Chapter9.gif (961 bytes) Wargames at War

Differences Between Hobbyists and Professionals

Although hobby and professional gamers share many of the same techniques (and often the same games), there are some major differences between the two groups, differences that explain a lot of the differences in attitudes and accomplishments of the two groups. In short, these differences are;

Professional Connections

Gamers tend to be exceptionally well represented in a handful professions. This says a lot about the nature of wargames, wargamers and how the wargames work.

Programmers, or people comfortable with this uniquely 20th century exercise in logic and computer technology are well represented in wargaming circles. Many wargames now run on computers, but the ones that still attract programmers are the manual games. In these paper wargames the programmer can still tinker with the logic and procedure of the wargame. Most computer wargames do not allow such access.

Since the introduction of personal computers in the late 1970s, an increasing number of wargamers have gotten into programming in one form or another. All of these are relevant to wargames. The most common form of programming a lot of people are exposed to is personal computer spreadsheet programs (123, Excel, Quattro, etc). All of these programs feature a "macro language" which is, in effect, a form of computer programming language. Since most personal computers come equipped with the easy to use BASIC programming language, millions of computer users learned to use it. These millions of recreational and occasional programmers are added over a million professional programmers to create a ready market for game "simulations" of all kinds.

Military experience has had an influence on how hobbyists and professional wargamers approach their work. Increasingly, people without combat (or even military) experience work on wargames of all types. While much of the research needed to create a game required more scholarly training than time in the trenches, there was a certain insight required that could only be obtained from being in the ranks.

Designers of commercial games have the historical record, and if they lacked personal insight on how the military operates because they'd never been there, they could just work a little harder until they figured it all out. Professional wargamers have a different problem. Their games are on future wars and, as such, they have not got a historical gamers hindsight to keep them straight. The military tries to overcome these potential problems by getting the troops involved. Decades of officers playing commercial wargames has provided a pool of wargames savvy troops to put to work on the professional games.

Another problem unique to the professional gamer is whether the person involved is a buyer or seller of wargame material. Many professional wargames are still produced by civilian firms who in turn sell them to other civilian managers running military wargaming agencies. Often this is a case of the blind selling to the blind with neither end of the transaction having a firm grasp of the subject.

  Creating Wargames for the Troops

  Types of Wargames

  Table of Contents

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