Friday, December 7, 2012

Wargaming Social Networks

One of the biggest problems facing any wargamer, or any niche hobby enthusiast, is the difficulty in finding an opponent. This is one of GW's greatest strengths since their games is well known around the world compared to small companies such as DP9. That great strength however is just as limited in many aspects, as being known and played around the world makes no difference if there is no known stores or clubs in your region. The players at that point is left to hunt down people through sheer luck that play the same game as themselves.

One of the things that my years within this hobby has shown me is that wargamers, and the companies who make the game in which the gamers play, don't really push for a truly social networking ability. You get ways to play *some* wargames over the internet using various programs such as Vassal, but even that means you need to find opponents willing to play with you. Of course this problem can be easier or harder to see depending on your region. A Warhammer player in London is going to be able to network easier with fellow gamers due to GWs innate influence in that region, whereas on the Pacific coast of the US, GW stores aren't commonly seen and all gaming takes place in either clubs or indie stores.

I am not immune to this either, as I have mentioned many times before that since Knightfall Games closed their doors, my gaming time and opponents has also been severely cut down on. If it wasn't for my only single nearby opponent, that happens to be my wife, I would not get a single game in. Knightfall Games wasn't the only store to close their doors either, as Rivals closed their doors a few months later, effectively dropping most gaming support in this area. Rainy Day Games is still alive, but the gaming scene isn't as heavy there when compared to the Magic and Pokemon players.

On the flip side of everything, going back to my London example. In London it might be easier to find an opponent for a GW based game to play, but what if you don't want to play a GW game? Suddenly it becomes a bit more difficult and you are in the same predicament as the person on the Pacific coast of the US. GW's games are only a support while focused on GW games, once you start exploring other options of the hobby, you find an uphill battle.

For most things, the internet hasn't really changed the wargaming hobby overall. From the way I see it, that is because of numerous issues that separates the hobby from other hobbies. I'll use a comparison between myself and someone I know. One of my co-workers does a wine tasting blog, but from the blog they get samples (A few companies game companies do this), they have speakers come onto their videos (fewer game companies do this unless you are a big network such as BeastsofWar), and even offer temp positions if interested during harvest season (no game company does this to my knowledge). That is just from the company side of things, once you get into the actual wine side of things it becomes even more different. Wine tasting always seems to be a social gathering, far more than one or two extra people around a table, but a full on evening spent talking about the wines.

You look at wargamers though, and suddenly the social aspect vanishes. Even at a club or a store, people separate into their games, and once the game is over people go their own ways usually. Rarely do you see gamers sit down and talk about the hobby as a whole. Problem becomes more exasperated by the rampant fanboyism found within the gaming culture, which makes speaking about other systems a frustrating ordeal with the wrong crowd how may not have played any other system, or absolutely loves/hates one company or another.

As gamers, we need to be more social, need to be able to get out and show off our hobby, and most importantly we need to support each others preferred systems even if we don't play them. Just because someone prefers GW to Mantic or Anima Tactics to WarmaHordes shouldn't become impassable barriers for lines of communication between gamers.
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