I've been thinking a lot about this lately and want to get folks thoughts.
1. Should we feel guilty about our hobby?
2. What conflicts are out of bounds?

I've just listened to Neal and Heny on "View from the Veranda" a part of the Meeples & Miniatures podcast have an excellent discussion on this. Let me knoiw your thoughts if you drop by!

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Wargamers should feel ashamed that, despite their hobby and knowledge of history, they almost universally use it as an escape from the present rather than a way to understand it better.

And it's precisely the situations we are engaged in right now that should be studied the most closely - both from a tactical standpoint - and from a social one. The Terrorists we are fighting right now aren't fools - they are opportunists. If they thought for a minute that we had the balls to see these things through to the end, they never would have started them in the first place - and almost 5,000 American soldiers, hundreds of Coalition soldiers, and thousands of civilians would never have been murdered. Fools and cowards are the real enemy - because they strike from within.

And the same goes for dictators and despots. If the world had stood up quickly and decisively to Milosevic, Saddam would never have invaded Kuwait. (What kind of sick time do we live in where so-called "human rights" activists became human shields for the worst murderer since Hitler?) If the first Bush had taken care of Saddam, then we wouldn't have had to do it again.

All I know is that you'd be a fool to fight for this country - because it throws your lives away for nothing.

But it's our entire western society that is rotten to the core. If you want to understand what it was like to live during the long, slow decline of the Roman Empire - just turn on the tv - and watch it in real time.
Wow.... So John tell me how you really feel! :)
Oh and nice icon by the way...
Let me get this straight, John; on the one hand you decry our unwillingness to stand up to despots and dictators and on the other you say that anyone who fights for the country is a fool. If all us fools got smart all of a sudden, who would be left to do this standing up you feel needs done?

You might be right, but if we are, as you say, on our way out as a society, I would rather go out in style with maybe a bit of class and honor by playing my part as I see it rather than trading my hopes and dignity for a barcalounger and CNN.
I don't feel guilty at my hobby. I have learned a lot about history, geography, politics and human behavior while learning about the games I play and the time periods they represent. That has lead me to a better understanding of current events as history is an oft-repeated cycle in terms of warfare and politics. I understand that the "step losses" my cardboard units suffer represents thousands of deaths - I get that - and I am empathetic to the individuals in their loss. Maybe that's part of the reason I game - I will remember their loss in what little way I can so they are not lost and forgotten in the mists of time.

As for what is "out of bounds"... I have noted I don't tend to prefer games on conflicts that happened during my lifetime. I'm not sure why that is - but it is something I have noticed about my own preferences. Other than that, I think anything is fair game. My era of choice is WWII and always has been. Again, not sure why, maybe something to do with my relationship to my family members of that generation.

So there you have it, Andy, my two cents' worth. Thanks for asking (as I'm interested to hear what others have to say on this topic).
God I was tired when I wrote this... I need a spell checker.
Well I'm sure not guilty of my hobby. it gives my love for military history a even bigger boost fighting the battles/campaigns I read about.

For Off limits,Well back in the day SPI had the huge out cry over the proposed Case Geld(Axis invading America). Well time went by and 3W published SS Ameika with the Axis landing in the good ol USA. Heck, there was never a up roar when SPI did Invasion America or MB treatment on the subject

So for subjects off limits-No.
Heck, if "The Hell Game" can be published and enjoyed by so many any subject can be.
I think I started this to check to see what folks thought. I myself don't really feel guilty about playing any side or any period. I think it pays respect to those that were there, but I think it underlies a lot of gaming (I think a lot of people play WWII because to them there is no moral ambiguity).
1. No. It is not the hobby that is a problem, it is part study of a VERY relevant piece of the history pie as well as entertainment. It seems like the problem comes from not enough people studying the history of war and its place in the development of civilization (thus non-wargamers are a bigger problem) and the glorification and 'worship' of acts of evil or villainy (the so-called 'nazi-worship' the seems prevalent in marketing and some players/designers).

2. Probably atrocities or massacres. I am not sure they make good games. It is important that they are studied so that the steps and motivations that led to them are understood and somehow prevented (hah! wouldn't THAT be nice?) but the same could be said about almost any conflict (the study part).

Wargaming is mostly just a hobby. None of the people I play with are interested in killing people, but they do recognize that war has a great influence on society (good and bad). When we fight a battle (or a, operation or war) we seek to understand its historical significance. I have met and played with a few people who somehow want the 'bad guys' to win (I generally play with them only once, if that) and wish that the historical outcome would have been different (including some idiot that thought that German engineering was superior enough that we would all be driving BMWs if Hitler had won the war!) but they are the minority (as are most crackpots).

It takes all kinds of people to make a hobby. I feel no guilt whatsoever about participating in the hobby and I think a more relevant question might be "Why feel guilty at all about it?"
From Groping for the New Paradigm, part 3:


Most of us involved in the hobby of wargaming for any extended period of time have developed a context of meaning that the hobby gives to our lives. Whether generated in defense of the hobby or arrived at through reflection, it’s something each of us has likely done.

