Gamer Guilt.

Kitcar

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As we gamers/collectors work on our army men and ruined urban terrain, none of which is cheap to come by, how many of us put aside the feelings of horror in this modern age and assess how our gaming terrain compares.... I did. It sucks, really sucks. Using photos of Dresden seems...novicelike now for those of us who do/can not remember.

I started around 95 I think and was put off by the skulls. I consoled myself to the most popular model line by telling myself "may all that play wargames never forget what a wall of martyrs really is through viewing those skulls..." It is too true.

I will not stop my collecting/gaming, but I know it is a reminder of a bad road to travel and hope that he who manages my collection upon my passing notes this dismal portrayal of a fate.

Games, not war.
 

ClockworkOrange

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Totally agree with the sentiment.

I don’t think it’s just our medium though, there’s not many computer games (maybe sports titles 🤷‍♂️) that don’t glorify sex and violence, same for a lot of TV/Streaming, kids toys and media in general.

In fact our hobby is very tame in comparison, GW kinda aims itself at early teens and up so there’s not too many sex references or acts of actual violence. The 40k setting is bleak yes, but it was originally written in the politically charged 80’s UK as Sci Fi Fantasy satire mash up that includes the author’s perceived views of authority. It has all just became a little too serious as the fluff has been developed.

Wargaming also encourages reading, rules learning, art/craft skills and socialising. It’s a game, do chess or drafts glorify war? It’s more abstract yes, but they both still represent the same thing.

Games, not war indeed.
 

Biggle_Bear

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I usually go off my gut instinct. I don't think of board games as being violent although that is what is being depicted. For example chess. Do you imagine the violence going on? No, I don't think anyone does. But then my conscience is triggered by some of the chaos models, but only to the degree that I wouldn't get them for myself.

For me, too far is when a form of media causes me to think often or daydream about doing bad things. When I get to that stage, I try to cut out that media from my life. Board games are so far removed from the reality being depicted that I personally don't go that far.
 

Stoof

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I think of it this way - the kids who lived through the urban destruction of the Blitz went on to found the wargaming hobby. They bought their kids soldiers, tanks and warplanes as toys despite the memory of their relatives being off in some far flung land killing or being killed. The tribe has more than a few members who have fought in wars over the years, and wargaming has even been used as a form of therapy for suffering soldiers. The people who have been directly affected by the harsh brutality of war manage to not feel bad about some plastic skulls.

It's the whole fantasy =/= reality thing that often comes up when people claim that violent computer games make people violent. They don't, just as playing a game of Necromunda is unlikely to lead someone to become a brutal gang leader.

If anything the hobby is positive - there's no harm in learning some tactics, and there's great advantage in learning to read and interpret rules. You socialise with the people you play with and against and you enjoy time together (generally speaking - it's possible to have a crappy time wargaming!)
 

cainex1

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First thing, guilt is a bag of bricks. Just lay it down.
Second, escapism is wonderful and necessary. Call of Duty isn't my thing but I understand the appeal of competitive shooters and it is a great way to blow off some steam (but I hear you can't blow off all your steam in chat or you get banned 😹)
Roleplaying and games set outside your own experience and moral values are both fun and a learning experience, always worth it.
 

NoOneII.

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To me personally it's a matter of abstraction.
Green Goblins stabbing mushroom-spears into golden Elves: Sure!
A fantasy barbarian with a magical axe smashing a chest, cracking rib by rib? (See "Druss" by David Gemmell) Gimme!
A cyberized Cop-Judge kicking in a door and summarily executing the room for having a smoke? Yeah!
Group of viking Warriors plundering a Farmstead? Yeah.
Herbert Müller of the 2te Kompanie blown out of the SKFZ 251/f (serial number 457815478) by a grenade.... that's where it gets a bit too close to actual recent history for my personal tastes. Unless, of course, Herbert Müller happens to be a genetically engineerd Nazi Werwolf. Then go ahead and blow him up.
I personally would not touch modern, realistic wargames.

