To be clear, I am addressing this issue openly because my gaming becomes public knowledge the minute I put it on this blog. Not that I have many readers but what I write, what I game, has the potential to influence others. Each of you reading this has the power to do the same thing. Every game, every picture, every story, every comic book/movie/tv show/song/poem has the ability to influence what people think.
This is a difficult subject for me. It has taken me a long time to finally write this.
But given the current state of the world…
I am much more sensitive in what I game, computer or tabletop, as well as larp or historically re-enact these days. In my youth I was of a mind that it was just gaming/recreation and was harmless. However, over the years I have had several experiences temper my original blasé view.
From my own wearing of insensitive Halloween costumes to playing airsoft in a politically contentious outfit. I am not above reproach. However I was misguided not malicious.
I have seen vile misogynistic hatred in online gaming. I have seen some real neo-Nazis mask their views as WW2 re-enactors. I have seen some people use their tabletop gaming to push the neo-Confederate “Noble Cause” myth. I have seen some folks use larp to act out real religious hatred.
Gaming, movies, comic books, larping… all can be harmless, helpful or sadly…..harmful. It really depends on the intent of the participants.
In a way it reminds me of the D-Day museums I visited in Normandy. There were interesting and respectful displays regarding both sides of the conflict without glamorizing Nazi politics.
And yet in the USA too often there are historical displays and films that go beyond mutually respectful and right on into brazenly glamorizing the patently racist Confederate cause.
Living in Germany, where certain elements of German history are strictly taboo, has been a real eye opener for me. I feel like there should be a balance somewhere in the middle but finding that middle ground is difficult.
When folks say “it is only a game” I think they are overlooking a few different things about historical gaming.
Things like education.
Seriously though, I learned about the 1stRhode Island Regiment, “The Black Regiment” (arguably America’s first African American military unit) purely because I saw an auction on eBay of some painted minis with an interesting flag.
Researching that flag taught me an important bit of American history I had missed for over four decades.
I had heard of the Civil War era 54thMassachusetts thanks to the movie “Glory” long ago. I knew about Buffalo Soldiers, Tuskegee Airmen/Red Tails, and Harlem Hellfighters. But the 1stRhode Island was unknown to me. Until I learned about them thanks to tabletop wargaming.
And of course there are some who role play their table top wargaming or historical re-enacting, who live vicariously through their fictional tabletop conflicts. Some of that is harmless however some of it can be quite disturbing considering some of the things people have said to me when they explained their views and mistakenly believed I would agree with them because of my costume or little toy soldiers.
Part of my thinking to do Weird War 2 set in a fictional, alternate reality is to avoid the sensitivity around the reality of World War 2. To allow more racial and gender equality in my fictional conflicts. Conflicts that in the narrative tend to focus not on the worst of humanity but some of the best that violent conflict can bring out in humanity. Things I have learned through my own experiences with real violent conflict. Noble sacrifice for others, courage, endurance in the face of adversity, the value of mercy. The understanding that humans are more alike than different, no matter the political belief, uniform or flag. It also helps to add diabolical, other worldly/dimensional non-human villains to shine a light on the common best interests of humanity.
What is Weird War 2?
A year ago I could not see myself doing either World War 2 or Weird War 2 tabletop gaming, despite being into both years ago.
Now, I am getting back into it as I try to navigate a difficult gaming topic, especially as an American living in Germany. Weirdly there are times I wish I had decided to do the Pacific theater instead given where I live but the Pacific theater was also quite nightmarish as well, on both sides. There is just a certain “distance” to it.
The same way that to my mind, before the current political situation in America the Civil War was sufficiently “distant” through time if not space for me to game recreationally. Now I am uncomfortable gaming that period for fun. Too much emotional investment I guess.
Emotional investment. That, like the intent of the participants, affects recreational gaming for me. It is emotional investment in racial justice for example that makes the US Army of the 40’s problematic for me… despite being a “Cold War” US Army Infantry veteran.
As a Yank living in the UK a few years back and researching WW2 I came across a 1943 US Department of Defense training movie for Yanks in the UK during the war. There is one part that has stuck with me more than the rest over the years… at the 25 minute mark. It is five minutes worth watching. It is not Hollywood wokeness. It is a frank portrayal of the situation. Watch those 5 minutes and really think about what is implied by what is said in the scene. It really is worth your time. If you have ever valued anything I have said or written, please indulge me those 5 minutes. And yes, that is Burgess Meredith!
It makes me terribly sad that those things needed to be said to “America’s Greatest Generation” at a time of global conflict. Less than 100 years ago. I still struggle with that.
Heroes and villains, socially acceptable and deeply repugnant. Wargaming is a minefield of potential offense. Mrs. GG favors Celts (we know this is a historically contentious term but I use it for the sake of brevity) where I favor Rome but both of us are not blind to the horrible aspects of both.
Pirates and Vikings… fun now… not so much ”back in the day“. As I said before, ”distance in time and space“ can make for fun out of the originally unpalatable.
Here is a clever video about that…
And yet we put Pirates all over kids things… right next to Darth Vader and his Stormtroopers, Billy the Kid and Dracula. But not members of the late 19thCentury US Cavalry… not these days anyway.
I admit I find it somewhat ironic that given all war is horrific that we discuss, debate and argue over which war we are ok with gaming recreationally.
One thing I know I can not game… and that is playing a game where I have to play someone killing American soldiers. And yet I can play an murderous Imperial Stormtrooper, a cruel Roman Legionnaire, a hungry Orcish Marauder or an evil Undead Monster without too much personal discomfort.
Gaming is to many, including myself, an art form and it can be difficult at times to separate art from politics and emotion. It is not always rational.
At least that is my take on it.
Leave a comment and tell me what you think. If you agree or disagree please share your thoughts. By honest and open dialogue let’s work through this difficult subject with respect and understanding for each other as human beings.