I was at a non-wargaming event at the weekend which had a goodly number of wargamers present, together with their partners and other non-wargamers.
Someone’s partner set the challenge early on – she didn’t want to be on a table with other wargamers, or if forced to be so expressed the view that conversation should not be allowed to have wargaming as a starting point, or even touch upon it at any point at all. The basis for this, I think, is variously because wargaming isn’t a subject that is encompassing for non-wargamers, or that it is just plain boring.
I think it is possible to take issue with both of these points, but must also concede that there may be merit in the view as well. Men, in particular, can have obsessive hobbies and find it difficult to understand why other people are not equally fascinated by them. I sat next to a competition angler for two years on a project once and they can be every bit as obsessive as wargamers if not more so. As for motor sport fans……
But wargaming does attract obsessive personalities and even tho’ we think we aren’t like that we all have a bit of the rivet counter about us. This might not be actually the counting of rivets or an obsession with hardware specifications but the obsessive way wargamers try to track down every single piece of available information on a subject can border on the unhealthy. The consequent repeating back of that information to someone who is only mildly interested and without any particular context is one of the toe curlingly awful parts of being cornered at a wargaming show. You only have to look at the eye-glazed-over expression on the face of some retailers as a portly t-shirt wearing moves from being a sales prospect to trade stall blocking immovable object explaining why the figures aren’t quite right or recounting some other mind-numbing anecdote.
I think that it is pretty much a universal truth that accounts of games people have played where the minutiae of moves and tactics are explained in mind-numbing detail are of very little interest apart from to the raconteur. With the honourable exception of that game of “Londinium’s Burning” that I took part in with Phil Barker, - that’s a really good story that bears repeating over and over again as it shows me in a really, really good light. Honest it does.
So what passes for interesting conversation amongst normal folk? Based upon my experience as an office dweller of nearly 30 years’ standing it would seems to be Big Brother, Downton Abbey (or equivalent), shoes and hair styles. And if you have blokes in your department football. And more football.
For people who haven’t met for a while it starts with holidays (guilty as charged, your honour), cars, how your children are getting on and as years advance how you are coping with your parents, the divorce and so on. And then what?
This is the point at which mutually shared hobby conversation can be held off no more. With wargamers conversation can go one of at least two ways. Talking about rules sets and figures is certainly boring to anyone who does not use or have an interest in precisely those items even if you are a wargamer, so wives and partners almost certainly have a point there. But once you start to talk about the historical background, that’s a different matter. So much of our world is a consequence of our past. How can you talk about what is happening in the Arab world without understanding its past, particularly its violent past, - not just the Crusades as well. The Mahdi and the Suez Canal have a lot to answer for. Many wargamers are better informed about our history than the people sharing your railway carriage, regardless of the colour of the newspaper they are reading. They just don’t realise it, or think that a colour of a cockade is more interesting than the reasons for the war it was worn in or its consequences. Thus we have the conundrum that wargamers could be interesting to non-wargamers if only they understood people a bit better.
What a funny bunch we are.