It may be obvious, but the Internet has certainly been a large factor in the current success (or continued existence) of the wargaming hobby. (It's been a big part in the resurgence of board-gaming as well, but that's not the point of this post.)

We are in a "Golden Age" of war-gaming. The Grognards among us look back at the late 70's when SPI was an active company as an important time in the hobby, but I suspect more war-games are being published today by more companies than we could have imagined back in the 70's.

But what prompted this post is how easy it is now to find games on new topics. I recently developed a curiosity about the Balkan Wars (1912-1913). I jumped on Consim World and asked for a book recommendation and if any games had been published on the topic. Within minutes I had a the name of what looks like a good book on the topic (downloaded into Kindle within 15 minutes of making my request) and learned that S&T (of course!) had published a game on the Balkan Wars in issue #164. I jumped over to Noble Knght games, found a un-punched copy of the game with the magazine available. I ordered the game and three days later I had it in my hands. I hope to give the game a try this weekend.

I take this sort of thing for granted now days, but when I sit back and think about it, this is really amazing. Within minutes of asking the question, I had a book in my hands (so to speak) and a game (published 12 years ago) on the topic being shipped to me. This is largely due to the Internet of course. The degree of inter-connectedness that it offers is truly amazing. Gamers from all walks of life, located across the globe can come together in a close knit community to share this hobby.

If this isn't the "Golden" age of war-gaming, I don't know what is.

What would the war-gaming hobby look like today, if the Internet (or equivalent) did not exist?

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Comment by Roger Morley on October 21, 2010 at 5:39pm
Ironically, computer games was probably the biggest reason for not playing board wargames from say mid 80's until this year, yet it was the internet which got me back into it.
Comment by brian s. b. on October 21, 2010 at 5:01pm
yep- and i wouldn't have gotten back into games w/o the net's
Comment by Dwhitaker on October 21, 2010 at 4:39pm
If the internet did not exist, I would not be playing with a great local gaming group (local being within an hour drive). We just would never have met and known about each other. So regardless of the perceived negative aspect of social interaction over the computer instead of in person, it has enhanced my wargaming face to face play immensely.
Comment by brian s. b. on October 21, 2010 at 4:13pm
in other words it is a mix of the fragmented and the very popular- i dare say they are more players now then the golden era just playing axis@alliesi'm sure this one game sold more then many wholecompanies did back in the dayhow can i say this? it's the only game i see in a model shop/bookstore etc.
Comment by brian s. b. on October 21, 2010 at 4:11pm
well it is a function of culture and capital.but it is not a scientific repeatable situation. it's like classic rock or the original punk bands-products of the times. the times are just different. i would bike to my friends house or they would come to mine and we would play the latest games back then. today you have the older "classics" crowd, the euro's, the older and younger newer gamers, the guy's in there 30's whose "classic" era is the late 80's/90's.
Comment by Roger Morley on October 21, 2010 at 3:42pm
I agree with Kimbo and Jim
Comment by Jim Werbaneth on October 21, 2010 at 3:36pm
I agree, Kimbo. The only thing we need now are some newer/younger players to enjoy it along with the rest of us.
Comment by Eric Walters on October 21, 2010 at 2:22pm
Okay, let's make a few assumptions if we had computers but not the internet. The state of computer gaming would continue as it has been, only people would be playing on their own household LANs and going to conventions rigging up their own (much as we see today). Computer game design would not substantially change in substance, although the rate of development would be slowed because no online collaboration could take place between programmers and knowledge engineers.

Role playing games and miniatures as we know them would still exist and continue to thrive. Collectable card games (e.g., MAGIC: THE GATHERNG) would still occur and boardgamers would grouse that this, RPGs, and computer games were sounding the death knell of board wargaming.

Boardgaming would be somewhat different, but not overly so. Without the internet, there would be no P500 or similar online pre-ordering (or even ordering) that would cut out the distributors. Games would be a bit more expensive in that regard. Desk Top Publishing would thrive even more than it has, it just not would be able to offer "print and play" downloads--you'd still have to put in an order for a hardcopy of the game. But a great many people could make games because of advances in desktop computer software. Whole workshops in conventions would be on sharing knowledge of DTP and even wargaming magazines on DTP would spring up, which would feel threatening to some wargame companies (cheaper competition) and a boon to others (seedbed to attact designs for more playtesting, refinement, and professional treatment).

People would still get into the hobby through friends/clubs, but could discover it on their own through games in toy stores, book stores, and magazine ads (dare I even say television ads?). There would be a stronger marketing effort in making games look good on the shelves and we might see "Eurogame" treatments in physical production far earlier to attract new players to the hobby.

Collectable prices would remain generally high as they were during the "WEEKEND WARRIOR days" since you wouldn't have EBay auctions. Your only hope of getting decent prices on used games you wanted were at the convention auctions.

Wide coverage of game topics would still occur, though perhaps not to the degree we see these days. Because speed of research would be slowed without the internet, design and development timelines would be much longer than they are for many of the detailed games. Production pace would be slower for a particular game from topic feedback proposal to actual first run printing. Collaboration between historical and designer experts across the country/globe would be extremely difficult, unlike today, so some games on very esoteric subjects could become topical "footballs" as experts disagree on research sources, methods, and design treatments.

Finding opponents would still be mired in "Opponents Wanted" pages of wargame company and club magazines/fanzines. Clubs would be more widespread than they are today, although perhaps not as visible as they were in the 1960s and early 1970s due to the siphoning off of computer game players, RPG players, and collectible card game players, to say nothing of Eurogamers.

But perhaps the most significant thing about having no internet is that Joe gamer would find it harder to be motivated to create his own games that might actually turn into a finished product by a recognized game company. The internet gave Joe the possibility of doing his own research online and accessing tools to produce the game. It put him in instant touch with other designers, researchers, and graphics/production people. As Jim Dunnigan used to say, within every good wargamer lies a potential game designer/developer, but only the internet has provided the means to make that jump appear feasible for people with time and energy to devote to it.
Comment by Eric Walters on October 21, 2010 at 1:02pm
Amen, brother!

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