In Response


Mr. Otto Schmidt responds

To a recent post I made relaying a piece in an Ohio newspaper about the “greying of the hobby” and other such nonense (oh, dear, there I am again, editorializing). Thanks for this, Otto!

IS THE HOBBY DYING?

I’ve heard it all before, in fact I heard it back pretty much since the days when the hobby was aborning.

Today we are awash with people that wring their hands and weep and wail and gnash their teeth about “the graying of the hobby”– “the decline of the hobby store”– “the collapse of the war gaming world as we know it.”

Yet– it’s hard to square that with the ever exponentiating number of figures and periods available to the gamer. The proliferation of wargame groups on the internet, the growth of clubs, and the simple fact that if you tell a complete stranger “I play war games” the odds are pretty good that they will know at least what you are talking about, (or pretty close), where before they would have stared at you in open mouthed befuddlement. This doesn’t mean that the articles will stop and I’ve written a few of them in the past– let me fess up to that up front. But I’ve reconsidered my opinion.

One thing is obvious to me as I look back on those days is that wargamers are graying. I am graying. Some of my war game friends have already shuffled off this mortal coil. I think a lot of this talk about “graying” of the hobby is merely one more version of the “After me– the deluge-“ speech which has been given long before Louis XV made it famous by actually being right for once. It’s hard to credit Louis XV with anything remotely approaching profundity or foresight- so we must consider his prediction, as so many others, under the rubric of “even a busted clock is right twice a day.”

It also ignores the large numbers of kids coming we see at the games, tearing around Historicon, disturbing the old farts at their games with their new toys and style and noise. We notice these young ‘uns more because we are no longer young. When we were young we were them and didn’t notice much of anything- except the games. Someday we too shall die and someone will get out stuff, but I don’t think it’s going to be the end of miniature gaming– even miniature gaming as we know it.

If the hobby store is dying it’s not due to the lack of persons willing to spend money on the hobby – it’s more likely due to Walmart and others who have pretty much gutted the center of most American towns and destroyed whole species of family mom-and-pop business’ which were so much the venue of the “old time” hobby shop we knew and loved. We’re too “nichey” a market to appear on the radar of “The Rag Shop” or “Michaels” – they’re more arts and crafts-and chains that do like “Hobby House”usually give short shrift to miniatures or war games. Besides, meeting at a hobby store may be nice for a group, – at first– but you reach a dead end there quickly- that dead end being when the owner wantsto bang-up-shop and go home, and you’re not even coming to grips on the table top– or when he wants to bang-up- space normally given to miniatures for something more lucrative.Hobby stores catering to miniatures go out of business not because of the graying of the hobby but for the good ole’ reasons of under-capitalization and the lack of impulse buying being able to sustain the store. So they weren’t that conducive a venue anyway. Basements and attics, garages and spare rooms have always been the domain of the game and it looks like they will be for a long time, so if your gaming shop goes bust– set up a table, any table, in your own home. Sure it takes work but everything worthwhile does.

In fact, if you look at it, miniature gaming hasn’t changed all that much since– well– H.G. Wells, and computers have had a minimal impact if any upon it. The games have changed, they have grown more detailed and complex, and they have grown less so again as groups like Society of Daisy and Old School Wargamers grow up to draw us back to our “roots.”

Some persons from the more rural areas of our South would pronounce “roots” and “ruts” which may be more evocative of the relatively unchanging nature of games, but that is neither here nor there. If a convention like TriaDCon shares space with boardgamers, wargamers, eurogamers, and role playing gamers, that simply speaks to the proliferation of the “gaming” hobby into other areas from the time when “games” consisted of Monopoly and chess and not much else. We hearken back to conventions where it was us and the board gamers and see in these new venues diminishment, but ignore the fact that the pond has gotten bigger, and likewise ignore the fact that the guy across the table who’s playing Archduke Charles to my Napoleon I met over Settlers of Caitan a few years ago.

There will be some board gamers who will always view miniature gamers as despicable “lead-heads” as the whole thing as grown men childishly playing with toy soldiers. There will be mini gamers who sneer at the “Shake the Box” crowd, and many in both venues will want their own special conventions but that in no way means the hobby is graying or dying.

So I’m quite skeptical of this whole chicken-little “it’s the end of wargames as we know it” thing.

Besides– you ain’t seen nuttin’ yet!

If I’m going to make ANY predictions it will be this one. You will soon see a quiet revolution in gaming. I’ll call it the Revloning of the hobby. The women have started coming in guys– and in the next two decades it’s going to turn into a torrent. What has been an almost exclusivelymale past time is becoming increasingly infiltrated by the women as girls begin to understand that games- even war games- can be fun, and that they too can stand around a table with the best of us. It’s too late to stop it– and if you want to do the chicken-little thing about anything then do it about that- but I’ll tell you this– it’s too late to cry “Jenny Bar the Door!” Jenny’s in the basement rollin’ dice and pounding your Old Guard Grenadiers into snail-snot with her Elf-Amazon Hell’s Belles!

But that’s all in the lap-dance of the future.

— copyright 2007, Otto Schmidt