Difficult times… difficult gaming… *Warning, this is a “political post” that may make some folks uncomfortable*

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.

1st Rhode Island Regimental Flag


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1st_Rhode_Island_Regiment

1st Rhode Island Regiment AWI

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.

Berlin 1990


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.

24 comments

  1. Very thought provoking, so thanks for sharing your views! Apart from my own blog, I’ve never really discussed or highlighted my involvement in this hobby over the years, but that’s probably because I know how critical and bigoted some people can be over things that they don’t agree with (or, more than likely, think they don’t agree with because otherwise they wouldn’t be “conforming”)!

    Liked by 3 people

    • I used to be very openly political on Facebook. This painted a target on me. When I quit Facebook and started this blog I told myself to avoid making political posts. My views tend to offend folks across the political spectrum as I do not really fit any one category. However I have come to realize that I can not separate all my political views from my gaming and that no matter what I put online I will be judged anyway.

      Since that is the case I would rather be judged on a more accurate viewer my opinions rather than people making assumptions based on what games I play, stories I tell or photos I publish.

      The urge to conform, to feel validated by whatever tribe a person chooses to join, is strong.

      And it is not fun to feel guilty for liking something that on deep analysis might be unsettlingly offensive or repugnant. However, critical thinking is not sensitive to one’s feelings. I hate that I can not enjoy “Gods and Generals” the way I once did but I appreciate the value of looking at the film with a more objective lens. The same lens that allows me to still enjoy “Zulu” however.. so it does not need to be a constant buzzkill.

      Thanks for taking the time to post your comment here. It is great to hear the voices of others, especially on contentious posts.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. “Noble sacrifice for others, courage, endurance in the face of adversity, the value of mercy.” That is why I enjoy LOTR so much.

    Your column touches on many things I believe in also. I find it hard to want to play Colonial Britian even though I enjoy the movie Zulu. I would love a good western that shows the blue uniforms of the Cavalry but know it would be hard to do without opening too many issues. I’m a product of the 60’s with movies and tv glorifying entities without the underlying realities. I’m a Son of the Confederacy as well as a Son of the Union with a relative buried at Gettysburg. How I feel about the issue of the “noble cause” would get my mouth washed out with soap.

    Even fantasy wargaming is being problematic sometimes, I would love to introduce my grandson to the hobbit book but am having difficulty in my mind how to translate the word dwarf. The term has different meanings to me as it has changed in my lifetime.

    Saying that one is a product of a generation is a cop-out, one needs to evolve but that is difficult to do. One must learn the past to shed it.

    Need to go mindlessly paint something now. 😁

    Liked by 3 people

    • It would seem we mirror each other even more than I previously realized mate. I agree with your points. However, I think it is trying to figure out how to paint some of my recent acquisitions that has me in this frame of mind right now…

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Like you, I have grown up in a time and place where casual racism was the norm, that there was no one around to inform me differently and it took leaving my rural, home town to find out where my life had been misguided and needed correction. I continue to learn every day as more moves forward and is revealed to me. I beg my friends their indulgence and to correct me when I accidentally tread on something that is sensitive to them.

    Those five minutes I have seen before and are an eye opener. The fact that even the US Army knew what the world’s perception of us were at the time to have to produce such a video speaks volumes. For me, it is easy to look back on history and see where we made our missteps, ones that were thought of the status quo that today most everyone is horrified by. Then those same people will push against others trying to also be recognized as equals or changing long held policies and beliefs. I imagine in 2122 people looking back on our time and saying such things as “How could people have slaughtered animals for food? How could they have been so blind to their barbarism?” Can be applied to a lot of things today that I won’t get into.

    Personally, I’ve never had an issue playing the baddie in any situation. I think it came up from always being the game master and having to be the one who ran characters that tried to thwart the heroes. But I would also throw things into my games (table top and live action) to help people think about their preconceived ideas. My game that started in 1993 had the Elves as the baddies and the Orcs as the oppressed good people. It took them the entire season to realize that. Likewise, having the constabulary actually be on their side and only wanting to help them as well as the people around them.

    Though I will admit that I wonder when I pass and someone is cleaning out my closet, what they will think when among my other costumes they find my SS officer uniform.

    Overall with games, I try to be open minded and middle of the road as possible. There is some heated debates about what is and isn’t acceptable at larps, no matter what setting it is in. My view is often seen as dismissive but I feel it embraces freedom. A person should be allowed to run whatever game they wish to run but in doing so should also be ready to receive criticism for what they are running. If everyone at the game is having fun, then I feel the game is being run well. Granted, you could go to the extreme and say that it gives a group of people the right to run an overly offensive game – though I feel those would be few, small and far in between. But it is much better than the half hearted attempts to feign ‘exclusivity’ while completely missing the point. An example is a game offering players the choice of wearing either black or grey makeup to represent dark elves. Never mind where one stands on that policy (in other words, please don’t mention it here on my friend’s blog to turn it into a flame war), the fact that the runners of the game completely miss the fact that it has zero to do with the person actually wearing the makeup but rather how those who see it interpret it.

    As a closer, you mention how it was less than a hundred years ago that the video was made (about 80 years). But I can also say that that’s only a third of the time that the United States of America has been in existence. We still have a ways to go and you’d think that in today’s information age it would be easier but… well… that’s a rant for another day.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Hear, hear! Well said mate! Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this issue so eloquently.

