In WI378, April 2019 we included an article in Wargames Illustrated in which regular contributor Pete Brown mused on the thorny issue of ‘taking offensive’ in our hobby. Incase you didn’t buy the magazine and see it (at which we take offence!) you will find the said article here.
In WI379, May 2019 we have published several responses to the article, and Pete’s replies.
We are continuing to receive responses and will keep publishing them here for you to read, nod in agreement with, shake you head in disagreement with, and generally (essentially!) be informed of other peoples opinions.
You can also post your comments below, but please keep it civil, and always avoid Godwins Law.
I have read Pete Brown’s article, and I would like to add my opinion into the mix.
I agree with Pete’s conclusions in regards to the female form. There is no place in the hobby to fetishise women. If you feel that you really need a female soldier bursting out of her pelisse then you are tragically sad, and perhaps shouldn’t be allowed out alone. Bikini clad barbarians are for prepubescent fantasy, not the gaming table. Portray your toy soldiers realistically and historically.
I also sympathise with some of Pete’s view in regards to vignettes. We should aim to demonstrate a historical, proportional and realistic representation. However the long and the short of it is that if it causes offence, then it is offensive. Would we believe that it is acceptable to show the Taliban beheading a hostage in a modern-day game? Is a hanging in an ECW game acceptable? I would suggest that it it’s proportional and historical and necessary, then yes. It still might cause offence however.
Yes perhaps some people find wargaming itself offensive, but that is something that can be discussed rationally, we just have to agree that not everyone will like it or understand it, and indeed some may be offended by it, but then, some people don’t like football or choral singing.
This is a robust hobby, which gives joy to many and can be played by all. It can bring generations together and can educate. If you want to portray your SS troops, then fine. It does nothing for me, but as long as it is not designed to shock or offend, then I’ll support your right to do so. As long as we consider if our game is acceptable to our audience, and is accurate and prortionate and we are open to educated discussion concerning it, then we can’t go far wrong.
Malcolm Dean writes:
Whatever anyone says or does someone somewhere will be “offended”. We live now in an age where these offended individuals have a greater say/media presence than the validity of their feelings merits. Minorities seem to have more power in our supposedly democratic countries than majorities. Whilst we give these people more airtime than their opinions matter it will seem that their opinions outweigh the opinions of the silenced majority.
I propose that we ignore the offended minority and let them live their lives and let the happy majority get on with their real lives.
Pete Brown has missed the point, almost completely. Most of the furore that has happened of late is because of things that did not need to be made or displayed. Most things have a place but that does not mean all things do.
There is one particular sculptor who makes decidedly dodgy figures (his latest offerings are all rape fantasies and there is no other interpretation of them) who when he has been called on them responds in the fully misogynist and hateful manner the sculpts would lead you to suspect they hold.
You have one of the most popular web forums where in the members forum there were widespread discussions about which schoolgirls the owner of said forum wanted to do sexual things to. When called out on it by some people those people were removed as members and the paedophilic discussions continued.
It is these kinds of things that people object to. Is it any wonder our hobby is mainly white, middle aged, straight men when these things are allowed? People who do not fit into those categories are not generally made to feel welcome at all. They often dip a toe in the hobby then run for the hills as they are abused, insulted, sexualised, harrassed and a multitude of other things. All while other people stand by and do nothing as it’s just “bantz”.
Brown’s assertion that we should all band together whether we agree or not is a terrible idea. If I do that it means I have to sit back and allow racist, sexist and other bigoted language pass by without challenge on pages I moderate. Those are views that I will not tolerate even though they often aren’t illegal. I stand up against the bigots, and always will, I will not sit back and stand with them as they are everything that is wrong with the hobby.And because I stand up for what I believe in, I have had multiple instances of direct abuse and threats.
Attitudes have changed over time, mainly because more people became less ignorant and tried to treat everyone a little better. These attitudes are not universal, you only have to look at the current racism in football stories to see how far we all still need to go. We did not get there by standing with those with offensive views, we got there by standing against them.
Nobody is advocating the airbrushing of history. Quite the opposite, what is wanted is a more open look at history especially the more controversial aspects of it. That being said is there any need for sexualised, naked forms in a wargame? That a modeller wants to depict a rape scene, or the like, in a wargame says much more about the modeller than anyone who complains it is in bad taste. Is there any need for rulesets to continue to pander to xenophobic stereotypes? Do we really need another set of sculpts that are based on tired racial stereotypes?
