Thinking about my previous off-the-cuff "rant" I realize that what drove it is something that has preoccupied me for a long time. As a cultural and military historian by profession, I am conscious about the role that popular representations of warfare in the culture play in "militarizing" society. A book like Chris Hedges War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning or Joanna Bourke's various books on violence should give us pause when we push around our models. I know that we are normalizing warfare. This is why I think it is important that we really consider what we are simulating and why and that our "games" should be somehow scholarly and taken somewhat (and I am very guarded here) seriously.
I know that this is raining on the parade. I love this hobby and the people I share it with. My friendships of 40+ years built around a table filled with toy soldiers are important to me. They are thoughtful people of high moral standards. I also think that they are aware of the moral problem of the hobby. But when that miniature unit of soldiers flees, the hoots of victory obscure what that is simulating.
Recently I read a book about war representation in modern culture by Philip Beidler aptly titled Beautiful War: Studies in a Dreadful Fascination (2016). In a chapter on ACW re-enactors and the making of the film Gettysburg, this US army veteran-scholar expressed his disdain at those who play at war and make it "beautiful" while expunging from their re-creation any of the horror of war.
Now, I know many former military personnel that play war-games. I also know that some scholars see worth in the pursuit (Phil Sabin most notably -- many others keep it quiet and most military historians are professionally disdainful of it). I suppose I hold onto the worth of the hobby for its many social, scholarly and entertaining attributes. I also know that, as the conservative historian Martin van Creveld has asserted, war is a deeply engrained part of human activity. It seems to be something that we do. So examining it, in its many forms, is important. But I would be lying if I didn't struggle with the issues noted above, while taking the game seriously enough (but not too seriously to over-blow its worth) to respect what is being represented.
I would love to read what others think......