So is the Wargaming Convention dying? as discussed by Gary Mitchell in Wargames Soldiers and Strategy 77.
On first reading of the article, I thought I would be annoyed, remembering the ire that Paddy Griffiths article Against Toy Soldiers caused me. However I think with age you tend to take a step back and attempt to be more mature in your response, that is if you can be actually bothered to make a response.
On re reading the article Gary had some good points in the brief. We all accept that the hobby is graying rapidly, we all accept that younger would be wargamers are quite thin on the ground and we all understand that we need to attract younger wargamers if we would like the hobby to continue after our collective demise.
The wargames convention is one area where there is a need for a rethink as it is probably the best way to reach the younger public, short of going into schools.
The ideas put forward by Gary were all pretty much commonsense, some should be a given, other ideas are merely experimental.
I think we have all griped and banged on about shows and what makes them good and what makes others frankly crap, but for me wargames shows have always been something to look forward to, but then I think I have a very childish gene.
When reading the article what surprised me was my reaction to what Gary suggested about doing away with the 'demonstration game', instead of anger I actually started to agree with what he was saying, but in a more qualified way.
Now I have been putting on demonstration games since John and I took our first game to a show at Whitley Bay in the early 1980's. It even got a mention in the Miniature Wargames magazine of that year, fame indeed and I have always thought we were attempting to put something back into the hobby from that early start. But to be honest were we deluding ourselves.
As the shows continued our ambitions grew until John and I were bringing mega games to the shows, ie a one to one unit representation [ in 6mm] of the Battle of Blenheim, the Battle of Austerlitz, Waterloo etc. All took a considerable amount of effort, a great deal of research, [this was before the internet] and time and money [ both of which were in short supply]
Were there new would be wargamers banging on the doors of the show to see these games? I dont think so.
However as I have got older, and hopefully wiser, what I did find when we were putting on games was that wargamers and sometimes their children would be regular attenders at our table and we would talk about the game and the hobby, and the table and basically anything to do with the hobby. So much so that in the last few years we rarely get to actually play the damn game.
So for me demonstration games have to be at Wargames shows, purely because if they are done well, they inspire, and encourage wargamers to excel in their painting and modelling skills and also gain information.
[ A blast from the past, my re enactment of the Battle of Aspern Essling ]
For me I think Gary got this suggestion a tad wrong. I know what he was actually alluding to, it was the unfriendly backs to the public, as the public stand next to the table hoping to find someone who will actually speak to them but are usually ignored.
So what Gary should have actually suggested was that any wargamer who was making the effort to put on a demonstration game should also make the effort to talk in a friendly and non condescending way to the public, basically like 'the nutter on the bus'.
Of course this is very difficult for some people, who lets be frank have trouble engaging in conversation with their mother who they probably still live with, but if one is prepared to put on a game, for God sake talk while you're stood there.
As I write this post, an idea has been forming in my head as to how to get the younger element interested in wargaming, and the theme that keeps coming back is, what was I interested in when I was a teenager? and the answer was girls. So the solution to me is easy, each table, trader, etc hire one very pretty girl to stand next to their exhibit, looking bemused, handing out freebies, God we would be fighting off the teenagers then, and probably a lot of older wargamers to.
Anyway to get back to reality, how can we, the current wargamers make certain that this hobby continues in its current recognisable form.
A toughie this, given the trend that is modern day youth.
I think we just have to be relaxed about it to a certain extent, plenty of children seem to be sharing a basic wargaming experience with their parents and from this will come some sort of continuation.
I think the trend to allow children and partners to get into shows for free should continue, anything that is free has got to be good. The current trend for short, easy to play games is probably a good thing in that it allows younger people to engage in a form of wargaming, however I think they should have a very strong historical bias which would encourage the players to want to read and research their game and actually make it more relevant.
Wargames clubs have a responsibility, and need to encourage teens to attend their clubs even if its just to play Warhammer etc. It is still a start. However once they do attend, older club members need to talk to them, otherwise the club is just small groups of people who never mix. I think this happens now and needs to be addressed [ mind this is coming from a wargamer who has never joined a club]
I think the idea Gary put forward about craft stalls etc, is a non starter, and unless there is a martial slant to it, is frankly ridiculous. I know of a least one show that attempted to get model train enthusiasts to put on a table etc at a show, but it didnt really work.
Lets be right, anything that is not of a wargaming nature at least has to have some relevance to the wargamer and the potential new recruit.
One should also consider what exactly young people do with their time and how they think. Now thats a difficult one for me as I avoid young people like the plague, merely because we have nothing in common, but there are lots of wargaming parents, and wargamers that actually converse with these groups, so please say what exactly floats their boats and use this knowledge.
[ It cant be just texts, sextexts and ennui]
One thing that I always thought would make a good participation game and would be impactive to the younger would be wargamer was the Harry Potter series of books. There must be a decent participation game in that series, and everyone knows of the books and films.Perhaps a Quiditch game similar to Blood Bowl. [Just a thought]
Talking of which television and new films are always areas where young people have an interest, so perhaps this is an area again where we could make inroads into catching their attention. That terrible film Fury is a case in point, also the Transformers series.
The biggest problem that wargaming in general has [ at least for me] is the lack of a governing body. Now before everyone starts demanding my burning, what I actually mean is that to have a uniform approach, there would be a need for a body to make certain that all shows and clubs were singing from the same song sheet. This is never going to happen, and I must admit it is only in respect of a corporate response to the greying hobby that I would welcome a governing body.
I suppose a second best response would be for some club to stage a new type of show, aimed at attracting new wargamers which became a huge success.
Success would invariably be copied and the hobby could then grow. So wargaming is in a bit of a quandry, how do we survive in sufficient numbers and in a form that would be recognisable.
All answers on a postcard please, to the Central Wargaming Governing Body.