Hi! PT, here, to dive in and discuss an uncomfortable issue within the 40k community and hopefully bring us closer to fixing it!
So, Reece threw out a Bat-signal earlier this week for a hero to step in and write a weekly OpEd column for FLG, but I happened to turn up before him. Perhaps not the hero you needed nor deserved, but here we are all the same.
Introductions out of the way, onward.
Having been playing Games-Workshop games for the past 18 years, give or take, I’ve had the pleasure (ahem, mostly) of meeting and playing games with an extremely wide variety of people that I likely never would have otherwise met, many with whom I’ve formed lasting friendships over the years. That’s because the vast majority of people within our humble community are fairly excellent folks. However, there will always be that slim percentage of the community who, for whatever reason, just can’t seem to get into the same groove as everyone else and sort of exude war-gaming headache to everyone around them.
Now, I’m not here to pick on anyone, nor call anyone out, but we’ve all met these folks over the years. And if you haven’t…well…
But anyway, like I said, I’m not in the business of making anyone feel bad, and that isn’t my intent here, either. No, I’m actually working toward the opposite goal, by opening up a discourse on a subject that’s been sort of bugging me for a while. And as the title of this piece may have alluded, it’s about the people who tend to idolize The Holy Creator of our favorite games/hobby and unnecessarily attack anyone who doesn’t quite step into line with the same sort of unhealthy zeal.
So firstly, I love Games-Workshop. I do. I love Warhammer 40k. I love its universe, the storyline – for the most part – and the characters who struggle through the grim darkness of the 41st Millennium. This game is near and dear to my heart and I applaud the creative minds who imagined, developed, and brought this world to life in such a fantastic and provocative way. From the oppressive authoritarianism of the Empire of Man, to the tragedy of the Eldar, to the looming shadow of the Tyranid hive fleets, the whole thing is so elegant and wonderful. I like a bunch of the other things that GW has done over the years, too, but 40k will always be top shelf for me.
That said, the blokes at GW are not infallible. Their company is not infallible. The creative choices and game developments they make regarding the thing that we all love so much are not infallible. In fact, as the chief consumers of their products and stories, the task of criticizing them and the products they manufacture falls squarely onto our, occasionally, heretical shoulders. Note that my use of the term “criticize” should be taken in the most literal way possible, meaning simply the act of evaluating or judging in a fair and objective way. It is only through a healthy and open critical thought process that we are able to improve upon anything and blind fanaticism is the enemy of critical thought, enlightenment, and ultimately progress.
Now, some of you are probably thinking, “that doesn’t happen.” Well, it kind of does, and pretty often, too. You might recall in 7th Edition when GW let slip the absurdly out of touch (and mandatory) Death from the Skies supplement that disrupted the game in a number of intrinsic ways. Lots of folks were duly annoyed – myself included – at the unnecessary rules complications being dumped into an already overcomplicated game. You might also recall some of the reactions to the dissenters was spectacularly over the top and unwarranted. There was an equal reaction and counter-reaction when GW blessed the meta (and their favorite faction!) with the newly retconned space marine psychic powers.
Like I said, I refuse to call anyone out and perpetuate any sort of negativity against anyone, so I won’t be posting screenshots of interactions, trusting that you all are intelligent enough to garner a context and perhaps even recall incidents that you’ve personally encountered regarding this issue. I’ve also seen a pretty common incidence of administrators on popular message boards and Facebook groups outright banning people who dissent with the popular (i.e. their) opinion. I find that to be a sort of disgusting behavior. It’s one thing if the person is actually violating some established code of conduct, but often enough that just isn’t the case. I’ve personally posted comments several times, fully expecting to be banned, purely for the apostasy of disagreeing with canonical mandates. I adamantly hold that tyrannical Facebook administrators are one of the lowest forms of life, wielding their “banhammers” with the swagger and nonchalance of an arrogant Comcast employee.
This is no way to have a discourse on anything. It’s not a way to produce a better community, nor a better world for our children to inherit and play army men. Simply shutting down anyone who disagrees with you is morally wrong and it doesn’t help you or them or any of us in the long run. By picking up the ball and going home, all you’ve accomplished is stopping anyone from playing the game.
As it happens, GW actually strikes out pretty often, so these release incidents are fairly common. A buddy of mine expressed it best: “GW is the Babe Ruth of gaming, 20,000 strikeouts but nobody remembers them because of the home runs.” Hard to argue with such a statement. For every Warhammer 40k or Age of Sigmar General’s Handbook, we get about five or six Death from the Skies or 7th Edition Ork Codexes. I’m not saying it’s a bad or a good thing, just that it’s a thing we should acknowledge, if want a better game and community. Babe Ruth is an icon in our culture for a reason and so is GW, and both are overwhelmingly positive forces in that role. But at the end of the day, they are both fallible and human and worthy of our criticism.
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