Sunday, May 9, 2010

Are internet wargamers the worst kind of people?


Recently I was struck by a post on The Miniatures Page which commemorated the fall of Diem Bien Phu in 1954, a battle the was a critical in the removal of French colonialism in Indo China. What hit me about the thread was the way in which people were pining over the fallen soldiers from the Foreign Legion, but completely disregarding the sacrifices made by the Viet Minh, which in many ways seem to be far more noble, fighting for the liberation of ones country rather than fighting for a colonial interest that doesn't even serve your nation of birth.

When I mentioned that perhaps we should be thinking about this from both sides I was immediately attacked from multiple directions by people accusing me of being a Communist sympathiser who was politicizing an a political thread.

How could something already be any more political when you are celebrating the sacrifice made by one group in a battle while completely ignoring the other side?

At one point I was asked if I had a "problem with colonialism in general?" I wonder what king of morale vacum somone must live in where they can even consider that something worth asking?

It got me wondering about the internet war gamer mentality in general. In my time spent on war games forums I have noticed a trend in the proportionality of racists, historical revisionists and a general lack of critical thinking on issues. What’s worse is often these types of individuals are accommodated by the moderators of many of these websites as long as they don't be too outspoken, but you see it bleed through in their posting style, model projects, and the types of perspectives they harbour.

Why is it the German Armored Company is such a popular choice for Warhammer 40k players? Plenty of other nations have fought armored conflicts, but after the Imperial Eagle, the Balkenkreuz seems to be the most prominent symbol slapped on the side of the Leman Russ these days.

Why is it that so many seem to think the ultra-fascist system of government purported in the various 40k codex’s (obviously satirically on the part of the writers) is taken so seriously, and often seen in a sympathetic light by many players.

The obvious answer, (and the one my inner id gravitates towards naturally) is the young nerdy male concept, whereby you have a large group of socially awkward males who are obviously attracted to militaristic concepts and have found each other via the wonders of modern technology. In such a context it should be hardly surprising that this type of ideology would arise and ferment, fascism has traditionally appealed to the young militaristically inclined and what is war gaming if not a hub for the arm chair generals and wannabes out there (of course there are many exceptions to this rule...). Those that are isolated from social norms could be expected to find solace in this type of alternative social perspective.

In the original case, however, I think it is more likely that the omission of the Viet Minh goes back to both the general character of the US, and the incapability of a large portion of the population to accept it was a bad guy, even if this extends to supporting policies the country took that were very clearly immoral, i.e. supporting the French Colonialists.

I would like to say that racism and revisionism was restricted to the internet, but my experience over the years with war gamers in the real world hasn't painted much more of a rosy picture. While we are all aware of the fat creepy child molester stereotype of war gamers, I think the image I have painted here runs a close second in terms of numeracy.

If you are a healthy well adjusted critically thinking war gamer, I apologise, this was not meant for you, but these people are out there, and in numbers.


  1. An interesting perspective on wargamers... Never thought of it like that before. While I most certainly don't think many actually sympathize with facism, I can definitely see where you're coming from. Its not so much the facist aspect that appeals to the "downtrodden nerdy sort" as it is the "little man syndrome" so to speak.
    Then again, I have very little experience with those sorts at my FLGS. Most 40k players are older, middle class men who enjoy the critical thinking aspects of the game.

    Over all, interesting post. Props.

  2. Well I guess if you were looking for famous 'little men' sufferers of history, Adolf would be a good place to start.

    I am envious of your group, I must say, my experiences are that this is most certainly not the norm, you are lucky indeed :)

  3. Another cause of this that I see is that (at least in my area) a large number of 40K players are either active duty or retired military personnel. So that skews their viewpoint towards colonialism.

  4. Weird, what country? When I was in the US army if the subject ever came up it was pretty clear the majority saw the whole concept as pretty retarded. It seems to me it would appeal to a naive idealist who sees the concept of war and foriegn occupation with rose tinted glasses. For many who have been involved in such endeavors, the whole concept seems far less appetizing.

  5. Interesting post.

    I have the same concerns, however: As a wargamer who spends time online, I hear about the stuff you're talking about, but I think 'real life' is no better. There's an incredible romanticism about the British Empire and almost complete ignorance about the policies of massed starvation, genocide, concentration camps we ran, etc. So I don't think wargamers are unusual.

    The other thing is that I do think wargaming also attracts a disproportionate number of people who are interested in and care about the 'other side'. I suspect there's more sympathy for and understanding of the Viet Minh among wargamers than there is among the general population, even if there is also a higher proportion of militarists.