The discussion on bringing new blood into the wargaming hobby is gaining momentum over at OSW, and a recent remark by Andrew Copestake of Old Glory
"For me the biggest change in the hobby has been in the last 10 years or so as it slowly evolved from a toy soldier led hobby to a rulebook led 'gaming experince'. Oh brother" -- Andy OGUK
Aha, that's it!
Presumably, what has attracted so many of us to the wargaming hobby in the first place is the spectacle of model soldiers in their hundreds. It's about that first and foremost, followed by a love of history, an interest in creating, and so forth.
I've loved toy/model/miniature soldiers since I was about four or five (early 1970s). I was in an independently owned bookstore (remember those?) with my father one Saturday, picked up some book (wish I could remember title and author), paged through it, and was mesmerized by all of the black and white plates of some big dioramic layout of hundreds of model soldiers. When questioned, my dad explained it was the Battle of Waterloo in miniature.
A year or so later, about 1972, Alistair Cooke did a program called Alistair Cooke's
At any rate, maybe what we need are better "stories" than much of what passes for history as taught (or not) in schools currently, as suggested in an earlier post for this discussion thread. On a rather different note, Jim Purky suggested in a comment here yesterday that perhaps our recruiting efforts should be limited to those over 21. I think he might be onto something there. After all, younger people have more limited funds and too much else competing for their attention. . . and that's nothing new.
Let's be honest here. If we are talking about teen-aged guys, would you rather have stayed home on a Friday or Saturday evening to paint small lead figures? Or would you rather join your pals/girlfriend for several hours of (probably) unsupervised fun or otherwise illicit activity? Many of us would probably have chosen the latter. . . and often too. And yet here we are a number of years later, painting, collecting, gaming, and discussing the wargaming hobby like there's no tomorrow.
Remember too, that although there are apparently many of us who congregate here and at both OSW and The Miniatures Page, wargaming and playing with model soldiers has always been kind of an eccentric, niche interest. . . and I think historical interest falls here too. Neither are things that will ever appeal to, or even be understood by, the masses. Leave that to Michael Jackson and Britney Spears! For example, I have a grad school friend, "Swedish Allison", who weaves for her hobby and has a huge loom set up in one corner of her house. Now, it's highly impressive to watch her work, and she produces some interesting things, but it's not something I "get" or care to do myself.
As far as the move toward a rulebook led hobby goes, I guess what we have seen is the huge commercialization of the wargaming hobby (maybe taking a cue from the D&D boom of the early 80s) over the last quarter century. This might possibly explain a couple of things, for example the profusion of books, rule booklets, dice, commercially produced scenery, and other products we absolutely "need" in order to have a good time with our hobby, along with the gradual death of the early do-it-yourself spirit that Greg Horne discussed on his Duchy of Alzheim blog a few days ago.
When considered along with with the various societal, scholastic, and technological changes that have taken place in roughly the same timeframe, it's no wonder that the median age of the hobby has risen somewhat. But let's look at the early leading lights in the hobby for a moment. Young, Grant, Featherstone, Scruby, Morschauser, and
some gentle evangelizing in their direction never hurts! ;-)
As for me, I'll take a cue from Alte Fritz. I've got a transplanted Australian bicycling friend close by, who is in his 40s (and wargamed in the 1970s), who I'll invite to a game sometime along with his 8-year-old son Michael. Michael, incidentally, is responsible for the Grand Duchess and I finally deciding to tie the knot. And then there are a couple of other male friends in their 30s who might also enjoy joining us at the wargaming table. One or two possible recruits to the hobby might come from that. We'll see.