The sooner the hobby is moved away from the attitudes voiced in the Brown article the better. It will lead to a more open and inclusive hobby which will be more beneficial to everyone. The casual racism, open misogyny, homophobic and transphobic abuse, and the fetishisation of fascism prevalent in a vocal minority of gamers needs to be stamped out not supported.
Articles like this do you no favours. Publishing them gives them your seal of approval and far from getting people together simply alienate part of your audience. The article will appeal to the “alt right” types though, it is right up their street. If you are in any doubt the “alt right” is simply a different spelling of far right.
I, personally, will continue to oppose those who hold bigoted views wherever I come across them. This will likely lose me gaming friends but they will be no loss as I do not need those kinds of friends.
David Moores writes:
I fully agree with Pete Brown when he states that we cannot allow our hobby to be bullied by people who have no understanding of it. The periods we choose to game, the armies we field and the flags they fly are based on historical events, like it or not. However, I think we must be careful of the perception of our hobby, especially at public shows, or when introducing new gamers or young people to it.
I am a wargamer because I enjoy the plain good fun of ‘playing with toy soldiers’. I enjoy the challenge of trying to overcome ‘the enemy’ whilst coping with unit strengths and weaknesses, terrain, weather etc. As a historian, I am fully aware that warfare of any era could be brutal and nasty, often with horrific consequences for the soldiers and civilians involved. Indeed I think wargamers are more aware of this than most people. But my question is, why would anyone want to feature this degree of reality on the games table?
My games have no casualty figures, no distraught refugees, no naked female captives. And I refuse to believe that even in a fantasy world, female warriors would go into battle wearing little more than a furry bikini. I appreciate Pete’s point that vignettes can set the scene and add interest to a game. But for me, wargaming is just that – a game, not a history lesson. I do feature vignettes such as supply waggons, campfire scenes etc., but only when they play a role in the game. For example capturing the enemy’s camp can represent freeing an important prisoner, capturing much needed supplies, etc. I want to play games that are fun, and that present interesting tactical challenges. I do not want portray the actual suffering of human beings (or animals), no matter how historically accurate.
Of course we must resist any politicised attempts to ‘censor’ our games, by people who seem to enjoy being permanently offended by almost anything. But surely our emphasis should be on the ‘game’ in wargaming, not the ‘war’. When it comes to displaying females with unbelievable proportions or ridiculous clothes, or vignettes of pain and suffering that have no relevance to the tactical challenges of the game, my question is – why would we want to?
John Gunn writes:
I read Pete Brown’s article (issue 378) with interest. Certainly not much to disagree with – it’s our Hobby so anyone outside it who is offended can jog on (or perhaps ‘rifleman’s trot’ on?).
I would like to suggest we look more closely at ourselves in relation to the section Pete labelled as ‘The Female Form’. He quite rightly bigged-up (as I believe the kids say these days) Annie and Bad Squiddo Games for championing realistic female figures. There are others; ‘Otherworld’ I would suggest for those of a skirmish/roleplaying bent.
However, it isn’t enough to just celebrate and publicise those doing the right thing. We have to focus the questioning on those who are doing the ‘wrong’ thing. Misogyny in our Hobby not only puts off potential female hobbyists but could also be causing youngsters, who often rely on mum to pay for their figures, to be discouraged from participating. At the same time, anecdotally at least, we seem to have more and more female figure-painters. Do they embrace the naked female form in white-metal or try to ignore it? I hope they take Pete’s article as an opportunity to comment.
I doubt many of us had heard of ‘Kingdom Death’ before Pete gave them free advertising so let’s look at much bigger ‘culprits’.
At Salute the Hasslefree stand in the corner is, and always has been, wall-to-wall tits and ass. There must be a market for it otherwise they wouldn’t make it but there’s a market for hard drugs and we don’t encourage those. I wonder what the women working on the stand feel about their range. I used to buy a few of Colonel Bills ‘Belt-Fed’ range of scantily- or un-clad ‘historical’ figures. I stopped when I saw they had chosen to call the Soviet Sniper a name that phonetically reads as ‘On your back you bitch’. That’s totally unacceptable misogyny. I can only hope that it’s thoughtless on the manufacturers part but that is no excuse.
