliant on there being enough others with the same interests so that commercially making figures available is commercially viable, I mean what would be the point of me being the only gamer in the world, so that I would have to make armies out of Lego bricks!

    I am not particularly a sociable person, so again I see no reason to bring strangers into my life just to grow the hobby, though I am lucky enough to have had a face-to-face oponent for some 35 years that is comfortable company and who plays in a non-competative way. I still do most of my gaming solo.

    In our world of everything increasingly having to be perfect and sophisticated, I find myself drawn back, mentally at least, to some nostalgic gaming qualities, when fun and simple pleasures were the thing. This probably links in to previous comments from others about this being a hobby not a job .... a view I need to keep hold of, as sometimes I can feel obligated to my blog! Though part of me feels that blogging / forums are now an essential part of the fabric of the wargaming community and feeding them is a force for good. But ........

    I used to spend hours researching and writing up scenarios with nice maps etc, just for me and play plenty of games, Now, I feel certain that much of that energy goes into maintaining an article based blog, with articles often taking many times longer to write than the subject game took to play. I am hoping that this year, I will bring a bit more balance to my own hobby time.

    My very first introduction to wargaming was a chance discovery of a wargame book in a bookshop, at a time when there were quite a few authors and Airfix was a big influence in the hobby. That really couldn’t happen in this day and age, so when I am in Smith’s (High Street Stationers in the UK), I always pull a wargame magazine out and put it in a prominent position at the front of the display, in the hope that like me, one day an unsuspecting person will see it and have that button pushed that ignites a passion - I suppose that might count as recruiting.

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    1. I agree, Norm. I know what you mean about blogging, too. Sometimes you can get so caught up preparing to do a write up that you don't actually relax into and enjoy the gaming side. It's a tricky one. I think the recording of play is a good half of the fun (that's why we love those pioneer wargaming books so much, I guess, and that wonderful 'At the Colonel's Table' series) but it's easy to overdo it.

      And your Smith's anecdote is quite entertaining. I do similar things with books! And you're right, it is human nature to want to share our interests.

      Cheers,
      Aaron

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  8. Do we have a responsibility to recruit new wargamers? Of course not! I recruited myself, after all, once again by a chance encounter with Morschauser's book in the public library.

    However, increasing AWARENESS of our hobby is a reasonable goal, for those who are so inclined... sort of like putting that magazine at the front of the rack, Norm! Back in High School, when I was on the staff of the local Boy Scout camp, I made a point of painting my figures in the staff tent. That lead to several scouts inquiring about my hobby, and directly or indirectly to the establishment of the group of 4 to 6 of us that gamed together for the next 30 years or so.

    In college, my ECW troops resided on the top of my Bureau, once again inviting inquiries from those who might have interest.

    In my professional life, when I'm interviewed for a newspaper article, I usually try to mention my hobby.

    I've enjoyed running or assisting with games for Jared's middle/high school gaming club, located about an hour's drive away. I also like to encourage teenagers to play in my convention games (they're usually more fun to play with than the adults, anyway!)

    I imagine many of us do similar things, but because we WANT to, not because we feel obliged to! Now about my two grandsons...

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    1. Very good point about increasing awareness for those so inclined, Peter, and doing it because we want to!

      ...and your grandson's Christmas presents were...? :D

      Cheers,
      Aaron

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    2. Nothing even vaguely related to my hobby, at ages 1+ and 3+. I figure about age 5 is the earliest fort anything much more than passing exposure.

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    3. I hope they've been getting to spend a bit of quality holiday time with their granddad!

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  9. Great rant. I'm in total agreement.

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  10. A very good article Aaron. I wonder what was the catalyst for writing it. Hopefully not a personal experience?

    Locally there is an active wargames club but I have generally drifted away from it, only occasionally visiting to renew my membership or a couple of times run a game or tournament at a competition. why, well the popular games systems or scales are just not for me. Typically I find a very vocal individual campaigning on rule system x or the benefits of a scale.

    Generally I game with a small group of like minded people that share a particular interest in a period or rules system. I’m certainly not interested in following a particular rules system trend. But of course that is just me and others enjoy the hobby in different ways.

    Keith

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    1. Hi Keith, no, not a personal experience, but I did see another of those 'how to attract persons of type X to the hobby' article recently and after a couple of days it led to this.

      I agree with you - we all enjoy the hobby in different ways, so intersecting in areas where ideas match and diverging in areas where they don't is perfectly natural, and helps to keep things interesting.

      The last thing we want is our hobby to become a chore!

      Cheers,
      Aaron

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  11. "The last thing we want is our hobby to become a chore!"... or a religion... I'm with the rest of the guys, couldn't agree more... interesting that no one has popped up to say the opposite though???

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    1. As Epictetus below says, I may well have laid it on a bit thick. Perhaps in reality no one is quite as militant about it as I've suggested they are!

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  12. Entertaining polemic, but against a straw man I think.

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    1. Yes, it is a bit of a straw man in that it's cobbled together from bits drawn from different places, but there are flesh and blood folk (or good bots - we can't rule that out!) at the bottom of it!

      These are three articles, for example:

      https://wargamehq.com/expanding-borders-wargaming/

      https://hobbygamesrecce.livejournal.com/6975.html

      https://www.behindthehex.com/2018/03/08/how-to-attract-more-women-to-wargaming-hobby/?fbclid=IwAR0JEdPt57NsBG87TeE8Jxwv56-OJzHQRpvj0dtj6DuzoBktx71HNukn-Vg

      But this is a straw man in another sense too: it's a stand-in rant (or polemic, if you prefer - and I do!) against a general climate of people trying to tell you that you're not enjoying something (e.g. books, movies, music, TV, food, Xmas, family life, and so on) right, and that you need to be doing x, y and z to enjoy it ethically, fulfillingly, and socially consciously. In return for telling you how to live your life, these folks get exposure in the form of clicks, likes, shares, followers, minor fame (or notoriety), presumably some revenue, and - biggest bonus of all - they get to exist in a cloud of self-satisfied smugness, because they genuinely believe that they are right, and that they are spreading the good word about whatever their angle is.

      But given that this is mostly a wargaming blog, it's the poor old wargamers, just trying to do their bit for the hobby, who are catching the spray!

      Cheers,
      Aaron

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  13. Well, I tried; but no matter how many Sunday afternoons I stood in front of my house, stark naked, holding a copy of World in Flames Deluxe over my head, and screaming "Play with me! Play with me!", I failed to attract a single new recruit to our hobby.

    I agree with you completely, Aaron. I think that people are attracted to our hobby by a very particular combination of interests and personality. If someone is meant to be a wargamer, they will find the hobby without any proselytizing by us.

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    1. Clearly it was a poor choice of game, Pat. If you'd gone for Axis and Allies, who knows how many new gamers you might have spawned?!

      Cheers,
      Aaron

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