      And I believe you are right about how folks in the future may see the consumption of animal flesh. I keep telling myself I need to stop eating meat but keep failing at actually making it happen.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I should mention that I am still a happy omnivore, just noting that there is probably something that 99% of the current population that thinks is completely fine that future people will deem a blatantly obvious wrong.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Hey GG, I have read your blog and follow it. Wanted to say that that your recent post and the video you suggested watching is moving. I agree with what you say and think that you are courageous in putting it up. I don’t feel you are wrong to have these feelings. To many people, gamers, do not know the history of events that have brought us to the different time periods of historical gaming. So many are ignorant of the true horror of what happened. I’m at a bit of a loss to be more helpful in writing. Just wanted to say I respect what I took from your post. I truly insightful read and watch. I too am a “ Cold War” Infantry veteran, however my duty station was Asia. Korea in the mid and late 80’s. Thankfully my upbringing as a military brat has kept me diverse in my thinking and actions. Keep on sharing this type of information and maybe more of the younger generations of gamers will be motivated to learn history as it did for me. My German ancestry makes if difficult to play a German army of the SS . I get you brother.
    David

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for taking the time to comment!

      I am glad you got something from the post. When I write something like this it is a bit of a case of “thinking out loud”. Taking the time to organize my thoughts on a subject. As I research my points and then later when I edit what I have written I rethink it all. So even if no one else benefits from it, I at least get that.

      But when a reader gets something positive from what I write it really means something to me. So thank you again!

      Especially a brother with a Blue Cord.

      Stay safe in these difficult times!

      Like

  5. Well first off I find it odd that you would even consider this political. It says something about the world that we live in currently that this would even be considered contentious and its also quite a comment about the political leanings of the hobby.

    I stopped playing WWII miniature games because I knew people that were in the war but mostly because I couldn’t really stomach the idea of playing a game against someone who had a nicely painted force of SS troops. Whenever I see someone with an army like that I either assume that they are without any idea of the history or a nazi. I find it even more distressing that companies will sell and package miniatures, tokens and dice with SS symbols on them.

    At a certain point though I think that any wargame will present you with difficult choices. War and conflict are ugly horrible things and I am unaware of a conflict that is not riddled with people and events that are problematic.

    I tend to draw the line at any post-WWII conflict and I am typically aghast when someone releases a game on the Chechen conflict or civil war in the former Yugoslavia.

    Ultimately this hobby is meant to be something that you enjoy and we all make choices about what it is that we will or will not put up with as part of it. I also think that we all change and grow as we go through life and sometimes that means that we get a new understanding of our past activities.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for commenting! I heartily agree with closing statement.

      It seems to me that anything dealing with more than 2 people eventually becomes “political”. Although I am sure some would say anything dealing with more than a single person!

      I would not say the hobby is more or less political than it ever was but people in general are certainly more talkative about it thanks to the internet. And many people are quick to judge without taking the time to learn the context of what they are judging.

      Certainly I would appreciate folks asking me what my thoughts are on certain subjects rather than making guesses based on what painted toy soldiers I put on this blog.

      Like

  6. This is a very interesting and personal post and I appreciate you sharing your thoughts. Its hard not to respect your sensitivity towards the subject matter. I share your concerns about wargaming in WWII or other recent conflicts. It does seem wrong to me to “game-ify” something where lots of people suffered and if we’re being honest, it was not a matter of simply good vs. evil. The good news is that while some people are callous towards this kind of thing, you can always avoid it in your own games if you still want to play in that historical setting. I think your approach will help prevent the need to do that which is smart.

    With that said, that could explain why “fantasy” wargames seem to be more popular than historical ones. And by fantasy, I mean everything from Warhammer to LOTR to Fallout. I find that playing in those settings does liberate me from any concerns of being insensitive or immoral towards what really happened. Either way, thanks for sharing your thoughts on this, mate. It is definitely a timely and important topic to think about.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks mate! I have ever been one to “think too much, care too much and wear my heart on my sleeve.” I have been told that time and time again over my five decades on this little island we call Earth.

      Fallout is interesting in that it’s wacky retro-futuristic fictional setting seems to create enough “distance” to enjoy it but the satire is razor sharp and if you take the time to really think about the messages there it is deeply unsettling.

      I remember wanting to side with the Enclave because of the constant Pro-America trappings, then when I found out their agenda I was irked that they “stole” Americana (ie overtly American cultural tropes)… and how later that mirrored recent political actions in the States.

      Watching Ukraine I thought of this Fallout gem…

      Watch WW3 on Pay TV

      Liked by 1 person

      • Wow, this song really hits home these days… I have to say, I am guilty of watching stuff from Ukraine too…

        Liked by 1 person

      • I like the satire in Fallout as well and thanks for sharing that song. Fallout’s satire is less over the top as say Grand Theft Auto but still often skewers things that deserve it. While the Enclave is in Fallout Wasteland Warfare, I haven’t played the Fallout game where they come from so I haven’t been interested in buying them. Unfortunately, I doubt I’ll have the time to ever go back and play that one which I guess will save me money in the end so maybe that’s not a bad thing!

        Liked by 1 person

      • There just is not enough time for any of us to do all the cool things that are out there to do. Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas were great fun and I am glad I played them. But I doubt I will make time for computer games any more.

        The story of the Enclave is brilliant in the greater lore of Fallout, a shadow organization within the US Government even before the war planning for they see coming. Planning with a very self-centered agenda but wrapped up in false patriotic propaganda.

        Very timely satire.

        Liked by 1 person

      • That is the unfortunate truth. I’m slowly getting further and further behind on video games and I don’t have any kids like most working adults do…

        That is clever. The sad thing about the Enclave is I think we both know a good number of people who would fall for that sort of thing!

        Liked by 1 person

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