That is however, and I am aware, a completely arbitrary line that *I* happen to draw there, and I won't blame anyone for having different lines in different places.

I lately researched barbwire images from WW1 for a copper etching in art university. I am fine with using the motif for the projects, but I don't think I would enjoy rolling dice to see how many of Sergeant Jack's Boys of the 3rd can make it through.
 

spafe

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Herbert Müller of the 2te Kompanie blown out of the SKFZ 251/f (serial number 457815478) by a grenade
As long as Heer Herbert Muller was a fictional subaltern you have created, I have no problem with throwing grenades at him. If you (the theorical you) have named all your soldiers after the actual historical records... nah, too much.

Generic Sgt. Miller of the hypothectical armoured 3rd platoon 'the dingos' from (actual) 8th army in north africa, I'm good with. Because its the same level of 'close enough' that call of duty has with 'naming' the npcs in its single player campaigns. Its taking the setting rather than the actual people.

Likewise I could happily play a vietnam era game. Modern day stuff, like Iraq war or similar, nah, too much, although to be fair, I've not seen any so not sure if seeing it done well would sway me (as long as its still the theorectical situations rather than actual named participants).
 

ClockworkOrange

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Hmmm I’ve not seen much in Wargaming that would bother me morally, it’s a game tbh if you want to call your little man after a real person go for it, it’s still not real.

That said did you see the travesty from AK where they tried to make a line of paints etc based on the holocaust! That was over the line for me. I won’t link to it but it’s easy enough to find on google.
 
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daveh

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i decided years ago that i would not play historical games where people who lived through them are still alive.
on the other hand several of my club members were serving soldiers and have not been concerned about modern wargames.
 

Punktaku

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Keep in mind the famous words of another pacifist: “Socks aren’t vegetables, man. They need to be wiped out!”
 

Pacific

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I definitely think it is different for each of us. A friend of mine won't get into Bolt Action; he has a very vivid imagination, has read a lot on WW2 and just says he isn't comfortable playing it. But, that's up to him.
Funnily enough I am fine with WW2 but not so much WW1. I spent so much time reading books about that period, the war poet material and things like that, it just conjures too much of a picture in my minds eye of those horrors. I appreciate that people might find that a bit weird!

But I think most are fine with fantastical settings or even those that blur the lines a bit (A Song of Ice and Fire for example, if you narrow your eyes a bit and ignore the occasional fantasy creature, could easily be the Hundred Years War or War of the Roses, in both the political and tactical aspects of the game).

I have to admit I have backed down off WW3 gaming recently (NorthAG/Team Yankee). A Hind coming in and machine gunning some infantry was just a little too close to home for me, for obvious reasons this time last year I would have been fine with it. I actually have too many projects anyway and am slimming down, so am in the process of selling my stuff from that era - with the proceeds going to UNICEF or some other humanitarian charity.
 
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Kitcar

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I definitely think it is different for each of us. A friend of mine won't get into Bolt Action; he has a very vivid imagination, has read a lot on WW2 and just says he isn't comfortable playing it. But, that's up to him.
Funnily enough I am fine with WW2 but not so much WW1. I spent so much time reading books about that period, the war poet material and things like that, it just conjures too much of a picture in my minds eye of those horrors. I appreciate that people might find that a bit weird!

But I think most are fine with fantastical settings or even those that blur the lines a bit (A Song of Ice and Fire for example, if you narrow your eyes a bit and ignore the occasional fantasy creature, could easily be the Hundred Years War or War of the Roses, in both the political and tactical aspects of the game).

I have to admit I have backed down off WW3 gaming recently (NorthAG/Team Yankee). A Hind coming in and machine gunning some infantry was just a little too close to home for me, for obvious reasons this time last year I would have been fine with it. I actually have too many projects anyway and am slimming down, so am in the process of selling my stuff from that era - with the proceeds going to UNICEF or some other humanitarian charity.
Considering the stolid and solid support the UK is providing, reinvesting in british models might count....
 

