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Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Get off your high Trojan Horse!

Hi Guys, Dark Artisan here talking about something that I am really offended about.

Well not really offended, but something that find to be really unjust and quite uncalled for.

Basically In greece, 40k got a day in the spotlight. However, it was the kind of spotlight that you see when being questioned by the government for finding alien remains. 

In this tragically depressing "piece", we are basically given a universal brand simply because some parts of our game setting can be described as a bit facist and xenophobic. In short, we are branded as Nazis by someone who knows a few names of races and 1 or 2 quotes. It doesnt help that she interviewed less than nice hobbyists but I can imagine that she A) didnt have to layer the sarcasm on so thick. B) she didn't have to basically imply that the hobby is elitist and egotistical when its really no more ego boosting than chess and C) She doesnt have to tar us all with the same brush after interviewing 3 people. 

You may not care but I feel a little bit irritated that were being all told that we are facist simply because we like to play a game. I like chess, it doesnt mean I am made of wood. I like the bond films, don't mean I approve of his drinking, seduction and killing, nor does it mean I want to be him. 

Finally, after my ranting, here is the Link to the article itself (I am not sure about swearing or offence but please don't shoot me for it, I didnt write this or the page, Im just sharing what I got from 122nd caida) :

Here is my response letter that I May translate to greek (google translate) and send off to them:

Editors email Address:  kmag@kathimerini.gr

The Other day I saw an article in your paper that detailed (in the very loosest of senses) the world of warhammer 40,000, and I would like to just voice my opinion on this. 

So here we are: Your journalist isn't doing her research properly, she is wrong!

Ive been in the hobby since I was 5, so I've got over a good decade of hobby socialising under my belt. I've met a lot of people from all walks of life, all cultures, all ethnicities and all ages. I know woman who play it, admittedly there is less female players but its basically because different types of hobby tend to draw in different genders more.  Mechanics and Motorsport draws a lot more men in than woman, while hairdressing and makeup draws a predominantly female crowd. The game isn't limited to people from 18 to 39 (some tournaments may not let under 18s in but there you go) I know a kid whose only 11 and he can beat anybody at it. Something that really irritated me as well was your unreflecting acceptance of ths cliche that all people wh eith play or paint are "a rather "introvert", lonely guy that doesn't like to go out, doesn't like to watch the TV or football(!), but he likes listening to music (foreign, and mainly classic rock) and he prefers when going out to talk with friends in cafes or houses. You cannot stereotype us and you cannot just insult us in a newspaper. A lot of us are normal people who do this as well. Were not all hermits who sit in our rooms and play world of warcraft all day.

One thing that really let the article down is the constant poison injection it seems to have, especially the constant talk of it. ""Little Toy soldiers" for men. and beyond?" for example Shows that this woman doesnt know much about the universe and probably got all her information from a pamphlet instead of properly looking up the subject using the amazing piece of research technology that is bringing you this email, the internet.

On Top of this is the problem of trying to link a game that is totally based off a possable future in 38,000 years, to modern day politics. It was written during the 80s to show all that is wrong with humanity so a lot of background is drawn from 80s by British people, this was when Russia was a true communist state. This is what the imperium is based off of, its got a system where everybody who isn't a politician or a general is worth absolutely nothing. The Imperial Guard are Based off the Red army and the whole thing relies off taxes in the form of either money, goods or soldiers. The Black Templars as well for example are not nazi based simply because they have a cross and black, white and red colouring. They are based off the knights templar. Most of the stuff in the background is based loosely off the past cultures. Such as the enigmatic robots of the necrons, which with there obsessions with pyramidal tanks, scarab and snake motiffs and desert worlds are based off the ancient Egyptians.

This universe doesn't condone xenophobic thinking or war, if anything it discourages it. This sin't to show "what we could achieve if we made sure we killed all aliens" this is showing the slow grinding end of humanity. It may of survived if it didnt fight every other alien race out of fear and closed mindedness. however. With the mindness devotion to an old guy living barely on life support with several people pulling the strings saying its the emperors will that we fight these people or destroy this world, humanity has been doomed. It shows the true futility and hopelessness of war, it doesn't say we need to stop aliens or we will fall. Admittedly the game needs alien races to war against as well as fascist organisations such as the imperium or the holy church of the emperor , otherwise It would be a boring game. Simply because you play that race doesnt mean you have that mindset, there are many reasons. I play a race of "psychic soul vampires"  known as the dark eldar. They go round raiding worlds to find victims to torture and cut apart. It doesn't mean I am a torturer. It means I play an army. The fact tht you found a player supposedly tattooed in swastikas doesn't mean that he was influenced by the game, he probably was fascist at heart anyway, or perhaps he just liked the symbol. Its this same old idea that reading this book will make you act like that. A friend of mine has watched twilight, doesnt mean hes now a vampire. I have played many violent video games, doesnt mean I am a psychopathic murderer.

