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 it has been a combination of two trends. The active generation of gamers moved on to real life (jobs, families, etc). In my experience in the Netherlands very few people actually leave gaming to return some 20 years later. The other trend to me seems that the magnetic attraction of the happening in WW2 had faded for the new generation of gamers in the 80's. and they were atracted by other types of games: fantasy, role-playing, computers and later Magic.
Addressing the OP, I'd call it nostalgia ;-) for me, things were always seem to be better in the "old days", when often that wasn't really the case. In the 1970's and 1980's I remember overpriced games with shoddy components, slavish in their devotion to rigid zones of control, and and over-complex rules systems that required 20 pages of errata before you could play. And there was no internet, so good luck getting any quick answers to rules questions!
Moving to the new millennium and I see a far more mature market and a realisation that people these days often have 3-4 different types of entertainment. As for console games, MMO's and RPG's and mass market miniatures drawing people away from wargaming, well that's to be expected, because they're all new and shiny. But on the flipside, they also bring people into the hobby! Call of Duty and Flames of War are also entry points into board wargaming as well as Memoir'44 and social networking sites just as this.
I am 41 and have lived my life in the Boston area. I started RPGing in 1978. I found the whole gaming world amazing D & D and Call of Cthulhu. From there I moved to war games Dip, 3rd Riech and lighter fair Axis & Allies and so on.I still do both although the group has changed.
I agree with just about everything said. I will emphasize that I think the hobby followed our age as in any business. The car industry changed it's cars based on the baby boomers AGE. The bulk of wargamers are middle aged give or take and now have extra money to spend which help create this market.With the internet/computer we are now connected to each other like never before ( we are no longer alone in some town or faraway land). I think the games are better because there are more companies competing and they have experience. The designers and wargamers have been playing long enough and both know what people want ( which even though it drives me loopy means even more Bulge games ).
As for the bitching that we are the last of a great breed. I think when you are middle aged you just like to think of yourself that way versus the young punk kids ( which of course we used to be ). I just think it’s all part of the natural rhythm of life ,there is no one to blame.When I gamed in the 80’s I was young and it all seemed amazing,you don’t see the cracks and the holes ( which of course we do now ), and we were happy to have our own little hobby which few others knew about. News about anything in our gaming world moved slow or not at all via snail mail or we knew a guy that went to this con.
So now we look back and we say well it is not how it was in my youth, so something must be wrong.I don’t think anything is really wrong , I just think we are older and comparing this gaming world to what is was in our youth won’t work . NOTHING looks the same as it did when you were a young man with hair.
If the new games are selling - clearly they are, see the successful forums for miniatures like Flames of War, for example - why blame them for something that apparently isn't happening? Individuals withdrawing from a hobby they no longer feel connected to is not indicative of a "dying out" of the hobby. Our games store in Calgary is still going full bore, thanks in no small part I am sure to those "new type of games" that pay their bills and despite the best efforts of the city to drive them out of business with draconian raises in property tax hikes.
Things changed for them too, including competition from the Internet. I've been bad; I've seen stuff available at the local game store and then found it on ebay or amazon for cheaper. I will still make a point of paying more locally on purpose if it means supporting the old hobby shop but I understand where others don't, and I'm not 100% successful at being charitable in that way. But they got with the times, too, many years ago, and moved to a larger store, opened a gaming area, started selling candy and soft drinks and encouraging local groups to use their facilities for their gaming clubs. Every little bit helps. The place is still overrun with young kids on weekends - very few in the wargaming section, mostly fantasy and sci-fi, and I've yet to see anyone under the age of 20 not accompanied by a parent. They're not helped by not being on a main transit line, either, or in a major mall, but that kind of overhead would likely kill them, too. There is still reality to contend with.
The point? Adapting to changing circumstances can only help, not hurt the hobby. There won't be another Advanced Squad Leader to come along; not ever again will young people pay hundreds of dollars for paper rules and ancient looking counters and dozens of modules without some type of computer assist or fast-play type game. There are too many other options out there that ratchet up the "fun" factor. Maybe the next big thing will be a truly good MMO wargame at the company level; you design something like that with ASL's level of detail, Steel Panther's ease of play, Combat Mission's interactivity and the fun level of a FPS, maybe board games will go the way of the dodo. Until then, hey - people still play chess and checkers, too. There's no reason to believe they will ever disappear, especially if there is money to be made. There will be small handfuls of people interested in deep, challenging games like ASL - newcomers get into it now all the time - just fewer than before given the diversity of options.
Except that what I have been seeing at WBC wargame events contradicts this. Not only are they drawing a lot of players but the players are on the whole getting younger as time goes by. For example, my Combat Commander event drew 56 and of that number probably half were in the 18-35 range. And Combat Commander is a wargame.
So is Successors, which similarly saw good attendance and younger players, as well as Here I Stand, Eisenbach Gap and others.
What is happening is not that wargaming is dying but rather that the "next generation" of wargamers are playing the wargames of their generation. And that is a good thing, because these "next generation" wargames in many ways are superior to those we cut our teeth on.
Except that what I have been seeing at WBC wargame events contradicts this.
Contradicts what? It's not clear what you're responding to.
these "next generation" wargames in many ways are superior to those we cut our teeth on.
There's no way you can say one is "superior" to another when you're discussing matters of taste or opinion. I think it's foolish to do so, frankly. If, as you say, this "next generation" (and that term is goofy too) is enjoying games in general, that's good enough. There's no reason to trash past efforts in the process, especially if the only way you can do so is to suggest that flashy counter art didn't exist in 1974.
"Superior" is a state of mind. I'm sure a lot of people considered PanzerBlitz "superior" to checkers or using H.G. Wells' really infantile wargame rules for shooting spring loaded cannon on the parlour floor. Then again, there are probably people who still don't, too. ;-)
Whether you care or not is immaterial to the impact that fresh dollars and young minds entering the hobby is going to make on it. It's ironic that you complain about "old wargamers" being disconnected and out of touch, and then you proclaim yourself to be disconnected and out of touch purely for spite.
As for what happened on other forums, you have me at a loss, since I wasn't referring to that in the least. It would seem you have baggage from a number of sources that you keep bringing into the conversation.
Actually it is clear what I am responding to. It is the notion bandied about in this thread that wargaming is dying and that wargamers are all old, graying and dwindling in number. My experience shows that this is not so.
And I can easily say that the wargames we see today are superior (granted not always) to what we cut our teeth on. Simply put the current generation of designers have (again not always but in general) learned from the past, and the designs reflect this. For example, The Burning Blue and Downtown learned from oldies like Battle over Britain and rolling thunder and as a result gave us a superb operational air game.
Wargaming as a hobby is only danger of dying when gamers are unsociable, turning up their noses at newbies. Complicated rules are a turn off to many young people as well. But, as many of my photos demonstrate, young people LOVE playing miniatures games. Good rules, good scenarios, and keeping one's nose out of the air are all you need. The hobby is alive and well.