Opinion: An Open Letter to Grognards

Hey Grognards, it’s me, Jack. You know me from the sort-of hit podcast, Let’s Talk About Wargames. Listen, you have many things to offer the community and we wouldn’t really be here without you sustaining and building the hobby for so long, but we need to have a conversation about keeping up with the ever-changing world of digital gaming.

The other day, I wanted to play a game from a grognard dev that I purchased early last year. I booted it up, and the game launcher demanded that I enter in a serial code and activation number. I checked my email, nothing. After some time googling, it turns out that I needed to email the developer my transaction information so they could manually send me this information. It’s 2021. Please automate this. It took me two days to get this information, and I guarantee the man at the other end of the interaction did not want to be emailing me a game code at 7 AM on a Saturday.

Another story about another game. I mentioned this in a review, but I’ll share this story again. I was playing the tutorial for a grognard game series I hadn’t touched before, but noticed when I launched the tutorial, there was no information appearing to tell me how to play the game. This was because the game expected me to follow along with the attached PDF manual as I played the tutorial, constantly alt-tabbing in and out of the fullscreen-locked game. There also was a stunning lack of tool-tips to explain any of the information I saw on-screen. I ask, please have in-depth in-game tutorials and tool-tips.

Not a story about a specific game this time, but grognard games in general. I have attempted on occasions to hunt down and purchase older or more niche games and found they’re hosted on sites probably built in 2000 with a difficult interface to traverse to actually get to the game in question. What’s more is that a lot of digital games will be priced quite high, even when they have been released for over 10 years. To offer a bit of marketing advice to any grognard devs out there, is that I myself have been put off of a few games between the site and the price, consider also opening up a Steam page or having sales so us poor huddled masses can partake in some groggy goodness as well.

I have more stories I could share, but the simple fact remains: I’m afraid new players are going to be put off the hobby by the now antiquated practices of grognard games, as there’s a high bar to entry, both in price and in knowledge. There’s a lot of relatively small QOL changes to implement to help new players and remind old players of how games function. If these issues are resolved I believe we could see a strengthening of the hobby in terms of a new playerbase. Our biggest fear in wargaming is that the hobby fully “grays out”, and we’d like to not see that happen, where we could have a new renassiance in wargaming, if we are but a little more approachable. Please, I ask, keep up with the times.

-Jack Trumbull

Calling All Underrepresented Wargamers!

Hey there, if you’re a wargamer who doesn’t fit into the typical white straight cis-male box, Joe and I from LTAW podcast would love to hear from you. Please drop us an email at letstalkaboutwargames@gmail.com, or hit us up on twitter (@jack_trumbull or @JoeFonsecaHist). We want to help make our community more inclusive, and hearing stories from underrepresented people is important. And when you do reach out, let us know if you’re okay with us sharing your name/story with our listeners.

If this doesn’t apply to you, plesae help us spread the word! We’d like to boost underrepresented voices in the community.

Thanks!

-Jack

Combat Mission’s Mission: Inclusivity

Back in September, the devs behind Combat Mission put out a request for diverse voice actors for their games, citing the Derby House Principles and a wish to make the soldiers in their new game reflective of the service members in the British military. The UK’s Ministry of Defense actually uses Combat Mission in an official capacity, and the addition of these voice actors is viewed as a way to further “promote diversity and drive change” in the industry. This is certainly a positive decision, there’s no way anyone could be upset about that!

…is what I’d say if there weren’t people upset about that. Wargamers mad that women, LGBT, and non-white people exist have been complaining that games that have shown almost exclusively white straight men in the past are “kowtowing to PC culture”. The UK Armed Forces Biannual Diversity Statistics survey for 2018 showed that over 10% of the military was female, and around 8% were non-white service members. This is certainly much whiter than the US military (which is only 57% white, and really should be even more diverse in games), but with numbers around 10% for both women and non-white service members, NOT seeing someone who isn’t a white man should be more striking than seeing someone who is in those groups. This is especially the case since all military positions are open to women in the UK, and the UK recruits from many of its former colonies, which are largely non-white. 

So really, the question boils down to this: why are people mad that video game characters look different from them? It’s an important question to ask, especially since the wargaming field itself is largely older, straight, white men. Many others who have shown interest in wargaming can be and have been turned off by a community that doesn’t represent them, and repeatedly has shown to be hostile to outsiders. It’s very easy to see when booting up a multiplayer wargame or visiting the subreddit for a wargame that bigotry in many different shades exists pervasively in the field. I don’t want to attempt the fool’s errand of appealing to bigots’ sense of decency, but i do want to point out that newcomers are the lifeblood of every hobby, and by letting wargaming become more diverse, we’re more likely to have new players, friends, and game developers from different walks of life join us in the hobby. Bigotry should have no place in our community, so big kudos to the people at Battlefront and Slitherine for spearheading this initiative.

– Jack

Do you know of other wargame studios promoting diversity and inclusivity? Let us know!