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"The Civil Wars of Wargaming- the cost " Topic

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915 hits since 10 Jul 2018
©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP10 Jul 2018 10:19 p.m. PST

"Having established the fact that many of the early wargamers were at war with each other in a loud, aggressive and often abusive manner, what were the consequences? When wargaming emerged in the 1970's as a new hobby, it was considered by some a potential educational tool. One to transform the study of history, politics and international relations. If you played a committee game in French, it could be used in language classes. However, this was not to be. From my random sample of correspondence in the History of Wargaming Project archive, I found that teachers, academics, several clergy and historians had unfortunate encounters with the hobby during the 1970's.

They went along to their local club and were soundly thrashed by competition gamers who were interested in the rules and winning, and with scant regard for history. Perhaps they even took pleasure in shredding an interested academic just to demonstrate that the academic clearly knew nothing about history (and therefore did not deserve their job). These professionals, who could have been champions of the hobby, became the reverse and the hobby suffered. Even RMAS got rid of its wargaming club due its treatment of visiting senior officers and academics…."
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robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP11 Jul 2018 9:49 a.m. PST

Perhaps worth remembering just how wacky the 70's were in other respects. An era in which ROTC students dared not wear uniforms on campus--in those universities which had not banned ROTC altogether--was never likely to have promoted wargaming as an educational tool in any event. And the article to the contrary, wargaming is seldom used as an educational tool today.

For that matter, what would you be teaching, and who would you use to teach it? I left Kansas State University ABD in 1979 as a military history major. No white male in that class--or a number of classes to either side--ever secured an academic position. Nor did any military history major. There were at that time only three civilian universities in the United States offering post-graduate studies in military history. It's somewhat worse today. (KSU still nominally has a program for instance. But they only ever had two military professors, and they retired one. The survivor is primarily a sports historian, and he was already on staff in 1975.) Check out ethnic or gender studies for comparison.

Not that we didn't and don't have our share of louts. But that period was by no means some great missed opportunity.

Russ Lockwood11 Jul 2018 10:51 a.m. PST

Guess I missed it, as I didn't know any clubs around -- back in early-mid 1970s, found board wargamers in the back of the Avalon Hill General, mostly folks competitive enough to try to win, but not so much as to be jerks.

AICUSV16 Jul 2018 12:53 p.m. PST

The fiction I recall from then was between gamers and the figure collectors.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP20 Jul 2018 7:40 p.m. PST

Also worth noting that while there are certainly competition gamers of the type depicted, it's not unknown for experts--historians and senior officers--coming late to the hobby to operate on the theory that if they don't win their first game, there must be something wrong with the rules. Maybe. But it ain't necessarily so.

Another argument for shorter, more transparent rules, by the way: it's one thing to lose because you've misjudged the odds on a cavalry charge, and something else to lose because you failed to place a token or make a declaration as specified in Paragraph 35 C (i) of the rules.

Blutarski21 Jul 2018 5:21 p.m. PST

Hi Armand -
Thanks for posting this interesting article followed by some equally interesting reader commentary.

My wargaming career started in the early 60's, courtesy of Avalon Hill and migrated in the late 60's from board-games to tabletop miniatures. IMO, the personalities and trends to be found within the wargaming hobby at large do not differ in any material degree from those to be found in any other social milieu. In the sense that wargaming represents a competition, your opponent across the table will vary from laid-back passive individual to student of the history to aggressive competitor to trash-talking blowhard to annoying rules lawyer to (sad to say) outright cheat although, over time, the less enjoyable types ultimately tend to get distilled out of one's gaming environment. All that having been said, it must also be remembered that gaming (at least in the States) more or less burst upon the scene at a time when the Baby Boomer generation was at its most testosterone-filled time of life; that fact arguably influenced the "vibe" of the early days

Reflecting a strictly personal bias, I must admit that I don't much care for competitions and tournaments; they seem to attract an over-representation of gamers from the more unpleasant side of the spectrum.



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