Lets talk about the sample of players she picked, "5 of the 15 players showed facist and xenophobic Tenancies". I always struggled with sampling at School in maths, but even I know that 15 people isn't big enough sample to base your entire interview off of. If you interviewed 100 and there were 40 who showed facist and xenophobic tendancies. Id go fair enough and carry on. But saying were fascist simply because 15 people were interviewed and 5 anti immigration is not a good idea. Its like youve looked at 5 people and 2 showed to have blue eyes so you run with the story that 2/5 of greeks have blue eyes. No, its not a big enough sample, do It again with 50 odd people and lets have the truth.

Finally, The Idea that he game as only for really smart people isnt true either. Simply put, there is admittedly a coalition between rich people and the game exists as it is expensive. But saying its simply played by smart people to give them a sense of satifaction is just bad. It isnt elitist and I will just point this out, its ego boosting in the same way as winning at a game of chess is ego boosting, because you feel proud that you can win at chess.

I could go on all day but I will not, All I wanted to do is give you my responses.
Thank you for reading,
Tom Leahy
Figurine painter

The Article
War on a table
A plunge into the dark, bizarre and militaristic world of the game that combines modeling and strategy, and holds as "prisoners" thousands of players in Greece and all over the World.

"Blood for the Blood God, Skulls for the Skull Throne". This is the motto and war-cry of the servants of the God of Chaos, Khorne (The Antipope: she translates if phonetically to Greek as "Horn"...). If you think that this sentence was "strange" enough as a magazine's article opening line, wait and see what's to come. This started as a report for one of the most popular miniature tabletop games of the last 30 years and I still don't know how I ended up fighting against "Daemons of Chaos" in 40000 AD and hang out with creatures with names such as Necrons, Dark Eldar, Black Angels (not sure what army that is...)and much more like them...undead and badass.

(Caption under my picture): Dedication. Studying the rules needs time, building requires effort, the creation of a decent army...money- up to 500 euros for the starter "set". During the game all this is forgotten though.

(Caption under next picture): Precise calculations. Before any move the player must contemplate on it's consequences. "Somehow like chess..." like they told us, but much bloodier.

Dozens of horrible creatures, together with an Emperor-God (of the earthlings) and four Gods of Chaos, live in the blackest, obscurantist, religionist, militaristic, fundamentalist, authoritarian, racist, abominable and repulsive world ever conceived by the human mind. In fact, by the British mind, since the game was coined and released in England at the beginning of the eighties. 

The game, that for the last 30 years has been played by millions of people all over the world, is called "Warhammer:40000 or "40K" for it's friends. With many of these friends (Greeks) we talked about the multifarious 40K and it's exceptional miniatures, modeling, hobby, required intelligence, strategic ability, men (that play), women (that don't) and daemons that eat souls (soul-eating is the pop corn of the future). 

In the same future that, as the general motto of the game states, "There is no time for peace. Neither for forgiveness. There is only war. Endless War."

Little "toy soldiers" for men? And beyond...

As an intro into the world of this "joyful" game, we watched ,during a tournament, around forty males (between 18 and 39 years old), with tape measures and dice on hand, planning assaults against the military units that were placed on top of special dioramas (model battlefields with obstacles, buildings, trees etc.). 40K is a game of strategy (or tactics rather) and requires thought, a lot time studying the rules and a certain degree of intelligence of the mathematically skilled type. The toy soldier miniatures-designed with a lot of imagination and incredible details by the company of Games Workshop-have to be assembled and painted by the hobbyists-players. Painting the "armies" is a form of art on it's own accord, to which modelers dedicated hours or even days. Considering all this, when questioned "why do you play" everybody gave the same answer:" Because it's a hobby that gives me the opportunity to do miniature modeling, to think strategically and, mainly, get together with friends at least twice a week, for gaming, talking, painting...". That's great!

At this point it could be the end of this discussion, if there wasn't for the fluff to be considered, i.e. if there was no ideological-mythical environment of 40K. The world "fluff" ,that is the creation of tabletop or non tabletop role playing gamers and it has to do with everything else but the rule set of the game, is the key to open the...darkness of 40K. Because the fictions, facts and characteristics of the bloodthirsty and soul-hungering soldiers are so outrageous that the question "but, why do you want to play?" was coming back to our conversation almost automatically. 

To think or not to think?
What does someone need furthermost in order to be able to play 40K? "Brains", most of them think, claiming at the same time that "nobody takes fluff seriously" but also..."I chose the game based on the fluff" or "real life is a different thing to the game" but also..."I have seen in the US the ideology of the army and the player matching to a dangerous degree. I've even seen a player with swastikas tattooed all over his body". So many contradictions they could win a Guinness world record.

