Saturday, November 04, 2006

A Fairy Tale About Gamers

The following is a response to a friend of mine who is clueless when it comes to discussing wargaming. This is his primer.

Once upon a time a group of lonely college students with too much time on their hands got tired of mooning after all the women they would never get. One of these individuals, probably someone with glasses, said: "We know the geography of the battlefield. We know the weather. The troop strength. We know how different commanders were ranked and what sort of morale their troops had. We could probably recreate a battle on a map divided into hexes."

Another college student, who walked around without a shirt, and probably shouldn't have, shrugged his hairless shoulders: "Why would we want to do that?"

"Because it would be cool," said the first. "We could command great armies. We could change the course of history."

"But it would all just be in your head."

"What makes you think you aren't?"

The other lonely college students turned aside from the show they were watching: "Felix The Cat", and became excited. One gearhead who liked to wear nothing but green said:

"We could use minatures."

Another nodded: "Or little bits of cardboard with the troop strength written on them in marker. We could use ratings for defense and attack. We could roll dice."

And of course they all intoned: "Dice? Yeah. Cool."

And so the college students came together and between long discussions on such topics as 'Why can Goofy talk but not Pluto?" and "Did the diety intend that GOD backwards should spell DOG, or was it an act of man?"; they managed to create the first modern military strategy war games. Don't tell them that people had been playing such games for years and years; they like to think they invented it themselves. Just like Goth kids like to think they invented angst and pathos.

Some of these modern wargamers would eventually create games for market. They formed companies. These companies had such names as SST and Avalon Hill. And while our modern wargamers played, their imaginations still carried them to wonderful places and allowed them to engage in such profound discussions as:

"I wonder what would have happened if the South had developed thermonuclear warheads?"

"Don't be stupid. What would Lee have done for a delivery system."

"Good point."

Eventually our gamers would spend months and months on a scenario. Often waging war for hours and hours at a time. It was rare to find a gamer with good skin or a tan.

Of course most of this changed when a computer geek said: "What if we keyed in information to the computer. instead of chits on a board..."

"We could have chits on a screen," said a friend, finishing his sentence.

And so the computer revolutionalized strategic wargaming.

If you are good...I'll tell you how another group of gamers from Wisconsin created something which would become known as: "D & D". If you want to read more about Avalon Hill and some of its games, try this site:



Susan Miller said...

Slater taught me how to play chess when he was six years old. During those early years I could actually beat him. As of late, though, he wins everytime. And he has gone on to these games you speak of. I enjoy that he seems to be such a strategic player, noting moves well in advance. I, on the other hand, have always been someone that just "shot from the hip"... went on "gut instinct". I do understand the controvery behind the violence in the evolution of their play but support these boys in their quest to build a better game.

Charles Gramlich said...

Chess is my wargame of choice as well. I think because it doesn't involve luck, of which I seem to have little when it comes to games. I used to play my own war games as a kid all the time but never formalized them. They were certainly a lot of fun, if somewhat bloodsoaked (in the imaginary sense, of course).