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Subject: Board wargames - A time machine for our imagination. rss

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Australia
NSW
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Menin Gate at Midnight, Will Longstaff, 1927.
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"At the landing, and here ever since" - Anzac Book, p. 35.
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I'm currently teaching an online summer session history unit (ie: it's summer down here and some students like to study over the break for extra credit) and one student recently posted a comment about walking around a certain historic area, and how she wished she had a time machine to go back and see what it was like at a certain stage in the past.

In reply I noted that historical research and writing is much like a time machine for our imagination. The more we read and research the 'more effective' that time machine is, and the better (ie: hopefully more accurate) our understanding/impression/imagination of the past is.

Then I got to thinking about it a little more, and I wondered if some wargames provide a similar sort of 'time machine' for our imagination (and if that is one of the allures of wargaming). I suspect that many people play some board-wargames in the hope that those games will serve as a form of a time machine for their imagination, allowing them to step back in time and re-live/re-create an aspect of the past. Much like reading a history book, some wargames do very well to assist attempts to imagine the past. Of course wargamers and wargames are diverse, and I recognise that this may not the case for all people, nor for all wargames. Some wargame designs focus on playability, whilst others focus on 'simulation'.

I then got to thinking about how this may also be the cause of the frustration some gamers experience in the 'lack of historical accuracy' in wargames. For some, this means the wargame (like the history book) must be as historically accurate as is practically possible so as to best understand and imagine the past. From the comments I've read here and on CSW lately (surrounding accuracy in wargames), I suspect that non-historically-accurate games disturb/disrupt that 'clear image of the past' that some gamers seek, thus making it difficult to enjoy '[role-]playing' in that imaginatively-constructed understanding of the past. For others, the importance of 'clarity' and 'ease-of-understanding' is more important in gaming, so as to provide the general framework or environment within which a less-stringent (more loosely historically-based) style of 'playing' can occur.

For example, for me, chrome-laden rulebooks disrupt the historical narrative I'm developing in a game as I have to keep checking rulebooks and remembering tiny details. For me, those checks and those details (and the associated concerns and frustrations about 'doing it right') remove from the historic feel of a game. For others, those details and concerns probably add to the sense that the game is providing a more 'accurate' historic environment.

This is not necessarily about one person or the other having a better/worse imagination, nor a better/worse grasp of history; it may just be a personal preference about the basis and framework upon which one likes to build that imaginatively-constructed understanding of the past.

Oh, and I can't mention 'time machine for our imagination' without including this:


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p55carroll
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Roger Hobden
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Reminded me of this:

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