Wednesday, 18 July 2012

The Confessions of a Fantasy Gamer, by Prof MAR Barker

From Wargamer's Newsletter #199 from October 1978




12 comments:

MSFoy said...

What a remarkable piece - unusually articulate, well reasoned and fascinating - thanks for publishing this. While I wholeheartedly agree with most of what Prof Barker proposes here, there is a waspishness of tone which maybe does not help its cause. It's fairly clear that the Prof had been pretty much hacked off with criticism and views which had gone before - I was going to suggest that a glimpse of some of this would have been of interest, but I suspect that much of it would be merely irritating.

Good - it's not often I read something of this vintage with which I happen to agree, but I still feel the Prof could have benefited from a slap with a large haddock.

Vintage Wargaming said...

Tony, academic spats make wargaming ones look civil... maybe this is affecting his tone

phf said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Vintage Wargaming said...

Sorry phf, administrative error - I deleted your comment by accident. You said it looks like he is answering points made in an earlier discussion, and that in fact there were a number of articles in WN around this time on this theme. This is correct: they included the David A Weseley article posted earlier (27th June 2012). I can post more if there is an interest in this material.

Vintage Wargaming said...

phf's comment read:

He seems to be responding to an ongoing debate about whether "fantasy" articles are "appropriate" for the newsletter. IIRC, there was a debate around the same time about "fantasy gaming" as a whole.

(I retrieved the text from the notification e-mail)

MSFoy said...

Well, I've read the Weseley article and I sort of agree with that too - in the sense that it doesn't say very much that seems controversial to me.

For years people have got very stressed about some of this stuff. I was very nearly chased away from historical gaming in the 1970s by the realism freaks and the committee power struggles which seemed to dominate the clubs I came across. It seems to me that a great many people probably moved to D&D and Fantasy gaming (I'll probably get a letter bomb for mentioning these in the same paragraph) exactly because the historical gaming world was losing the plot.

There has always been a faint thread running through wargaming and its literature which says "OK - we play with model soldiers - do you want to make something of it?" - right from Wells and Morschauser. Sometimes its humorous or self deprecating, but it's still there. Just watch any vintage Pathe clip about wargaming, and you'll hear that same banter about men playing.

Maybe there have been some practitioners who felt the need to add stature to the hobby by imposing a dogma on it?

Big Andy said...

I find myself agreeing witth many of the Profs points despite myself. As a "Historian who plays with toy soldiers" rather than a 2Wargamer" in the terms of the Prof piece I find his remarks on period an background especially apposite. Its the history and the background that separates "realistic" and "fantasy" players. Its the "games" part that should bring us together.
For myself a wargame without appropriate "period feel" is merely a game and far poorer for that indeed they often become merely a dice rolling excercise- at which point I repair to the bar....

Rick Priestley said...

Very interesting piece and thanks for posting it. Oddly enough - I'm sure I made that exact same point - the one about ancients games being 'fantasy' where games are played out of period - in my last WS&S column. Nothing new under the sun and all that.

MSFoy said...

I promise I'm going to stop this now...

Andy - I'm with you. The thing about Fantasy gaming which seems a shame is that, to me, it fails badly in the imagination department - it's mostly the faithful following the dictates of *someone else's* imagination. If I decide I want an Invisible Flying Bone-Eater in my Fantasy army, you can bet there will be an exact specification for such a beast somewhere in Warhammer. In other words, the realism freaks have been there as well - there is no escape.

Chirine ba Kal said...

If I may jump in here...

Most folks these days didn't have to live through the savage criticism and vitriol that quite a few 'serious' historical wargamers directed at Dave Arneson, Gary Gygax, and Prof. Barker; all three were very active in historical gaming, and were more then a little shocked at the very nasty response from many of the peers in the hobby. Dave and Gary immortalized one of their biggest (and nastiest) critics, Greg Scott of GHQ, as the diabolical "Egg Of Coot in D & D; The Professor simply refused to play with people whom he didn't consider gentlepersons. (Which is too bad, as his historical miniatures are quite beautifully painted and spectacular on the game table.)

I caught some of the backwash from all this as both a 'historical gamer' and 'a fantasy gamer' and wound up pretty much getting out of historical miniatures entirely as a result. Why play what's supposed to be an enjoyable game with somebody who calls you a 'traitor to the hobby'?

-chirine

Victor Raymond said...

To follow along with what has been stated by Chirine, it is often difficult for contemporary gamers to comprehend the negativity that once existed between historical wargamers and miniatures players on one side, and fantasy roleplayers on the other. (It was almost as vituperative as between roleplayers and Magic CCG players some time later.)

Big Andy said...

Having played both types of game through my career and benn heavily put off Fantasy by the same sort of puillock Chirine mentions as doing the same for historical games. I wonder if its a "gaming" thing or just a "pillock who needs a slap" thing. I now avoid fantasy except for the occaisional foray info SF in the same was as I avoid competition gaming but am happy to use some of the ideas that came out of fantasy- eg Roleplay - in the historically based games I run.
The negativity still exists- I'm still told that historical gaming is "boring" by sweaty T-shirted Orc-fiddlers and will admit to having a somewhat Jaundiced view of said fellows as a result.