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Chris Udziela
United States
Vancouver
Washington
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I have never been in the military, nor have I ever been in combat (except for an abortive locker room brawl in the 10th grade).

I consider myself generally a pacifist, although I am not completely anti-war. What is difficult for me is that I love hex-and-counter wargames! I am also intrigued by military history.

Does this make me a hypocrite for having a WWII campaign on my computer and reading military history books? I know from reading articles that many wargamers are ex-military or generally friendly to the use of force where necessary.

I know that HG Wells designed a wargame in order that people could play war instead of do it for real. I just know that many of my hippie friends wouldn't approve of my hobby!

Any thoughts on this subject?
 
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SAM ALAMA
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Enjoy Yourself
You've got to cut yourself some slack. You're more likely to get desensitized to violence from watching Hollywood movies, TV crime dramas, and playing violent videogames than you are from boardgames. Ask Gary Gygax about the media hype which portrayed D&D as a breeding ground for unhinged, sword-wielding psychopaths in the 1980s. It was beyond an urban myth--downright slanderous actually. The abstract game of chess is essentially a wargame of attrition; do we ban this in our pursuit of utopia? Enjoy your wargames guiltfree--and remind your hippie friends that the professional militaries of the world's democracies are working 24/7 to maintain an environment in which we can enjoy our freedoms and pleasures.
 
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Morgan Dontanville
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Charlottesville
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I think that it is important for all of us to recognise that it ingrained in our human nature to enjoy sex and violence. When we all learn to accept this fundemental truth, then we can find ways to fulfill these needs through healthy outlets.

It is when we supress these desires and pretend that they don't exist, that our needs find a way to creep back into our lives. This is when these desires become dangerous. Enjoy your healthy catharsis, stil though it is good to keep a perspective that when little cardboard chits die there are little cardboard families that are crying for them back home.
 
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Don Weed
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Clemmons
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Guilt or Pleasure?
Your's is the first letter that has inspired me to reply since signing on with BGG. I've had this same conversation many times with my wife who says "how can you enjoy a game that is about killing people?". Don't feel guilty about liking wargames. My answer to her is that I don't see it in that way for three reasons.

1)The underlying theme of a game may be militaristic in nature but the real attraction for most gamers is the posed problem (i.e. 'game situation' or 'scenario') and the challenge of finding or optimizing a solution when some degree of luck is involved. History is a great resource for interesting game situations and can invoke some empathy with the players if it is based on a topic that is of some interest already established. Whould ASL have been as popular if it were science-fiction based? I don't think so.

2) Great game mechanics can be flexible enough to allow use in many stages of history. Memoir '44 and BattleCry share the same mechanics but the system could be for use in any genre. I like to think of each game as a puzzle with a 'wild card' supplied by your current opponent.

3)A well thought out game can capture the flavor of the situation in game terms and act as a history lesson to the players. You don't have to have served in the military in order to appreciate the decisions made given a set of circumstances.

Alternatively, games can be too agonizing if they invoke unpleasant memories of previous experiences (my father-in-law recieved a purple heart at Anzio and never had any interest in seeing any game on the subject as it brought back memories that were little spoken-of). Enjoy games for their own merit whether it be historical accuracy (ala Campaign for Northern Africa) or their elegance in design (e.g. Cosmic Encounter) and don't feel guilty.

Cheers,

Don
 
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Hilary Hartman
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chrisu99-

I was in the military at one point and pretty much consider myself a pacifist now. Furthermore, there's nothing wrong with being a military history enthusiast. There's a huge difference between gaming and real life.

I think you have to remember that a game is simply a game; it's pieces on a board (or computer screen) which is nowhere near the same as troop movements or firefights in real life.

Enjoy the challenge of the game, friend, knowing full and well that it is simply a game.
 
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Sounds to me like you're really a bubbling vat of repressed violence. Just bag all that wimpy pacifist garbage and let your true inner-self come out.

Enjoy the wargames. In fact, if you lose, beat the crap out of everyone at the table. You'll feel better... that's for sure.

As for your Hippie friends not approving... why is that a concern? Are you seeking approval? From Hippies? I say kick theoir butts also, you got so much anger and resentment seething inside you need an outlet.

By the way, if you're really short and skinny, or just soft in general, forget what I said about butt-kicking and just vent your emotions and hypocrisy through a wargame or two.

laugh
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Paul Schwartz
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Not Guilty
I share your thoughts. There are many reason to like War Games. For one there is (usually) the beauty of the graphics systems. I particularly like Advanced Squad Leader for this. Then there is the puzzle-solving of the situations depicted in the games. Again, ASL is pretty good at this at providing a great supply of puzzles.

As far as feeling guilty, I think it is hobby experience similiar to fans of Mystery and Detective Fiction. I don't think you have to wish to be a Detective/Cop or Criminal to enjoy the reading and puzzle solving.

I don't see myself in battle dress, or hear bagpipes in my head as I push the cardboard pieces around.
 
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Adam Deverell
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>>The underlying theme of a game may be militaristic in nature but the real attraction for most gamers is the posed problem (i.e. 'game situation' or 'scenario') and the challenge of finding or optimizing a solution when some degree of luck is involved.

