Friday, 27 September 2013
“The unexamined life is not worth living for a human being” - Socrates
I'm going to the Derby World Wargames (Championships) on Sunday, which isn't a clarion call for all bloggers to come and greet me because nobody knows what I look like (though with a bit of research that's not impossible to change). From memory I know James Brewerton's going too and I know what he looks like so I have the advantage. We all probably ought to have some badges made – like those the Steve Dean Forum had done a few years back. Maybe at least those of us who're members of the Bloggers for Charity (Christ on a bike, he's on about that again!).
Anyway, I've read mention of the show on a few blogs and (apart from the fact that almost everyone seems to be going on the Saturday) there are a lot of long(ish) shopping lists being promulgated. Mine are usually uttered sotto voce so I can change my mind at the drop of a hat. Now, other than the ability to see things first hand and to save paying postage (though you have travel and admission costs to account for), I wonder why so many people actually do buy so much at shows. T'internet seems to be the obvious way to make purchases these days and you don't have to schlepp around with a carrier bag cultivating a hernia. Oh yeah, and we could also discuss the members of the Everest expedition who traipse around with bloody rucksacks, but that seems to be falling out of fashion lately, thank God.
Now, I think I was going to ramble on about what I intended to buy, but I've pretty much talked myself out of it. I think I was going to have a shufty at 6mm C19th Europe, Dave Thomas (the stand, not the man), Caliver, Fighting 15's and some real estate, but, other than that, I usually tour the demo games and go for a smirk at the competition games, pointing at the losers and whispering defeatist comments in their ear. I don't really.
So, why the profound title of this post? A few days ago I spent an evening at a council consultation meeting, bored out of my skull. For those of you still in blissful ignorance, this was a meeting organised by our local authority to discuss some redevelopment proposals which will go through anyway, but under a smoke screen of public consultation. As usual, it was clear from the accents of the most vocal opponents that they began life south of the Trent, which is something which has always amused me. I laugh out loud when the TV reporter (any company) interviews 'locals' from, say, South Uist and you hear an accent from the South East of England. I could have left early or fantasized about a particularly attractive local government officer as she sat taking notes (which nobody will ever see), but instead, like all red blooded males of an uncertain age, I began thinking about wargaming. And what I thought was this -
We all participate in a hobby, about which we (collectively) know pretty much nothing. I don't mean the historical stuff (though this can be more than a bit patchy at times) or how to paint leads or who makes which figures, but I mean who wargamers are; what they look like; what they represent. Physically there's a caricature of someone who's a bespectacled, clinically obese male, devoid of any fashion sense, a stranger to the concept of male grooming and with the personal habits of a warthog; but enough of me. What I mean to say is that we don't seem to know how our hobby would appear to an anthropologist.
The geographical spread of wargemers is reasonably easy to assess, at least roughly, but what about:
sex (or even sexuality)
job or profession
duration of participation in the hobby
reasons for engaging in the hobby
And so it goes. But why?
Well, in the first instance, I suppose it's the product of a bored mind, but, the more I thought about it, I came to wonder if we really are the broad church that is so often claimed. There's been a deal of debate recently about painting standards, ethical issues etc., but nothing about what we actually represent. It's the sort of thing marketing people spend millions on each year, trying to identify their customers and market groupings, so it must have some significance. Employers garner similar information about their workforce, governments about their populations, even political parties and some trade unions about their members because they need to be sure the organisation suits its members or vice versa; yet we don't seem bothered. I bet if Warlord Games found a massive wargames following in China they'd have every type of Chinese soldier for the past two thousand years available in neat boxed sets.
Is it important? As things stand, no, I suppose not. However, if there really is a greying of the hobby, shouldn't we as a group be able to identify who we are before we can discuss what we need to do about it? I have a good friend (yes, I still have one or two), Bill, who's ethnically Afro-Caribbean, born in Trinidad, but brought up in Manchester - he's as 'English' as I am. He's never played, but likes the game element of the hobby and loves the figures. However, he thinks this hobby is unashamedly centred upon white European or Anglo-Saxon culture and values and would have little appeal to anyone outside those groups. However, he doesn't see why women shouldn't be attracted to it just as they are to any game or sport. I asked him about Ancients, but he thought that they referred to historical periods so long ago that the ethnic groupings actually mean nothing nowadays. O.K., fair point. Nevertheless, I still wonder what our anthropologist would think.
I think that, while we're busily justifying the morality of the hobby, we should spare a thought for who holds these moral views. If there's a thriving Napoleonic wargame community among the ethnic Unuit, does that blow Bill's Anglo-Saxon theory out of the water? If the hobby's hugely popular in Argentina, is that a result of Anglo-Saxon/European influence? What about gamers in the Middle East? Africa? Asia? The Far East? Who are they and what makes them tick?
However, in the meantime, I don't think the council gives a monkey's about or opinion of the redevelopment plans.