Monday, October 24, 2016

Historical Gamer vs Generic Gamer Discussion


Yesterday I was involved in a rather interesting discussion at my local store about our little hobby. Some very interesting points were made and it got me thinking about this post I am writing now. The discussion started about how a certain UK based Historical company was not happy about how their sales were doing in the good old US of A. This seems to be a discussion that has happened with many companies that are based outside of the US.

It would seem that Historical sales compared to Sci Fi and Fantasy sales are always low in the US. So I asked the group of friends I was talking with what their take on it was. Here is what I found out, which is not eye opening in any means, but rather interesting none the less.

One comment was that Historical gamers are the blame for the low sales and no new blood coming into the hobby. The comment was stated that most if not all Historical hobbyists are rather button or rivet counters and this just turns off new players all together. I would tend to agree to some point of this, but not wholeheartedly. Yes some historical gamers can be rather sticklers to history and yes most of us have run into rivet or button counters. But to use a broad brush and say that all of us are like that is not fair.

I look at myself as mostly a historical player, but my gaming roots are clearly in the generic Sci fi/fantasy realm. I have played many games, but in the last twenty plus years I have gradually drifted towards more historical games. Why? Well for one thing, I got tired of all the updates to a certain game system that always had units coming and going out of date with a new release of the rules. I also got to one point when I was playing said games and started to try to create more historical units in the fantasy/Sci Fi settings. It was sort of a natural migration of sorts for this because I have heard other Historical gamers do the same migration in their games.

Now, I do not play a tabletop simulation of my historical games (like some folks do) but I do tend to do some research on a particular army or unit I am working on. I am not fanatical about it, but I do like reading about what the units have done and where they fought. Am I a stickler for having the right colors on a model, yes I am, but that's because I am trying to re-create said uniform or said units. Do I shudder when I see a model painted in the wrong colors, sure I do, because to me its not historical. Now will I approach a total stranger and correct them on their painting or way they are playing with said units or models, No. But if I am asked what I think, I will tell you what I think about it and will inform you of what I would have done. More on this later.

Another statement that was made yesterday was that most US consumers are a "Want it Now" culture. I totally agree with this statement, hell as one guy said yesterday, we invented the fast food chain and most US consumers don't want to wait for anything. This may be the reason why games like X-Wing are so popular here in the states. All you need to do is buy up whichever ship you want, pop it out of the box and your all set to play! There is no building, painting just playing. I remember when a buddy and I were playing Halo ship battles for the first time in our local store. We just happened to be playing when there was an X-Wing tournament going on. All of our ships were assembled and painted and we had many X-Wing players stopping buy to look at the game. All of them were very interested in the game and they all pretty much asked if the ships come like they were painted? When we informed them no, all of them walked away and I don't think even one copy of the game was sold that day. Bottom line was all of them that asked wanted the instant quick out of the box ready to play game, they didn't want to wait and do anything for the game but just play it.

Perhaps this is why video games are such a huge success, all you need to do is put it in and play! There is no time needed in researching about the armies, assembling the armies or painting said armies, there is the instant satisfaction to just playing said game right out the gate. All the time you have with getting an army ready to play is wasted time that you could be playing the game. Heck it sometimes takes me years before a new army shows up on the tabletop, in that same time I could have played dozens of video games multiple times!

Another comment from yesterday is that the US population has no sense of its own history. Hell, we have a tendency to tear down our own history to make way for the future to quickly! Its funny, I lived in Los Angeles for a good part of my life and I was surrounded by historic sites, many of which I never knew about. It was right there in my own backyard, but I never knew about it. I think its fair to say that most Americans are like this. As a country, we are not as old as some so we tend to think that we do not have much of our own history here in this country. I mean look at the UK, there is history going back to beyond the Roman era and Viking era still standing today. Here in the states we want to tear historic sites down for the next strip mall or high priced condos! Perhaps this is why there is such a low segment of historical gamers here in the US. I know many of my historical gamer friends that play many other periods of other countries history, but only see the US for a few conflicts.

One point that was made yesterday is that our culture is more about scientific achievements and technology than history. That could be the reason why more futuristic games are more popular over historical games. If we as a US populace are always looking ahead, why would history be important? Maybe that's why there are more generic gamers in the States than Historical gamers. I am not sure of this but it does make sense to some part of my brain.

I mentioned that another reason Scifi/Fantasy games may be more popular over historical is because of our love of movies and the movie industry in general. I grew up with Star Wars and all of the other movies that followed, heck my own entry into SciFi gaming was thanks to the movie Aliens and my buddy handing me a copy of Space Hulk! The movie industry does tend to make it easier to get excited about a certain genera of games, but there are also a multitude of great historical movies out there. But I think most current movie goers are all about the big explosions and special effects over any sort of substance to a movie.

So with all of these possibilities it got me thinking about what sort of gamer am I? Am I truly a Historical gamer? Or am I a more Generic gamer? I do play many games but as of lately I do tend to lean more towards historical games. In fact out of the last 10 games I played, all but three were historical games. Am I a button counter historical gamer? I don't see myself as one, although one friend tends to think so. Would I ever play a non historical game, sure I will be playing a non historical game this coming weekend. Is one type of gamer better or worse than the other? I don't think so, I guess it only really matters on what you enjoy in the hobby, because after all, it is your hobby.

