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 Well for one thing, I got tired of all the updates to a certain game system that always had units coming and going out of date with a new release of the rules.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.