As I mentioned in several of my previous articles, notably Complex Interactions and Roles and Rolls , Wargames are typically played and supported by educated and rigorous people. In this article, I wish to point out that this is far deeper in origin than a simply complicated hobby: This draw is inherent to wargaming, certainly, but Wargaming also has the effect of spurring its players on to education and intellectual expansion. Our treasure lies in having brains like honeybees* which benefit from the lives and activities we choose to live out.
In a recent article by the Chicago Tribune, they interviewed and observed members of the Historical Miniatures Gaming Society including Chicago Chapter President Steve Fratt. Professor Fratt is a Wargamer but more than that he recycles the benefits I’ve previously mentioned to gain a reversal of influence with the game, aimed particularly toward education. What better way to teach the same history—The Battle of the Alamo in 1836, Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo, or other countless battles which shaped the modern and ancient world—than to have it be shown instead of merely talked about? Going through school, I remember looking at the pictures in my history and social studies textbooks and wishing I could see more, understand more, grasp it with a sense more than the frigid activity of a mind running in circles on its own. Instead of dates running together, showing students the battle play-by-play can create understandings which go deeper than a rote memorization of dates and lists and names. Watching a battle play out as conducted by Alexander the Great can show you who that man was, and the times of the day. Technology can be discussed, innovations and social progress can be examined as they contributed to these fiery moments of conflict which so often are determined by so many factors and then go on to determine so much more. In Mr. Fratt’s words, “People say they don’t need to know history … but the benefit of history is to understand the human condition. You gain wisdom by understanding the past, not just memorizing facts,” and the good professor has exposed another valuable component of Wargaming, education through experience as pertains to the past, not a potential career in the military as Ender Wiggin!
The doer alone learns!* To watch the battle play out in the midst of a lectoral discussion, to see the fate of nations hang in the balance! How different from reading a few paragraphs and writing a few more foreign names and more four-digit year number combinations; what a way to learn history. I can’t give enough props to Professor Fratt and men like him who take their hobby and passion and use it for more than prescribed.
Wargames are no different from other hobbies. They are not merely an isolation, a way to while away the hours; they are an outlet for our productive and creative energies as humans and when we invest in them, they also pour themselves into us*. Much like a puzzle or a set of math problems, we benefit from the process of wargaming. Much like any other sport or competition, our character improves (or at least is revealed) with each game for our betterment. This hobby is a fantastic way to sharpen your mental acuity and increase the critical thinking and evaluative risk-taking parts of our brain.
That said, there is so much more potential for its use. Wargames are used in the professional military—why not apply it to history classes? There are surely more ways in which our hobby can be used for the reverse of our normal designs of playing and enjoyment. Our tokens and dice, metal and plastic figurines, our rulers and felt tabletops, these are but the premises whose thousand-year conclusion no on has yet dared to draw* and our minds sow pollen and pull in our choice of nectars* to sustain our inner lives. Wargames are perfectly fun and nothing new now—what can we motivate them to become in the future? How can we further our hobby and help it to continue growing and serving us in ever-better ways? The best things are yet to come, and we can sing a new song of a transformed world* with every step we take forward, even the simple joy of spreading our hobby and the admiration of our artwork, handiwork, or the quality of a game can carry us forward towards the possession* of even more. We have no need to close the open hand to protect the hobby we love*, no need to denigrate games which are not ours or the release of new rules and systems. I for one am most eager to see to it that the best is yet to come!
* – Butchered quotations of Friedrich Nietzsche. No, Nietzsche, for the last time I won’t apologize.