Saturday, 14 August 2010

It's More Than A Game

The editorial on BoLS today was rather interesting.

It wasn't exactly a plea to play nice, but it wasn't far short.

The problem with a hobby like wargaming is that the element of competition is implicit. Add to this that in reality people don't actually play very much.

If you compare the amount of time fanatics spend playing, for instance, WoW, with the amount of time an equally fanatical wargamer actually spends playing with their little plastic/tin soldiers, I suspect there is no comparison (indeed the WoW player will have maxed out their character many times over before the gamer has a painted army on the table). This is for the simple reason that to wargame one needs both a place to play, some organisational skills and someone to play with.

And as soon as this other person enters the equation that the problems start.

Now fair enough it is true to say that you are playing a game, but to say that it is 'only a game' is to miss the point of what makes wargaming so frustrating and so competative.

For one thing there is no pretence of balance - the points system, which nominally and theoretically should create parity, are deeply flawed in WFB, and questionable in 40k. But the basic truth that undermines the arguement that it is 'only a game' is the essential lack of replayability.

If you play monopoly, and pretty much every board game, and lose, the next time you play you are essentially playing the same game again. The same applies to video games. The narrative of the game will change, in terms of what actually happens, but the experience and the enjoyability - or otherwise - doesn't vary greatly. Add to this the basic mechanics of the game don't vary greatly depending on the situation, meaning that the rules don't lead to disputes.

You might also add that you have made no prior investment. You are not required to build the board or the pieces, or program the computer - you might be asked to 'design' your avatar but in terms of playing the game this design process is pretty limited, basically choosing hair colour etc.

So perhaps it is understandable why people get so worked up about wargaming.

People don't get to play as much as they want, it takes a lot of time and money to get started, the rules are bent/inconsistently applied/vague/prone to the whims of a few big mouths on prominent forums/constantly under threat from the internal politics of the GW design studio that resulted in the unholy trilogy that ruined 7th edition etc, and 'That Guy' is always on hand to ruin your day..... oh and it is almost entirely male.


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