|Love it to bits.|
This is a topic that has been done to death in our hobby, the idea that computer/console games will ultimately mean we're all doomed Captain Mannering! When I was a whipper snapper in the 80's I heard that arcade games and these new fangled console thingies were going to be the end of our hobby. The same was said of the ZX Spectrum, the NES, the SNES and Megadrive (Genesis for you yanks) and the PlayStation. It seems many in our hobby have an irrational fear of our digital brethren. That they are somehow gunning for us, and that there is this inevitability about our impending demise. Part of me can understand that fear, but it has been 30 years already, and yet still computer games haven't slaughtered our industry, and killed off our hobby. If anything our hobby is the strongest it has ever been. This raises a few questions, firstly why hasn't it killed us off? More specifically why haven't computer games done for wargames, traditional pen and paper RPG's and boardgames? Secondly, were they ever really a threat in the first place, or are they ever going to be a threat? Thirdly and finally, why are so many in our hobby so concerned, and are they right to be?
|I still love the rattle of dice in my hands|
I'm not really too sure, which question to tackle first. You see my recent hiatus on this Blog has been down to real life 'getting in the way' as it were. During this down time I haven't really had the time or indeed the energy to sit at my painting table and paint scenery or miniatures. I've not felt so inclined to set up a table, invite some friends round and play a load of Warmachine or Infinity. I was planning on trying to convince a few friends to try traditional RPG's, that new Star Wars one and Iron Kingdoms for starters... mainly because a few of you have asked me to do so, but I've lacked the will and drive to make it happen. True I've played boardgames, and I've played some card games during my break, but at the end of the day when I was a bit tired and worn out I've tended to turn my PS3 on instead. I might have turned my Xbox 360 on, but the fear of a 9th RROD stayed my hand. So why did I turn to my consoles for entertainment? Because it takes so little effort to keep me entertained, and a little effort is all I had left in me. It all started with downloading Okami HD off of the Playstation Store (great game by the way).
Don't get me wrong, I'm not about to drop my 'hobby' for a life of computer gaming. But, it was nice to be able to sit down on my comfy sofa in front of my TV and press a button and away we go. I've always been a huge fan of computer games, I can't think of a console I haven't owned... apart from the Wii. I've also owned some ludicrously expensive 'rigs'. However, in years past I used to say that what wargaming in particular offered over computer games was the camaraderie, the companionship and a bit of socializing. In many respects it still does, but while catching up on some of my games, in particular Borderlands and Borderlands 2, I got reacquainted with actual real world friends who I used to wargame with. One of whom lives in New York State somewhere, he did tell me, but I switched off when he started talking about the daily commute. He too still dabbles with warganmes, but mainly boardgames now. We had good long chats about Zombicide and Sedition Wars, two Kickstart campaigns he backed. He noted he'd seen my name in the later's rulebook. However, coming back to his daily commute he was saying he doesn't have the time in the day, or the energy to commit to many wargames anymore, hence his love of online gaming.
We hadn't chatted in years, and it seems he had come to the same conclusion as me... I want to play things that are easy on my time, as well as easy on my wallet. I want to paint individual sculpts that were a labor of love for the sculptor, and that I enjoy applying paint to. I want to play rule sets that entertain and tax me in equal measure, but don't take 3 hours to play and an 10' by 5' table to play them on. I don't want any part of my spare time to feel like it is a chore, and he felt the same. You see, even while playing one of the most critically acclaimed games of the last few years our thoughts instantly drifted to little toy soldiers. It's in our blood. There's no doubt that computer games though have increasingly started to offer social elements too, be that via MMO's on your PC, or blasting the crap out of some n00b from Arkansas on Halo Reach. Truth is it is now very easy to pop on a headset, head online and interact with other people. So should wargaming be worried about this phenomenon? Yes and no. I take a slightly broader view of things than most. I don't really think computer games are offering the same things that my hobby playing with little toy soldiers gives me.