Galtarr

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No, nope, not a bit.

Have been having a similar conversation lately after trying to introduce "This War of Mine" boardgame to some family members. People who prefer historical fiction over sci-fi/fantasy, both in novels and film yet dislike the same thing in games as they argued it's wrong to play such a game for pleasure. Similar entertainment in books and movies seemed ok however.

I take no pleasure in tales in individual suffering yet having just taken my kids round Anne Frank's house in Amsterdam I'd also add avoiding subject of war or suffering benefits no-one. Both have been a reality of human existence since dawn of time and should be part of our kids education, our language and art, stories etc... Can you have fun whilst learning? Certainly. Can activities be both fun and poignant - why not. Just because we choose a setting doesn't necessarily mean it glorifies it etc.. some of the best stories come from horrific settings.

We shouldn't need scenes from Ukraine to know the realities of war. Our literature and art should remind us of it and I see no difference between playing a tabletop wargame and watching 'Saving Private Ryan' as a movie.

My tuppence worth anyway. Though yes I also play some like Warcry as pure escapism. I guess my point is I don't see why tabletop games should be judged by a different standard to literature, movies or art. I don't see War being banned from any of those anytime soon, or even the suggestion of guilt for watching a war movie or reading a book in such a setting.
 

daveh

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i think some modern warfare rule books are going to be re writen down grading Russian forces quality after the hapily poor showing in the ukraine
 

Gunkaiser

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Well I know Khurasan Miniatures is releasing a modern Russia range very much informed by what we've seen (and has implied that he already knew the reality).
 
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Outside of strict German laws that dictate that hobbyists must cover up any symbolism associated with the Third Reich featured on their scale model miniatures in public (even historically accurate ones), I find "gamer guilt" to be a bit of an odd topic. Yes, there's always going to be an emotional investment (even to a visceral degree) inherent to the work in question - be it on the part of the creator, the commissioner, or the audience - but being able to differentiate between an abstract retelling of an event and the event itself is and always has been a matter of course in war games, be they live-action, tabletop or digital; role-play or strategy.

Let's also not forget that war gaming is as much part of military planning as it is for recreation, and as such can be likened to a mental martial art in the literal sense of the term.

As a serving military member myself, I'd honestly say that war games, up to and including military excercises and historical re-enactments, provide a uniquely constructive means of testing the mettle of individuals or groups in the battle space without the death, destruction and suffering that the actual thing they're based on is known for. As far as I'm concerned, that is not in itself something to be shameful or guilt-ridden about, unlike what some talking heads in the media like to think.
 
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Malevolent Pink Cat

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I find the squeamishness in some of the posts above a bit perplexing.

Firstly, because so much media focuses on war (often with great realism - and how many times do you see "based on a true story" flash across your screen?), I struggle to feel squeamish about playing WW2 games, or watching WW2 films (and isn't refusing to watch these the logical conclusion of a refusal to play wargames for moral reasons?), and tabletop games are several stages more abstract or remote than either of these. Much of the media in this area has a story to tell, or a point to make, and I don't really see bolt action, for example, any different - I suspect there are very few people who went into bolt action that didn't learn at least a little bit more about ww2 as a result, and as long as the material deals with the war sensitively (which by and large I think it does), I can't really see a problem with it.

In that context, it's also worth remembering that the first WW2 films were released... in WW2 (no doubt partly for propaganda purposes, but still - convoy, which I think is on UK Netflix at the moment, was made in 1940, for example), and veterans often appeared in war films after the war as well. If the people that fought in the war had no problem with media portraying the war (and indeed in appearing in those portrayals), I'm not really sure why I should have an issue with it.

Looking more towards wargaming (or at least model making) it's interesting to see as well that model companies, like airfix (for example) began to take off making ww2 era models about 10 years after the end of ww2, so very much in living memory of the war.