This is a terrific answer. But the problem is still tough. Can you be generally anti-war but involve yourself in recreating and reading warfare - particularly theatres of war that were vicious, bitter and cynical? If you believe the US, for example, should not have been in Vietnam and you feel this was an immoral conflict, should you play Lock n' Load?

I like the period of the American Revolution, but this was a bitter conflict involving normal, simple working men who raped and killed neighbours because of their political alliance. I think this can't be easily dismissed.

I think you've got to think what attracts you to wargames. Do you play ASL because you'd love the sensation of being an infantryman ramming his bayonet into the gut of an enemy, and this is the best way to replicate it?

Or do you play wargames as a creative problem solving solution?

Personally, I care little about tactical theory on the battlefield or different models of the Colt pistol. I play the odd wargame because it is Reversi with a theme.

Likewise, I read military history because I like to read true stories about people put under extraordinary circumstances. War being one of many. Also, wars are a huge factor in where and how we are living today.

I can see why people have a problem with wargames and, yes, not too many grognard enthusiasts would be out on the street protesting against the Iraqi war, but I think wargames go far beyond glorifying warfare.


 
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Chester
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There are first-person shooter games with more realism than reality itself...for those who are seeking a way to simulate violence and killing. I'd be much more concerned if that was your obsession.

Wargaming, on the other hand, is cerebral. Some might even view it as a way to pay homage to those who were involved in the particular historical events (when playing historical scenarios).

I don't see a dilemma here. And if any of your hippie friends gives you any flack...just smack them.
 
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Alex Sorbello
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liking wargames
German troops used wargames to train their officers after WW1. And it turned out to be very effective. If I'm correct Napoleon was the first to introduce this type of training but It's something I've heard and not seen black & white proof of this.
Wargames turned into a hobby because of the tactical part. People enjoy outmanuevering their opponent. Chess is also a wargame if you think about it but in a more abstract way!
I like games and think the best benefit is that you need to use your brain with most games and that is always good. And hippies usually don't use their brain, they smoke it up!
Lexen
 
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Gary Webster
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Thoughts and feelings...
My thoughts are in alignment with most everybody here. I enjoy war games as well as lots of other types of games, and the two things that attract me to them are: the chance to play a strategic or tactical game against another player, fairly evenly matched, to channel my competitive urges in a good direction; and to get a look at a historical or proposed situation. Lots of war games give us insight into why or at least how some major event happened, and put us there for the moment, with a chance to see the entire situation in front of us.

Emotionally, we DON'T have to endure the pain, guilt, fear, hate, or any of the other emotions that actually occur to those actually fighting in a war have to deal with. Maybe the problem with real wars is that the generals and world leaders (dictators, presidents, whatever) get separated from the realities of war and begin to treat them as games. I suspect that they may have more problems that we who just play them as games do, and ought to have the guilt that you feel by playing and liking the games.

It ain't you that's the problem.
 
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Jon M
United Kingdom
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Same thoughts
I don't think your unique in questioning this.

I have always had an interest in the military and WWII in particular. As a kid it was the techy part of things that I liked (what size guns, type of tanks, etc) but as I have got older it is the human element, the stories of the soldiers on the front line that has intrigued me. It is the "How would I have reacted (cowering behind a rock definitely)? What would I have done in that situation? Would I have survived?" Thankfully I don't have to answer those questions for real.

Wargames are (as has been stated) a good mental challenge/problem solving exercise. They also at their best do give an insight into the conflict they are potraying (and a good history lesson to boot). I have questioned myself sometimes though in the same way. When playing Europe Engulfed as the Axis I am basically representing the Nazi regime. For a true historical sim should the death camps, etc be in the game? Obviously not as that would be horrible. Therefore where is the acceptable line between historical combat sim and something that is unacceptable. If the holocaust shouldn't be in the game then why is it OK to simulate the Eastern Front with it's 20 million casualties?

I think what it comes down to is that Wargames allow you to explore certain aspects of humanity without actually descending into the horror of a real event.

Playing Sauron in a LoTR fantasy game does not make you an evil maglomaniac. Likewise taking on the role of the Axis in a game of Europe Engulfed doesn't make you Hitler. It allows a certain amount of acting out without anyone getting hurt of killed. You get to be put in a position you couldn't have in real life (without going to jail or becoming a fascist dictator).

E.g. I really like the game Fury of Dracula. It allows you to camp it up as the Evil Count, sucking innocent's blood and setting up your evil army of undead to rule the world. This is realy no different to a wargame at heart. You can explore the dark side of humanity in a non violent way. Wargames are good for pacifists and hippies! Encourage your hippy friends to explore their dark side and better understand themselves and what makes people tick.

I presume most war veterans that saw active front line service are not going to be big on re-enactments of any kind because they have already been there. They don't need to act out the event, they have already experienced it in a way we can't imagine. By playing wargames though you are getting a slightly better insight into it than the average punter (say position 2 on a scale of 1 to 1000, well off a meaningful insight but still twice as informed as the normal pleb). If more people played wargames and took an interest in military history then more people would be better informed of what war is really about and therefore could better scrutinise the conduct of our current leaders and the wars that they pursue and the manner in which they persue them. It also allows you to filter the spin and hype of the media coverage of such conflicts.

Making yourself better informed and exploring interesting aspects of being human in a non violent of damaging way is definitely not something to feel guilty about.

(Phew - sorry about the essay)
 
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