|Is it a case of this....|
They both offer me something very different, and make no mistake, what computer games offer is something very compelling, but it isn't an attempt to replace anything else. It is it's own thing. The way I see it is like this; we all have a limited amount of spare time for ourselves, how we use that spare time is up to us. The various forms of entertainment are all not only competing for my money, they're also competing for my spare time. So getting back to those questions I asked of myself at the start of this ramble, should our hobby worry about computer games, are they a potential threat? Yes, but not for the reasons many people think. You see I believe we should also worry about TV streaming services, movies on demand, music, comic books and a whole host of other things. Because every form of entertainment is trying as hard as they can to be more affordable, more accessible and to increase the quality of the content they offer to me. But, I think our hobby has responded in a way. Games companies that spring up nowadays aren't offering games based around mammoth armies for the most part. They're offering bite sized gaming if you will. This is partly why I think computer games haven't done for our hobby. We have adapted, and we have learned and changed.
|...or this? I don't think so.|
Plus we do offer a very different and tactile experience, that quite frankly rumble pads just can't match. Our hobby is starting to try and fit in more with how our lives are going now. Games like Bushido that fit onto my coffee table, or Freebooter's Fate that is so quick and easy to learn that it actually ropes those who are normally put off by tape measures and dice into its unique world; that poker element really helps. All around our hobby you can see the influence of modern life, and other entertainment media feeding back into our little hobby and giving us inspiration. Be it the anime stylings of Infinity, or general inspiration such as the Strain in Sedition Wars... so many influences from so many different sources on those bad boys, it's hard to know where to begin. So computer games can offer inspiration for our games designers and sculptors. None of us live in glorious isolation, and I'm sure many of you, like me, are geeks in other ways. I refer to myself as a 'broad-spectrum geek'. I love Fire Fly, I've been heard to utter the word's "winter's coming" far too often recently, and I quite often say frack! I also have a man crush on Deadpool. Point is our industry is in a bun fight with every other entertainment media out there. Sure on budget, razzmatazz and glitz and glamour it can not, and never will compete...
|Playing on gorgeous tables is still compellingly theatrical.|
So are those who worry about such things in our hobby right to worry? That depends on who you are. If you are aware of what is happening in the world around you, and you're designing products that fit into how people are living their lives, make it accessible, easy and reasonably priced then... no you really shouldn't worry. Continue making a good solid product that people want to buy and you'll be fine. However, if you view your business as a way to bleed money out of people, if you have a product and all your plan revolves around is trying to convince people round to your way of thinking... well... yes, you should probably start worrying. Like in any industry, if you start swimming against the tide, pissing into the wind and any other metaphor you can think of... you will struggle. Some famous geezer once sang the times they are a changing, well guess what? They're always bloody changing, nothing stands still in society for very long. Today's innovators are tomorrows Luddites, and the wheel will keep on turning. So in the words of Josh Homme we should all learn to 'go with the flow', do some market research, listen to what consumers are telling you and everything will be golden. Ignore the crushing realities of modern life at your peril.
|Two quality products I've been playing... but on one of them I'm biased! :P|
Because you see, while we'll never have the fiscal resources of other industries, on community, on the closeness of the producers to the consumers, on depth and breadth of experience it sure as hell can compete. That's our ace in the hole, it is a unique past-time and will remain so hopefully throughout my life time. I still believe in terms of the quality of product being put out right now we've never had it so good. That banner at the top of my page, with all those games listed on it tells us just how good we've got it. Miniatures being produced by many companies now blow the 'market leader' out of the water in terms of art direction and quality. The games that are being offered to us are all eminently playable, many with unique mechanics and interesting styles of play. they're becoming more streamlined and smooth to play. We're now offering a breadth and depth that is as impressive as that other interactive media I mentioned. So there's no need to panic as I see it, but we do need to understand that we should not demand too much of those who wish to participate in our past time. Because if we do, we're screwed. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to go sort out my wonky Veer-myn DreadBall team... what other hobby lets me sit hunched over a warm bowl of water while trying to straighten out lumps of resin? Peace out!