Second, I understand that wargaming was used in ww2 to problemsolve. There's an interesting YouTube video by lindybeige on how abstracting the battle of the Atlantic into a wargame helped Britain develop tactics to tackle the U-boat threat. Wargames are essentially an abstraction of war, whichever skin you put on your particular wargame, and a way to develop strategic thinking, relevant not just to war but all sorts of other situations as well - more well-thought-through strategic decisions ought never to be a bad thing, in any walk of life.

Additionally, to return to another idea from this thread, I also wouldnt see adding names, real or fictional, to your models, as a step too far. If anything, it helps focus the mind on the fact the models in a wargame are, ultimately, abstractions of people - and for me, seeing a squad made up of models I've spent a few minutes assigning names to get blown to shreds by a single HE shell is a reminder of the terrible human cost of war.

Two completely different examples of this:

I) I watched a YouTube bolt action batrep the other day, in which one of the players had named his sniper character after himself - i struggle to believe that the fact that his sniper later got removed by an HE shell didn't resonate with him at least on some emotional level.

II) George MacDonald Fraser (author of the brilliant Flashman novels), in his excellent autobiographical account of his experiences of WW2 makes an interesting point about soldiers and civilians, in the context of the atomic bomb - that a civilian he talked to long after the war held soldiers' lives cheap, relative to those of civilians, since soldiers (by virtue of being soldiers) were 'meant' to fight by virtue of their jobs (ignoring that many of those fighting in ww2 were there due to conscription). As a result that civilian would have preferred to avoid dropping either atomic bomb, even if the end result was that the conventional war continued for another year or two, and (the key point here) even if doing so would in the end have cost far more in terms of lives (albeit, as the civilian saw it, soldiers' lives) than dropping the atomic bombs.

There are books to be written (and no doubt have been) on the relative moral and practical merits of dropping or not dropping an atomic bomb, but to the wider point, I'd suggest that viewing soldiers as a secondary, inferior class of being, who are consequentially more disposable than 'regular civilians' is at the very least problematic. Anything that reinforces the idea of soldiers as people must lead, at least incrementally, to a more humane outlook than one which does not - so I can absolutely see merit (and indeed benefit) in assigning names to individual models.

By contrast, I find people's revelry in the videos (and associated statistics) of destroyed units commonly found on news sites at the moment from the Ukraine war pretty disturbing, since ultimately, whichever side the individual soldiers are fighting for (and the relative merits of the two sides & motivations in fighting the war), those cheering on each tank or aircraft destroyed are essentially revelling in the death of the individuals piloting them who, by and large, had little choice as to the war they are fighting. The problem here is that people are forgetting the individuals, seeing only the destroyed armour and what it means in the context of the wider war - rather than what it means for thst individual and his family.
 
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cainex1

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I find the squeamishness in some of the posts above a bit perplexing.

Firstly, because so much media focuses on war (often with great realism - and how many times do you see "based on a true story" flash across your screen?), I struggle to feel squeamish about playing WW2 games, or watching WW2 films (and isn't refusing to watch these the logical conclusion of a refusal to play wargames for moral reasons?), and tabletop games are several stages more abstract or remote than either of these. Much of the media in this area has a story to tell, or a point to make, and I don't really see bolt action, for example, any different - I suspect there are very few people who went into bolt action that didn't learn at least a little bit more about ww2 as a result, and as long as the material deals with the war sensitively (which by and large I think it does), I can't really see a problem with it.

In that context, it's also worth remembering that the first WW2 films were released... in WW2 (no doubt partly for propaganda purposes, but still - convoy, which I think is on UK Netflix at the moment, was made in 1940, for example), and veterans often appeared in war films after the war as well. If the people that fought in the war had no problem with media portraying the war (and indeed in appearing in those portrayals), I'm not really sure why I should have an issue with it.

Looking more towards wargaming (or at least model making) it's interesting to see as well that model companies, like airfix (for example) began to take off making ww2 era models about 10 years after the end of ww2, so very much in living memory of the war.

