Grumpy Old Fart or Venerated Elder Sage? What legacy are we leaving for wargaming?: An Onside Report
Our pre-meeting gathering on 4 June 2022 included an organ recital: problems with double vision and teeth extractions (and that was just the presenters), and the drama of turning 60 and having your students realise you are old enough to be their grandad (not applicable to either of the presenters who are now well pass 60).
This provided an appropriate segue into our session Grumpy Old Fart or Venerated Elder Sage? What legacy are we leaving for wargaming?
My own experience turning 66 last year – accompanied by needing to wear glasses all the time just to see where I was going, tearing my hamstring muscle while walking (apparently a common occurrence for older women), and a recent tooth extraction where the dentist began talking about dentures with me – had brought home the fact I was getting older.
My reading, reflection, and participation in workshops about ageing raised questions for me of what legacy I would be leaving.
And the game in the following session focused on the Akiyoshi clan seeking to protect the honour of the Lord’s Grandmother by recovering her stolen diaries from the Minatora Clan before their ‘sensitive’ contents were leaked to the world.
What better time to discuss aspects of ageing and eldership and sageing?
My intention for the day was to lead the group in thinking about, given the amount of wargaming experience in the room, how we want to make the best use of this in the time we have left both as individuals and as a group.
To start the seven of us each shared the years of wargaming experience we brought to the session. This ranged from my own 3 years to 55 years and totalled 285 years of wargaming experience.
We reflected on and discussed some definitions and influences:
What is a Sage?
A philosopher is a wise man distinguished for wisdom and sound judgement while a sage is a wise man distinguished for wisdom and from experience. (T. J. Pattberg)
What is a legacy?
Usually thought of as material gifts, but in this context
- our gifts of spirit and self
- Sharing our values, memories, philosophy of life
- What gives our life meaning?
- What wisdom have we learned along the way?
- sharing through service
What were the influences on the shaping of CLWG?
Initial influences were a desire to move away from building better war figures and moving soldiers to thinking about the development and improvement of wargames, and to move members from being consumers of games to developing their own games.
Wargame Developments and Megagames had helped define what members had wanted CLWG to be, with some overlap and other distinctive aspects.
I’ve attempted to capture this diagrammatically:
What emerged as we shared was our perspective of the culture of CLWG.
What is our experience of CLWG?
We discussed the influence of wargaming on our thinking. I was intrigued by a comment by Andrew Hadley a few months ago about his own changing attitudes to war because of wargaming. We agreed about the role of critical gameplay as we both created and played games developed by others. One common perception was the multiple perspectives that arose from the group’s approach, and the increased capacity to consider different perspectives.
Criticism as in critiques / feedback
Further questions led to the articulation of the CLWG providing a safe and supportive environment; a safe-to-fail environment. Dave Boundy observed people felt they could ‘take a game to Chestnut because they will play anything.’
Terry observed that this was different to the business world. CLWG had no hierarchy, whereas creativity in business is judged by your employer, client and peers, and people can feel their job is on the line.
CLWG provides a hothouse for idea generation and games development. Gameplaying provided a wide breadth of experiences and exposure to different locations around the world. We gained greater insight into politics and its role in war, and to other drivers which also impact.
So what now?
The question of ‘So what now?’ was raised at different times through the session.
The aspect of mentoring was raised and the need for a two-way commitment by the mentee as well as the mentor in imparting our knowledge. Terry observed that perhaps being a sage means knowing if imparting is what is needed.
We discussed the role of an environment we can create that encourages play, and critical thinking whether at CLWG or in our homes with family and friends. The role of getting on the floor was raised and while this was in reference to literally getting on the floor to play with young children, I wonder if it provides a good metaphor for ‘getting on the floor’ (or getting down to their level) with new game designers and even more experienced game designers who might be challenging themselves and bringing ‘crazy or unworkable game ideas’ to CLWG. Is any idea, no matter how ‘crazy or unworkable’, irredeemable? Or is it us older wargamers who need to broaden our ability to see another perspective that just might make it work?
Does the wisdom of a sage come from their experience alone, or from their ability to see where the person is coming from, and to ask good questions that help lead the person to a more helpful conclusion?
For me there was no intention to leave the meeting with a strategic plan for the next five years, or even the next few months. What was important for me was that we become more aware about what is important, what we value, about our wargaming and CLWG experience so we can be a little more intentional about our interactions with others through wargaming, games and play in a way that reflects our values, so we pass on what is important to us. In this case, the commitment to a safe-to-fail environment, helpful and supportive criticism and looking at multiple perspectives and thinking critically.
Some links you may find helpful
Sage-ing International Home – Sage-ing International
Fran Peavey’s Strategic Questioning Manual Strategic-Questioning-Manual-11b4d4l.pdf (transformerleadership.com)
Its time to rethink our wargames: Selling better stories could help stop future crises in their tracks https://inkstickmedia.com/its-time-to-rethink-our-wargames/
 Big Think https://bigthink.com/articles/what-is-the-difference-between-a-philosopher-and-a-sage/#:~:text=A%20philosopher%20is%20a%20wise,for%20wisdom%20and%20from%20experience.
A pity I missed this meeting while I was off on a rare holiday (the delightful Isles of Scilly if you’re curious). Had I attended I’d have added another 55 experience and have done my time in MM, WD and CLWG so I’d have fitted in the diagram nicely. My main interest has generally been the typical wargame – battles with model soldiers on a tabletop – and continues to do so. It’s a sometimes reviled type of wargaming or the but of jokes but one bonus of aging (I’m now 69) is that I don’t care. A cousin of mine said “are you still doing that?” in an astonished tone. “Yes,” I replied, “but now I can afford to do it properly.”
I’d like to think that I’ve cast my net wider than that with a huge assortment of games over the years – map, committee, role-playing, social development, adventure (as per my cinematic- style game last December), peace games and more. And 30+ megagames. I think I’ve long been happy with any form / structure which captures the feel of a period. And I emphasise ‘feel of the period’ because my life-long interest in history has been the driver for most of the games I’ve been involved in. I’ve read Science fiction for about as long as I remember (Dan Dare in the Eagle started me off) but it’s rarely been a driver for games. While I acknowldge that I have done some SF (and even fantasy games) I’m ready to blame Jim Wallman for being a bad influence and move on to deal with more historical games that wargaming really needs.
So what I do I see myself doing in my remaining few years? More of the same probably. My interests have gradually evolved over the years but I don’t see them changing radically in the short term (ie what time I have left). Modern world settings don’t appeal given how I regard the sad state of the world and I doubt that will change. CLWG is always a good environment for developing a game as it has a good philosophy of feedback and I should make more of an effort to attend.
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