For reference, I am white, 46 and male. My politics are generally somewhat to the right of Genghis Khan. I do not have any daughters (or children at all) so if I can see that something is inappropriate then I’m fairly certain I cannot be the only one.
I’m off to paint more of my Salute swag (tastefully, of course).
Please don’t turn WI into Playboy!
I’m very disappointed that you printed an article like that of Pete Brown about political correctness. First of all, I’ve been a wargamer for most of my life (I’m in my mid-40s now) and I’ve yet to encounter bullying and harrassing of people who make sexist miniatures. I have, on the other side, encountered a lot of bullying an sexism against women in the hobby.
Secondly, fearmongering (“Political Correctness is ruining the hobby!”) and framing situations in an us-versus-them logic is an especially perfidious strategy and one that is often used by the so-called alt-right (e.g. in the field of video gaming). Denoting people that criticize sexist or racist representations as “outsiders” to the hobby denies them the status of participants – and as those critics are often women, because they are concerned, it reinforces their exclusion by denying them a legitimate voice. I can’t shake the suspicion that this is what it is all about.
The argument that it’s all “because of history” is another diversionary tactic. It’s strange that some people can’t give up figures of naked women “because of history” while, at the same time, they happily throw all historical plausibility over board by playing the likes of Cruel Seas, Bolt Action or SAGA. I have the suspicion that it is them for whom it’s not about the hobby but about a political agenda. They don’t respect history at all, they just want to hold on to their reactionary version of it. If it’s really about history for you, you’d rather do without sexist representations of women than a plausible representation of what wargaming is all about, namely combat.
Why can’t we just have a sober and calm discussion about the representation of violence, politics etc. in our hobby? Of course there will be different opinions. But immediately dismissing those by saying that certain people are ‘easily offended’ or ‘politically correct’ is intellectually lazy and signals nothing but an unwillingness to accept that there are other perspectives than ones own. Some time ago, I’ve collected my thoughts and made a more careful argument about this in a blog post, in case you are interested: https://wargamingraft.wordpress.com/2017/08/17/playing-with-history/
All the best,
And, not a direct response but along the same lines, Trinko writes:
There is absolutely no need for naked women to appear in WI. In fact they are bad for both WI and the hobby in general.
A big issue for the hobby is the need to recruit new members but if WI is going to contain pornography–while the painters of the nude examples in WI are much better than I am their works aren’t fine art–then a lot of parents won’t let their kids see the magazine. Further the idea that nude female miniatures might show up at conventions will make at least some dads hesitate about bringing their kids.
From the WI perspective these nudes don’t help either. With the availability of free porn no one is going to subscribe because of some nude miniatures but there are some, such as myself, who will unsubscribe rather than subsidize the exploitation and objectification of women.
I finally broke down and subscribed to WI even though the price is rather high but when on page 8 of the first issue I get I spotted a nude figure and then later on in an article about what might offend wargamers I find a full frontal female nude I immediately thought of cancelling my subscription; something I will do if this continues.
There are thousands of miniatures you don’t feature so skipping nude women won’t hurt your coverage of the hobby. Similarly while slave auctions are historical when the bullets start flying they don’t continue doing business as usual so there is no justification for having nude women as extras on the battlefield. Also if the author wanted to show a realistic slave auction he wouldn’t use a completely unrealistic figure; the woman would be ugly and scared not impossibly figured and standing proudly. In a hobby where people worry about what the top of Austrian Grenadiers shako’s looked like in 1809 it’s odd that the historical inaccuracy of nudes is acceptable.
Every nude figure sends the message that women are objects to be used not people to be loved. Frankly the sort of guy who would be enthused about nude miniatures needs to grow up; that’s something teenage boys would do not grown up men.
Given that the #MeToo movement is casting light on the sexual exploitation of women, and girls, pushing the Big Lie that women are sex objects is something that WI should not endorse.
Otherwise, by the way, I was very impressed by WI. I’ve been gaming since the 1960s and I once spent a day with Gary Gygax at his home in Lake Geneva talking about issues with the original D&D rules so I want to see the hobby thrive. A PG rated WI will help the hobby thrive but an X rated WI won’t.
God Bless and have a great Easter!