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 gamers are, well, professional. They get paid for it. To many professional
gamers, it's just a job. For hobby gamers, it's an avocation and an unpaid one at that.
While there are many enthusiastic professional wargamers, all hobby wargamers are very
much into what they are doing.
- Professional gamers cannot freely talk about what they are doing. Most of the classified
wargaming work is severely restricted in terms of who can talk about it and where. Hobby
gamers speak freely about their games and this torrent of comment and criticism makes the
hobby oriented games much better for it.
- Professional gamers do not worship validation (being sure their games represent reality
as much as possible). Most hobby games are historical games which, in order to work, must
be capable of recreating the historical event they are based on. This ability to recreate
the historical event is also called validation. Hobby gamers take it as a given that if a
game cannot be validated it's not worth bothering with. Nearly all professional games are
on wars not yet fought, so validation in the classic sense becomes moot. However, there is
a tendency for professional gamers (or at least their masters) to make up their
"future history" as they go along.
- Professional gamers serve many masters, while hobby gamers serve only one (themselves).
Because professional gamers are getting paid for it, they have to be responsive to whoever
is paying them. Often this involves not just one boss but an array of officials. All of
these bosses want something from the professional games and often these demands are
- Professional and hobby wargamers have somewhat different backgrounds. Until the 1980s
most of the professional wargamers had a computer and/or Operations Research background.
Hobby gamers have a strong interest in history and technical subjects (science,
engineering, medicine, law, etc., including OR and computers).
- Professional and hobby gamers have different experience with games and simulations.
Hobby gamers nearly all have experience with general boardgames (especially chess, plus
classics like Monopoly, Risk, etc.) Naturally, the hobby gamers are familiar with
commercial manual wargames and, increasingly, commercial computer wargames. Hobby gamers
are rarely familiar with non-commercial ("professional") wargames and
professional wargamers are usually familiar with little else (except some of the general
- Programming experience is much more common among professional gamers, as most of their
games are still run on computers.
- Military experience is quite common among hobby gamers. The commercial games are more
accessible than the professional ones, there are no security issues to worry about and
this allows military people to openly address issues that concern them. Civilians with
military experience are also more prone to use commercial games. In a tradition that is
now over thirty years old, military people and civilians use the commercial games to
obtain a greater depth of knowledge on military affairs.
- Use of wargames. The major difference between hobby and professional wargamers is the
way they use the games. Hobbyists are interested in experiencing history, professionals
are more intent on doing heavy duty analysis (thus the predominance of computers) and,
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
Table of Contents
Chapter 9 Contents