This will not be a popular topic, but it is a serious one. While in my previous columns I have provided numerous examples of why Wargaming is awesome and great, today I’m talking about one of the darker sides of it.
You get interested in it. You try it out a few times with a friend. You buy a few startup materials. You spend some time learning the ropes, figuring out the rules. You like it more. You start learning tricks, imagining scenarios and lists and potentials; you get excited to try out something you thought up. You like it more. You start buying a few more materials, you really dig into the nuance and develop a personal attachment to the pieces and the places you go with them. People know your name, you’re a part of the local scene. You look ahead, consider organizing an event of your own and moving up in the world…
The paragraph above could’ve described a drug addict just as easily as a Wargamer. Any activity you sink yourself in for hours and hours has the potential for unhealthy behaviors, including some as serious an addiction as drugs or alcohol to addiction-prone personalities. With the holidays season upon us, I hope everyone reading this is getting some time with their loved ones and families.
When I was a part of the competitive scene, in and out of shops, I never believed I could be addicted; was not even on my radar. I was. I was young, single, didn’t think I had better things to do with my time and money—it was just fun and there were a lot of benefits, right? My personal relationships suffered. I stopped seeing my family as much, stopped initiating contact and remembering my mom and dad. I spent my breaks and downtime at work and between classes running numbers, trying to find interesting edge cases where I could benefit from the nuance of rules. I wrote army lists and read my rulebook over and over. I’d never been an addict, I did not know.
And I was not the only one out there. I looked around and saw others like me. That meant it was ok, right? Reasonable and normal?
I have an addiction-prone personality. Not everyone does. This article isn’t an attempt to get you to second-guess your own stability, make you afraid of Wargaming or gaming in general; most of the people who are at risk are like me and have a predilection for this kind of unhealthy bond. If this fits you, talk to people outside the game a bit: Calm down and understand this is just a game. It is all make-believe. Wonderful, useful, fun, entertaining, and wholesome make-believe with lots of opportunity to involve others and teach and learn and experiment and test yourself. Make-believe. It isn’t real.
I have written a lot about how you can use Wargames to benefit kids and relationships, sharpen people’s wits, and am solidly pro-Wargame here, but if I could start letting a good thing go bad so could someone else. I haven’t seen Wargames tear a family apart like methamphetamine has, but they have caused problems. I haven’t seen someone die from too much Wargaming, but I have seen relationships die. These things are powerful, they are great, and they can overpower and trap people sometimes.
In my case I suppose I was lucky; I didn’t do much damage and what I did was repaired easily and is now water under the bridge. I saw the problem with a little reflection and got my habits adjusted…in time. Still though, I have to wonder about those years. Did I miss out on making a great lifelong friend because I was too eager to leave in order to finish the conversation at an inviting pace, or too preoccupied with some imagining to introduce myself to a new mentor or someone who was struggling; was I too out-of-touch to be attractive to a nice spouse?
Look around you for a moment, even a small moment, and you can see the world is a real and beautiful. Make-believe is delightful, but as you game and play at your local clubs try to keep an eye out for the good of the people around you. Build community: ask people how they’re doing, learn their names and a little about them. A little bit goes a long way, and helping even one person live a better life is a worthwhile investment of your time. So many modern social issues that we face in this age is from disconnecting cause and effect and disconnecting people from one another, or meaning from action; this makes fighting things like depression, addiction, weak families, you name it a lot easier than it appears–promote strength and health in those around you.
If you like this hobby, if you want to abolish the shader, ickier, more juvenile side of its reputation, act. Small steps across the board add up. Make-believe always attracts people who need a little shelter from their lives or their issues, so you will run into someone like the man I used to be; engage with them, change one life at a time. People like me probably won’t ever ask for help, even after we understand that we might need it.
The best gamers are yet to be made. Ancora Imparo everyone, and have a merry Christmas!