Category Archives: Gaming Politics

What 40k might look like today

After my last post, and a reader’s comment, I started to really think about what a contemporary equivalent of Warhammer 40,000 would look like. Let’s do an experiment.

Warhammer 40,000 Rogue Trader was successful at the time, (and became the behemoth it is today) for several reasons, I think. One, it took tropes everyone understood from contemporary and canonical fantasy fiction and science fiction and mashed them together with very little to no shame.

Two, it had a rebellious, punk sensibility. The Imperium of man is a dystopia from the political perspective of a democratic western citizen in the 1980s (the target market).

Three, it appealed to a certain desire to be the bad guy: if you played an Imperial force you were fighting for a cause that was, in political terms, more evil than the Eldar, or the Squats, or even the Orks. Well, the Orks are pretty evil I suppose if you consider war for it’s own sake as evil. Yes, Chaos was icky, but the way people had responded to Chaos was to create a society no modern person would want to live in or fight for. You got to be the racist fascists with cool uniforms, or the weird aliens, and it was all a big joke.

What would a modern equivalent look like? It would have to be politically bold, that’s for sure, and you know what? Hardly anything is now. If we take the dystopian element and put it into today’s context, perhaps the Imperium would be a society that was free and democratic on the surface, but underneath was run by an elite for profit. The soldiers of the human race believe that they are fighting for freedom, but really they are just wiping out aliens who refuse to be corrupted by our commercial products so that we can take their resources for our endless capitalist economy.*

The human’s technology would have to incorporate more modern original sci-fi, like the Matrix or Elysium for example. So probably a lot of cybernetics, cloning/body replacement, and AI-controlled troops. I’m thinking a bit like Infinity’s treatment of technology, actually. Oh and the Force. There’d have to be something mystical/telepathic to keep fantasy nuts interested.

What about the aliens and other factions? They would have to be recognised tropes. Something like the noble eco-aliens of Avatar. Something like the terrifying xenomorphs of the Alien franchise. And of course, zombies of some description, and space raiders like the Orks or the Reavers in Firefly. Oh, and maybe humans who don’t fit in and are fighting for their way of life, again like the Ariadna colonists in Infinity.

Just some quick thoughts. I’m not really addressing the aesthetics or the game mechanics of course, which I’m sure had some influence on Rogue Trader’s success. And most of all, I think it would have to be funny. You were meant to laugh at the Inquisition and commissars, not think that they were a grim but necessary evil.

What do people think of this?

*I’m not saying this is how it is in the real world, I’m saying that this is a modern rebellious political narrative on a par with the fascist “for your own good” Imperium of Man.

(Lack of) Creativity in the Games Industry

A little while ago GMort at the House of Paincakes blogged about the edition cycle of table top wargames.  This sent me spiralling off on a tangent in the comments section (as I am wont to do) about the lack of creativity in modern game design, and games design companies that are content to find new, easy ways to extend the life of their flagship games for years – or even decades – rather than, you know . . . do their job and design new games.

We all know that this is an issue in the video games industry, particularly the so-called ‘hardcore’ market where annualised franchises are the order of the day.  It’s also an issue where tabletop games are concerned.  The latter industry seems to reflect it’s younger sibling in this regard.

I was really, really pleased to read this piece today by Gabe Newell, managing director of Valve and my new hero.  It restores my faith that there are still actual creatives striving to actually create in the wasteland of sequels and undead husks that is modern gaming.

You know who is to blame though.  It’s us.  Every time one of us buys a game with a numeral after the name, or the latest edition of Warhammer, gaming gets a little bit more bland.

Discussion welcomed as always,

James

Cancon Without 40k?

There’s been an interesting development in the local Warhammer 40,000 tournament scene recently.  Apparently no-one is willing to organize the yearly event at Cancon in 2014.  This is possibly the largest Warhammer 40,000 event in Australia.  It certainly was until recently – I believe Mother of All Battles may have overtaken it in recent years.  At any rate there are easily over a hundred players normally, and it is the largest single event at Cancon, which is itself Australia’s largest traditional gaming event.

The fellow who ran it last year has not so gracefully bowed out, citing the excessive amount of bitching and rage he was subjected to before, during and after the event.  No-one else seems brave (or perhaps stupid) enough to step up at this stage.  The man who has run it for many years in the past is currently living overseas, and the Canberra Games Society is even reportedly considering flying him home to be the tournament organiser!  Cancon without standard 40k seems almost unimaginable.  To give international readers some context, it’s comparable to the organisers of 40k at Adepticon throwing up their hands and saying “you guys are jerks, we quit” . . . and then no-one volunteering to take their place.  It will be interesting to see what happens as the event looms closer.

So there’s some local gossip for you.  But what does it say in a wider context?  I’ve seen it claimed on the internet that the advent of 6th edition Warhammer 40,000 has driven away many competitive players, and that those who remain are mainly of the toxic variety; their egos can’t function without 40k tournament wins.  Naturally, this drives away casual tournament attendees, many of whom seem to be shifting to the growing Apocalypse scene in these parts.  At Wintercon this year there was a very successful Apocalypse event, and Good Games is starting to run them semi-regularly as team events so anyone with a 1500 point army can join in.  It feels as though hardly anyone can be bothered with standard competitive 40k any more, let alone willingly taking on the grief of organizing the events.

If that’s a fair assessment – and I’m not sure it is, I’m just reporting what I’ve heard – then I can finally understand the real anger that many competitive players felt over 6th edition.  The game was rendered unplayable for them, and that game is expensive, in time and money.  Not to mention that something they enjoyed had been arbitrarily taken away.  I admit I was a little uncaring when it happened, not being a competitive player myself, but now I really do feel that their anger might have been justified.

Interesting times continue for the Games Workshop gaming scene in Australia.  I can’t lie, I feel a little tingle of schadenfreude given that I no longer play or collect Games Workshop products.  Their decline is terrible for the many people who are Games Workshop hobbyists as opposed to simply hobbyists.  But it’s exciting too.  Will Australia be the first miniature gaming community to truly break free of Games Workshop’s stranglehold en masse?