Because the entire point of these articles is to spur new ideas and to see growth in the industry beyond the confines of those we already have, a brief discussion of the meaning of what we do, and why it’s necessary to define it, is appropriate.

The Meaning of Wargaming: A Personal Perspective

One of the oldest debates in our industry has been about the morality of wargaming. In its simplest form, we play games about the death and destruction of peoples and cultures. Taken on its face, it’s easy to see how such a simple definition of the hobby can raise the eyebrows, if not the hackles, of ordinary citizens.

But beyond that simplistic overview, there are deeper shades of moral grayness that reside within the hobby’s participants themselves. A soon to be published card-game about the War on Terror from Decision Games recently spurred some heated, if not vitriolic, discussion among hobbyists about the morality of publishing such a game, given the nearness of the subject matter to most of our lives. But such moral concerns within our own ranks are nothing new.

In my personal experience at GameFix magazine, when we released Greenline: Chechnya several letters came to our office questioning the morality of publishing such a game while the event was still occurring. The same thing happened at 3W when they released the original Arabian Nightmare in S&T. Other publishers can surely tell similar stories.

The issue of morality is valid to our purpose as a hobby in the sense that it is important that we understand why we do what we do, and have ready answers to such challenges when presented from outside our ranks.

I don’t pretend to offer a universal answer to this question, because each of us has developed our own moral compass, such that we must satisfy ourselves before we can satisfy others. But, I can express my own perspective.

Personally, the question of wargaming comes down to how you define entertainment. If we watch a production of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice and enjoy it, does that mean we are anti-Semitic? Or watch and enjoy the latest action film mean we revel in the death and misery of others? To the majority of people the answer is clearly no, but there will always be a group that screams an unequivocal yes.

The sad part about those who say yes is that, in some cases, they’re correct. As a society we can take solace that in most cases they are not.

Wargaming is no different. Much as I might read a book on a subject dealing with conflict that provides some edification, which in turn, provides entertainment, so it is with wargaming. By competitively playing a wargame, I’m gaining interactive insight into some form of conflict, which, in turn, broadens my understanding of the human condition. The thing to be gleaned from the process of wargaming is the greater depth of comprehension of the nature of conflict. The application of that comprehension is the contribution I make to society in the form of political decisions, voting, discussion, and debate in the public forum.

Taken in that context, the question to me is no longer one of moral ambiguity, but rather one of a moral imperative. The new paradigm of which I speak is one in which we, as members of an industry, produce products that entertain within the context of providing a tool with which we, as members of society, can broaden our understanding of the nature of the world in which we live.

Such a definition of meaning comes with its own challenges. It entails that the subject be approached with a certain sensitivity to its purpose. I do not believe that that sensitivity can be meaningfully defined. Each game designer (and game player) must reach his own conclusion. Awareness of it, though, must reside firmly in the designer’s mind, because it can never serve our purpose to trivialize conflict in such a way that it alienates the hobby further from the rest of society.
I am 'on holiday' and have unreliable access to a computer and so should probably not bother with this discussion right now, but in for a penny, in for a pound...

I think the statement above:

"In its simplest form, we play games about the death and destruction of peoples and cultures. Taken on its face, it’s easy to see how such a simple definition of the hobby can raise the eyebrows, if not the hackles, of ordinary citizens."

Is somewhat wrong and leads the discussion in a wrong direction to a wrong conclusion in a rather ham-handed manner. It is a conclusion, unsupported by any fact (that I saw). The games are not always about death and destruction, although that certainly is part of what is abstracted in the math and paper and dice. In its simplest form, these games are just the reflections of what the various designer/developer/playtesters involved felt were useful in providing a model of what happened (or could have happened) based on decisions made by the decision makers involved. Thus it is about ideas.

The simple definition proposed in 'your' paragraph is what probably leads to the hackles. Using a somewhat more realistic 'simple definition' would destroy whatever message was being presented. I do agree that history, of ANY subject, is a teaching tool and I agree that the hobby could be presented better in that light. The glory comes from winning against a worthy opponent and in learning a bit of history.

People die in war, no question about it. That part makes me both ill, amazed, grateful and disgusted. Ill at the senseless nature underlying humanity - we are a violent pack-oriented species. Amazed at the grace and determination of those willing and able to risk their lives to stand up against that madness. Grateful that others were able to fight when I am not able - grateful for the freedom that I have in typing this. Disgusted that there still exist those who just will never get the message and will start more trouble.

Just my opinion, and I again apologize for using what may appear to be guerilla tactics here. I will try to get back to this discussion as I am able (unless I am asked to cease and desist - my intention is not to ignite a flame war, just presenting a different direction).
The paragraph describes what they are about, not what the definition of a wargame is; which is a completely different matter. Further, the statement attempts to describe why people who do not understand what wargaming is find it objectionable. If everyone understood what a wargame actually was, we wouldn't be having this discussion. The original post asked if we should feel guilty for our hobby. The only reason to feel that way is if one's understanding of it fails to go beyond what the games themselves represent or attempt to recreate. Thus, it's necessary to understand the problem before we can move toward any useful discussion about it's solution. Without wanting also to ignite a flame war, did you actually read what came after that paragraph?

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