I thought I’d like to document a dramatic moment in my gaming life. One which opened up my gaming tastes considerably, and also one which made me appreciate the true power of gaming, not just for escapism to fantastical worlds, but for its ability to make me appreciate actual events in our history. Not just marvel from a distance, but to truly “touch history” by actually taking part in some of the decisions made.
I’ve been besotted with Fantasy worlds and the adventures that can be had in them for many, many years. Initially delving into the books like Fantastic Voyage, or Hitchhikers Guide, then into films like Star Wars, Hawk the Slayer, Beastmaster and The Dark Crystal. With the advent of early consoles and the Vic-20 personal computer, I was able to mooch in these worlds digitally.
I’ve always been knee deep in my own creations, exploring action, lore and backstory with my characters, their races and classes, their roles amongst their peers, in defeating the cloying darkness that suffocates these wondrous lands.
I’ve spent many a good hour in PC role playing games, from the early Everquest, through Neverwinter, and into the more modern MMO’s. My goal was always simple, to adopt a character, play it with conviction and enjoy the interactions and heroic deeds that befell them.
This was my nectar.
This was my escape from reality.
However, my early childhood was soaked with action of a different kind, war films. Zulu. The Alamo. Battle of Britain. A bridge too far. Where the Eagles Dare. The Dambusters. To name but a few. I suppose I’d always enjoyed the thrill of historical action at least in cinematic form.
I’d expanded my fantasy based repetoire to include real time strategy (RTS) games that allowed me to command not only heroes, but armies of elven archers, dwarven warriors and be able to march the Ents to war. So, it was of no surprise that I began to exercise my RTS gaming towards World War II and the likes of Blitzkrieg or Company of Heroes.
Suddenly I was starting to get a feel for action on a different scale. I liked it. My quest for another Fantasy based world, with more interesting ‘made up’ lore, began to look a little shallow. When there was a whole back catalogue of actual history and engagments and national conflicts to draw from, and then you can experience the events, and take part in it.
Almost overnight, I wanted to dip into wargaming. Proper, hard assed, grognard gaming. I wanted my thrills to come from actual history, actual people who were actual heroes. Not imagined ones.
My interest in these things were borne from my love of adventure and extraordinary deeds performed by fantasy based characters, but with reality and historical accuracy behind it, it seemed to add a whole level more of gravitas to the pursuit.
Wargaming seems daunting to newcomers. There is so much to learn, the games are so abstract and almost impenetrable. The strategy employed in heavy duty operational wargaming is way beyond your average RTS, in terms of command and control. But. They are not out of reach. They only need a small set of guidelines to follow, before you start to see the bigger picture, and then these rather small chits/counters begin to take on imagined life and platoons/brigades and companies start to have hardy men, and heroes leading them into all sorts of horrific battles undreamt of in most Fantasy novels.
Now I consider myself an enthusiastic wargamer, not hardcore, just interested in exploring history and people that have gone by. To appreciate the real “lore” that has actually happened to real people.
The above image shows the real Eugene Sledge, inset into the actor portraying him in the HBO series “The Pacific“. Eugene, or Sledgehammer as he was known fought in some of the worst battles in World War II, if you want to appreciate the horror of war I thoroughly recommend his book With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa.
“Sledge” is one of the real heroes in the historical gaming I like to dabble in nowadays.
This is now part of my nectar.
This is now my escapsim to reality.