Sunday, 24 July 2011

Plastic Realities

It was too hot to paint today, though I did have a go...

Cue photo...

As you can see I didn't try very hard.

Since I first marvelled at the ability to create a running man on a ZX81 with a simple four line GOSUB routine, I have been a computer game player. Back in the day I would spend hours - sometimes days - typing out the programs in Sinclair User magazine, only to find that the program either didn't work because the code was wrong, or the flashing pixels didn't quite match the art work framing the pages and pages of code.

I suspect the average toaster has more computing power than the ZX81. I'd put the Spectrum on a par with a mid range Breadmaker. Certainly the washing machine would beat them both at chess.

And over the years I have played rather a lot of wargames on the computer.

One thing I have never understood however, is the reasoning people put forward for claiming that computer gaming can/will replace the table top wargame - or indeed the subsiduary line of logic, that some periods or styles of game are more suited to the computer than in miniature.

As a for instance I, like many others, ran out and bought Warhammer Online. I practically wet my pants as the game loaded, I thrilled at the opening movie (always a favourite part of playing a new game), excitedly I created a character, and for about ten minutes I almost believed I was in the Warhammer universe. Until the realisation struck me that this game had precisely nothing to do with Warhammer. As a game it was OK. But the experience reminded me of being in a theme park - there was lots of people running from attraction to attraction, queueing for the 'rides' (respawning monsters, PVP instances etc), some thrills and exciting game play but it was not Warhammer - and there was nothing I could actually do to make it so, or make it mine.

Or take Samurai II, Total War. A quite brilliant game - visually stunning, epically challenging, hours of squeaky bum enjoyment. By a combination of patience, cunning and sheer bloody mindedness I have fought a whole campaign and become Shogun - and yes I was underwhelmed by the end movie, but then I am always underwhelmed by the end movie in the Total War series.

But can I recall the details of a single battle? Nope. Would anyone listen, or care, if I began to regale them with tales of Date duplicity? Probably not.

Not least because if you are like me, when someone starts going on about what they have been up to in a computer game, and phrase their exploits, "I did this awesome thing...", my first thought is, "no you didn't."

Yet you can be the biggest bore in the world, and providing you are talking to another wargamer, you can witter for hours about the heroic victories you have had, how this mechanic is game changing, or this piece of equipment is costed wrongly, or this rules system is superior to that one.

Both activities are as much of an imaginative exercise - or up your own backside, if you are feeling uncharitable - as each other. It's just actual physical wargaming does not rely on the other person 'having to be there' to such an extent, for it to be of any relevance.


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