Generally speaking, when having to choose the game, but also the army, fluff is always there to play a role. As a 38 old professor of biotechnology told us "I also chose an army based on the fluff - I play with dark eldar..."(he stops to think)"in the end they are psychic vampires..." (pausing and saying out very loud)... "I don't even care about my army's fluff!". Perhaps a mind with mathematical skills is necessary but it also seems necessary that the same mind needs the ability not to be able to...think!

The first thing we found out about the 40 participants of the tournament, is that most of them is what we would call "educated" (higher degree level) and working (you need a lot of money to be able to play 40K seriously for many years). Amongst them we found a manager of marketing in a multinational company, a university professor, a gold smith, a 23 year old business man, many civil engineers and many students (chemists, engineers, mathematicians). 

Most of them started off as fans of science or heroic fiction, mythology, history and comic books. Many of them have read the low literary value novels based on the game's fluff, for which 30 year old Thanos said: "If I had a child, I wouldn't let him read these novels before he develops his character". We can summarize the profile of the average 40K player as follows: a rather "introvert", lonely guy that doesn't like to go out, doesn't like to watch the TV or football(!), but he likes listening to music (foreign, and mainly classic rock) and he prefers when going out to talk with friends in cafes or houses. Many of them claimed that they "believe in God", whom they defined as the "beginning" of everything or "the power" of the universe etc. but they don't like his "fan club". Couple of them claimed to be pronounced atheists. 

Lastly, we found out that all of them are ready to talk about politics, expressing extreme ideas more or less with words that are somewhat muddled inside their heads. We only found one person who deals with the understanding of human relationships, while most of the other are ignorant even of the word "psychology". 

Hail, Emperor?
A large percentage of their population compared with their average number (5 out of the 15 interviewees) had some racist and xenophobic ideas and had been involved with the study of Nazi texts, including "Mein Kampf" by Adolf Hitler. George, a mulatto (from a Greek father and a mother from impoverished Louisiana), one of the most intelligent and sincere kids we met, following the question if the game is "a bit" racist he replied: "It's very racist and in America (US) many gamers identify themselves with that racism. Moreover, Black Templars, that have the Iron Cross as a sign and their colours are black, white and red, are clearly Nazis" 

"Have you noticed that a percentage of the players belong to the extreme right wing?" we asked 35 year old Takis, a middle school teacher who claims to be "left wing". "Yes, but I don't know why. Maybe they are fascinated by the epic, heroic or even the racist elements of 40K. Because there is a lot of racism in the game." The next question that came up naturally is if 40K makes you feel superior compared to other people :"Yes, it's a bit elitist. It requires a lot of thought so it makes you feel..."somehow". Somehow superior" said Markos laughing. One of the most extreme statements we heard was :"It's been proved throughout the history of Greece that we can only go forward with a fascist government" said John. "And I am going to be the one executing them", added his friend Fotis.

Playing with your soul?
I would also add, playing with your sword. But why would someone fight with a sword in the technologically super advanced 40000 AD? And why does it's system has to be so authoritarian and obscurantist? And why does the "trophy" have to be the most valuable thing humans have, i.e. their souls?

"Because 40K combines elements that fascinate men, like chivalry, heroism, power, ability, speed etc" said 38 year old widely educated Kostas with his well structured speech. "Probably because we want to look better in comparison. Maybe I would never go to real war, but in the game you can be an awesome hero or a general without having to pay the price in return. For it's system now, the wider the network of planets that human inhabit becomes, the more we will keep losing our humanity. In the minds of the creators of science fiction, there is always a strong central authority necessary, which through cutting down our freedoms and though fear can create a structure in order for that new world to function. In 40K there is a mixture of western imperialism and eastern fundamentalism." 

And why does the future has to seem so bleak I wonder: "Because", as 39 year old Giannis is saying "this sells. This game has the best marketing." "Furthermore because reality sucks and progress is even worse" adds the younger Minas. "Everything in the fluff is derived from human history, to an excessive extend maybe, but historically".

Why aren't women playing the game, I ask them: "Now you are delving into a touchy subject", Fotis told me, who is married and has one child. "Women don't go for mentally committing stuff. In order to be able to commit in something so that you can disengage from the everyday life, you have to be a man." Fotis was the same person who told me when I asked him why the ideology of the game is crazy: "Are there any ideological obstacles in fantasy?".

In the interview we did with 23 year old Markos, who describes the game as a "struggle for the survival of the human race" and as the "absolute decline", after he told us that "Warhammer is not a comedy but a tragedy with the classical sense, in a dystopian future" he also express the optimistic thought that "Man has the awesome capacity to conquer everything, even himself." When I asked what does he do to ...conquer himself he answered :"I am reading thousands of books, I am writing down stories and poetry, I work, talk, travel and do thousands of different things. Why? Because I have an enormous stress that I will stay mediocre"

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