That's what I took from the conversation yesterday, its really your hobby, there is no right or wrong way to doing your hobby. Its totally your own and it really doesn't matter what everyone else thinks. Its about what makes you happy and what you gather your enjoyment from. So do what you like and who cares what others think. I am happy to say I am a Historic Gamer at times as well as a Generic Gamer other times.



Brian said...

Another factor I've always looked at is that because historical games are set firmly in history and not rooted in the background devised by the game/miniatures company, it is far harder to drive sales of historical miniatures. Once I've bought the core of my collection of WWII miniatures, then I can happily play many, many scenarios and switch rules virtually at will because a Sherman is a Sherman is a Sherman. Now there is nothing that prevents sci-fi/fantasy gamers from doing the same thing, but the majority of them don't. Historical gamers tend to make large purchases only when starting a new project whereas the tournament driven nature of some sci-fi / fantasy games drives repeated large purchases as those players decide to start a fresh campaign season with a new army. FOW latched onto this model and used it to drive several years of sales and expansion.

Tim Kulinski said...

Brian, that is a very good point, I too have done the very same thing you mentioned. My current WW2 figures were purchased for Arc of Fire when those came out years ago. I have used the same collection for various rule sets that have come and gone. With fantasy and Scifi games you don't see that very often. Of course Mantic has done this for Kings of War now.

I think another point is that non historical gamers like to be told what there backstory is. They really don't do any research into what makes their army except from what the company tells them. Now there are those gamers out there that do create their own back stories, but for the most part the non historical gamers want to be told what their back story is.

I have a buddy that was big into 40k, he knew everything and had every book, he was a subject expert with the game. When Bolt Action came out, we tried to get him into it, but because he couldn't know everything about the period he choose to not play. He said it was too much information to try to become an expert at. So there are some gamers that do not want to do any sort of research on historical periods and would rather be spoon fed their background.

Not slamming them, just noticing the differences between Historical vs Non Historical gamers.

Robert Brightwell said...

As an American historical gamer much of my frustration comes from the cultural bias of the vast majority of miniature wargames companies. Most of these companies are either UK based or have very strong cultural ties to the UK. There is a general disdain for anything American or non-british. The fact that Black Powder has yet to release a book for the Napoleonic era for continental forces is a good example of this. In fact, other than the recent ACW book, all the Black Powder books have had a British connection or focus.

Don't get me wrong, I know there is really nor too much US history that translates into interesting wargaming material. The world wars, AWI and ACW are about it and WWI is really kind of a dead period in general. It would be nice to see some serious attempt for these companies to cover conflicts that did not involve the British. Eurpoean wars post Napoleon are a super niche periods that would make for some cool games but alas no British so no love. But if you want to do the Crimean War there are dozens of options.

Even popular periods, like WW2, suffer from the smothering cultural bias of the British. Naturally, there is ample coverage for Russian and US forces for WWII in all scales. The Germans are, naturally, well covered with models. But their seems to be very few items in the British arsenal that do not have models and most actually have several different models available. The fact that it is so easy to find game info on Chindits, as well as several different models lines to support them is an example of this.

Look, miniature is a British hobby plain and simple. There are hobbyists in other countries around the world to be sure but it is really their hobby. And if you are not into British history you have your work cut out for you.

Tom O said...

All excellent points. Going back to the comment about the company being disappointed in the US sales that started your discussion, I have to wonder what the company was basing their projections on. Just because they produce something, doesn't mean that it will sell...especially when there are other options available. Furthermore, if they based their US projections on UK demographics and geography they are way off base. You can go to a big UK convention on a monthly basis, and the US the conventions are fewer and farther between. Many UK clubs put on large games where all members contribute...things like this can drive sales...with fewer, smaller conventions in the US, sales don't get pushed as much. There are a lot of variables to the entire equation, but ultimately in my opinion it comes down to doing what makes you happy. In my case that means being primarily a historical gamer that dabbles in some fantasy h scifi gaming on occasion.

Tom O said...
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John@Plastic.Legions said...

I have to assume you speaking about Warlord, and I am surprised. at least here in the mid west, Bolt Action has blown up like crazy taking in alot of former WFB and 40K players. While its probably true its just the game, and not that its "Historical" at least its a gateway...SAGA out here shares similar success. I do think think that , at least herem it seems the success is based around the popularity of tournament systems bringing players more so than "X" game. Old guys in basement are a dying breed for sure and I am not sure throwing darts at "X" Sci Fi or fantasy game hoping for hit is an answer either..In the end the I believe success is based on either an insane popular IP (i.e. Star Wars, 40K, etc) or a good set of rules..the latter seemingly what brings TT players together the system being secondary.. and Happy Belated BDay Tim, missed it on Facebook.

Tim Kulinski said...

@ John,

Yes I am speaking about Warlord and as always, they have a UK biased opinion of how sales should do. What most don't understand in the UK is just how big the US is and just how small the miniature market is in the states. I just think that they do not understand the market over here. Thanks for the Belated Bday man.

@ Robert,
You are spot on with that my friend, I would say everything is cultural biased towards the UK history. And last nights discussion about having cool plastic models for Plains Wars and a supplement would be awesome. I wonder if someone is working on that for Black Powder???

@ Tom,

I think that's what they are doing, looking at UK figures and trying to shoe horn US sales into that.