When I was in high school in the late 80's the gaming industry seemed to be in great shape, there was SPI, GDW, AH and others. I went to college and found beer and girls, and then the working world and just didn't keep playing. In the past couple of years I've been trying to get back into it and I see that much has changed.
So what happened - was it the end of the Cold War, was it computers? (Iv'e never understood some of the antipathy to computers and computer gaming, seems very complimentary to me)
Anyways since I really didn't see it happen, I'm just curious...
I think the matching trends of unplayable printed games (either too large, or too poorly developed, or both) and the emergence of the personal computer with even marginal games led to the two decade eclipse of wargaming as the hobby we know.
Others have already mentioned most of factors in the recovery, so I'll just second those. (Euros, shorter games, better introductory toy-games, adaptations to the computer environment like Cyberboard, VASSAL and ACTS) The other thing to mention is that the maturing computer gamers are becoming dissatisfied with games that focus on glitzy graphics, shoot 'em ups, and "twitch reflex" games. They're looking for more cerebral challenges.
So this presents an opportunity for our current publishers, but the new games must be hybrids. This market isn't going to put up with complex written rules and wants the computer to do all the book keeping. They want to have accurate simulations (either historical or contemporary), but without a lot of overhead that could be off loaded to the computer.
Along these lines, I agree with the earlier post that compliments Bruce Wigdor's "Wargame Room". His software adapts Card Driven Designs to a computer format. It is impossible to break the rules, and the computer keeps track of all the "facts"... who is where and in what strength. The player just has to make the big decisions.
Designs from scratch that are similar will sell and will be the big cross over market. ...Now if I just had a couple of months of free time....
Nice post. I must say, however, that I've been up to my neck in the computer game world for 13-14 years, and I don't know of any triple-A title that relies on glitzy graphics and twitch reflexs alone. Call of Duty 4, for example IS a beautiful game, you DO need to be able to think fast and shoot straight, but it is also a stunningly well developed experience that feels like you are living inside a movie. The same can be said for any of the HALO or Half-Life franchise, and Rainbow Six Las Vegas... it is simply a gut-wrenching adrenalin rush.
Part of the problem in wargaming is that rather than learn from video games, we poo-poo them. I too think wargaming is rebounding, but part of that resurgence is due to designs that recognize detail and realism do NOT go hand in hand. Designs that understand we are visual animals and stress beautifull art, and designs --as many of you have said-- take minutes (or even hours) rather than days, to play.
I can't argue with you. I must, instead, admit to a basic antipathy toward computer games like the ones you've mentioned. I certainly don't begrudge them for others, but they've always left me cold.
I also strongly agree with you that visual detail, art and so forth are critically important to the boardgame community, and that much can be (and has been, and is being) learned from the computer game community in this respect. That's part, but only part, of what I am referring to when I call for some hybrid designs.
(Read some of Eric Walters' posts about designs that he likes and dislikes to get a really articulate view of the impact that graphics have have on how enjoyable it is to play a game from both an appeal and function perspective. I know that every one on CSW Social understands this, but Eric is fun to read. (Don't tell him I said so, tho!!!) )
Looks like you alll have said it far more eloquently than I ever could but I'll posit a couple of thoughts.
First, to me, there are far too many games that use glitzy graphics to cover for a lack of substance (especially with miniatures rules sets but that's another ballgame). True, graphics are important but they shouldn't be used as a crutch to mask a defective design.
Second, most of the computer games I've seen seem to fall into the category of twitch games which I have no interest in. What I'd like to see more of are ones that simply keep track of the details and leave the big decisions. I could even do without the artificial intelliegence and simply play solitare. To me, the best computer experience is the computerized War In Europe that Decision Games put out- the best part is that I can play the whole thing solitaire without having to rent an aircraft hanger or kick my wife out of the house (definately a bad idea). Nothing flashy, just a plain interface but it gets the job done.
Maybe I'm just old school- give me my NATO map graphics. They get the job done and are a lot easier to read than some of the other graphics going around. Why do we have to dumb things down?
I'll grant that some of the older designs were unplayable or not developed and tested sufficiently but there's quite a few more recent designs that also share that distinction.
You're not going to get torched by me. That's pretty much how I feel. I like some computer games, but most of my favorites don't have much in the way of fancy graphics. I don't at all see the appeal of little tanks or men to represent units--certainly not units larger than, say, a battalion.
I use to play a lot of computer games but it became too costly when they always "improved" games where one had to spend money to upgrade to a new graphics card or buy a new computer because yours couldn't be upgraded. So now I am back to a simpler time where one moves counters around instead of hitting computer keys and in my opinion, there are not that many good pc games out there.
Did you see that statistical analysis that "Herr Doktor" did concerning the top wargames as listed in the Boardgame Geek database? He posted a PDF on CSW somewhere. To me, it looked like mostly continuity in terms of volume, mix of eras, and even complexity. The main difference between "then" and "now" is the popularity of games using cards, blocks, and figures. If anything, there has been a secular rise in ratings, which one might cautiously interpret as games getting better.