Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Friday, April 14, 2017

Gaming war and war as reality.

It's been brought home by recent escalating tensions near here just how crass wargaming must seem to those living in war's shadow or, worse, living its reality.

Lately there have been people on wargaming sites around the web wetting themselves with excitement over the gaming potential of recent flash points and, today, over the US letting loose the so-called 'Mother Of All Bombs'.

The reality is that thousands of lives are on the line right at this moment, and that most of those are innocents who happen to live in a particular place at a particular time, who go about their lives like everyone does, caring for their families, enjoying their friends, and hoping that when their time is up that they leave something of themselves behind that those who knew them will recall with fondness or with pride.

I love the challenge of trying to win a game. I enjoy replaying wars and battles from the past, seeing how the original commanders approached certain problems, and trying situations out myself on a board or on a map.

But I am uncomfortable with modern war, and, by extension, modern wargaming. It's kind of like war as porn. Glorying in technology, the roleplaying of good guys and bad guys, knowing that our guys are good because they're ours, no matter why they are involved or how they are used, and in spite of the current political reality and the moral separation of means and ends. We are told all that is possible is done to avoid civilian casualties, and while I hope that is true, is that enough to justify our involvement, the destruction our involvement brings, and the falsehoods that are used to get us there? The reality is confusion, hatred, uncertainty, fear, death, decay of morality and good purpose and awful destruction of person, family, place, community and society. It's sidestepped with a kind of smugness in wargames and by wargamers - "oh, but see, we're not celebrating it; in fact, WE of all people know just how awful war is..." -  and yet there many of us are, thrilling to the deployment of new and destructive weapons systems, asking which games we can buy that model it, play-mooning about how long it will take for our order to arrive - or what the wife will say when she sees the credit card bill - when we should be asking why we are using these things at all, and where they are taking us. It seems that many wargamers are simply invigorated by it. In the end, it seems, a fair proportion of us want to go and blow things up just like they do on the TV.

Mostly, war does not touch us, except in the abstract, or by proxy. But this week, as the potential for crises rises, war suddenly does not seem like much of a game.

14 comments:

  1. Aaron, in your situation and location, I can hardly imagine the tension that must be felt. You are living in the shadow of current events.

    There ought to be a clear distinction between "Gaming War" and "War." The former centers on recreating historical battles on the table from a perspective brought about through the passage of time and distance. The latter is a horrific experience lived in real time. I choose the former and wish to avoid the latter.

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    1. Yes, that's how I feel, too. Regarding the situation here, I'm not worried about myself, but I'm certainly worried for my wife and children. It's the suddenness with which the situation has arisen and the apparent readiness to overturn established doctrine and process that is unsettling.

      Thanks for your comments, as always!

      Cheers,
      Aaron

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  2. Aaron,

    I agree with a lot if what you have written regarding hobby wargaming. I sometimes find the attitudes taken and views expressed by some wargamers about present-day conflicts very worrying.

    Over the years I have taken part in what are termed professional wargames, where the subject of the wargames have been very up-to-date. These have essentially been staged to test possible reactions and/outcomes, to help train personnel, and to examine the options that might be available. These have never been 'fun' events, but they have been very informative, and I hope that my participation might have helped to prevent conflicts turning 'hot'.

    As far as hobby wargaming goes, I seem to have drawn myself a historical line over which I tend not to cross. It is set at the end of the 1960s ... the point at which I would have been eligible to serve in the armed forces. After that date the events are a bit too recent for me to find wargaming them much fun.

    All the best,

    Bob

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    1. Thanks, Bob. I think we all have our cut off point, somewhere! I would like to say thanks for your contributions to professional wargames, too. Your point of view is always a valued and valuable one.

      Thanks,
      Aaron

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  3. You make the point well. A poet once pointed out that "an idea isn't responsible for the people who believe in it", and, by extension, we must believe that a hobby isn't responsible for those who practice it.

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    1. Well said, and an excellent observation.

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  4. Some years ago I ran a "great battles" after-school class for 5th and 6th graders. All of the games were from 1944 on back, except for Ia Drang (1965). Things went very well as far as the game itself was concerned, but after it was over a teacher who had been in her room nearby came over and advised me her brother had been at Ia Drang--and didn't come back.

    I did not run Ia Drang again when I repeated the class the following year, and I probably won't again, Still too much pain.

    Chris Johnson

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    1. I can just imagine how that must have felt. Many thanks, Chris.

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  5. Sometimes internet postings can feel like people are having a conversation in their own back yard, rather than seeing the internet being a space with a global audience, with respect and courtesy being the first casualties.

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    1. Yes, that can indeed be the case. Never with your good self though, Norm!

      Best,
      Aaron

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  6. Let's all pray that wiser heads prevail in these current events. I believe the world would suffer if the balloon goes up.

    Hoping for the best
    Kevin

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Kevin. The region got through today, so that's one potential disaster negotiated! Long may it continue :)

      Cheers,
      Aaron

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  7. Thanks for your thoughts and for sharing your own experiences, gentlemen. Much appreciated. I think I was unfair in writing this post. The wargamers I know in person and those whose blogs I frequent are sensitive to these kinds of issues, and I should not have presented a minority viewpoint and attitude as being more dominant thank it probably is. In, fact, I think I may have projected my occasional tentativeness around the 'ethical basis' (apologies for sounding absurdly grandiose, but I think you probably know what I mean) of my own wargaming onto others, which is doubly unfair. Thank you for being understanding and thoughtful in your responses.

    Best wishes to you all,
    Aaron

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  8. Wargamers, like citizens, come from all viewpoints and political backgrounds. I personally find the present US saber rattling both disquieting and unwise, considering he gravity of the potential consequences in both the long and the short term. My own personal cut off for wargames is circa 1900, and my collection is chiefly pre 1816!

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