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