Second, I understand that wargaming was used in ww2 to problemsolve. There's an interesting YouTube video by lindybeige on how abstracting the battle of the Atlantic into a wargame helped Britain develop tactics to tackle the U-boat threat. Wargames are essentially an abstraction of war, whichever skin you put on your particular wargame, and a way to develop strategic thinking, relevant not just to war but all sorts of other situations as well - more well-thought-through strategic decisions ought never to be a bad thing, in any walk of life.

Additionally, to return to another idea from this thread, I also wouldnt see adding names, real or fictional, to your models, as a step too far. If anything, it helps focus the mind on the fact the models in a wargame are, ultimately, abstractions of people - and for me, seeing a squad made up of models I've spent a few minutes assigning names to get blown to shreds by a single HE shell is a reminder of the terrible human cost of war.

Two completely different examples of this:

I) I watched a YouTube bolt action batrep the other day, in which one of the players had named his sniper character after himself - i struggle to believe that the fact that his sniper later got removed by an HE shell didn't resonate with him at least on some emotional level.

II) George MacDonald Fraser (author of the brilliant Flashman novels), in his excellent autobiographical account of his experiences of WW2 makes an interesting point about soldiers and civilians, in the context of the atomic bomb - that a civilian he talked to long after the war held soldiers' lives cheap, relative to those of civilians, since soldiers (by virtue of being soldiers) were 'meant' to fight by virtue of their jobs (ignoring that many of those fighting in ww2 were there due to conscription). As a result that civilian would have preferred to avoid dropping either atomic bomb, even if the end result was that the conventional war continued for another year or two, and (the key point here) even if doing so would in the end have cost far more in terms of lives (albeit, as the civilian saw it, soldiers' lives) than dropping the atomic bombs.

There are books to be written (and no doubt have been) on the relative moral and practical merits of dropping or not dropping an atomic bomb, but to the wider point, I'd suggest that viewing soldiers as a secondary, inferior class of being, who are consequentially more disposable than 'regular civilians' is at the very least problematic. Anything that reinforces the idea of soldiers as people must lead, at least incrementally, to a more humane outlook than one which does not - so I can absolutely see merit (and indeed benefit) in assigning names to individual models.

By contrast, I find people's revelry in the videos (and associated statistics) of destroyed units commonly found on news sites at the moment from the Ukraine war pretty disturbing, since ultimately, whichever side the individual soldiers are fighting for (and the relative merits of the two sides & motivations in fighting the war), those cheering on each tank or aircraft destroyed are essentially revelling in the death of the individuals piloting them who, by and large, had little choice as to the war they are fighting. The problem here is that people are forgetting the individuals, seeing only the destroyed armour and what it means in the context of the wider war - rather than what it means for thst individual and his family.
Thoughtful and very well put. It's all people at the end of the day.
 

Tiny

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I see no moral dilemma whatsoever. It is an abstraction. It is not real life. It is human nature to abstract terrible things in order to better understand and cope with them. This is why dark humour, war movies and horror movies are so popular. Even more tepid movies such as Hunger Games are horrific if you think hard enough about them and treat them as if you're watching real life.

I play Bolt Action and would have no issue with anyone depicting actual people that fought in the war as characters in their forces. In fact, Warlord have rules and minis for many famous names such as Richard Winters, Erwin Rommel and David Sterling. I have armies for US, Germany and soon France and have no issues depicting them as per their historical counterparts, iconography and all. They're toy soldiers and I'm an adult who can tell the difference.

I would have no issues playing a game based on any historical period, whether its the Viking invasion of Britain, the Napoleonic Wars, the Gulf War, or even the current Russian invasion of Ukraine or an imaginary 3rd World War set in 2027. They are all abstractions and should be treated as such. As @Malevolent Pink Cat suggests above though, I find the current obsession of treating sides in an actual ongoing conflict as if they are some kind of football teams playing against each other far more distasteful.