Disclaimer: I know I said I have an intense dislike for hobby drama. That being said, this post is regarding a different type of hobby drama, one that I feel needs to be addressed. I’m likely not the correct person to address it, so forgive me if I make any mistakes in my terminology. Also, please know that my intent is not to trigger negative emotions so please accept this as a pre-apology if this post does so.
Something that has bothered me for quite some time now and I never really had the words to talk about it (and I still don’t really, I’m more or less winging it here), is the ability of a hobby (and it could be any hobby; I’ve seen it everywhere), to attract a subset of individuals who strive to make lives difficult for people just trying to enjoy their hobby time in peace. For the purposes of this post, I’d like to divide this next section into two concepts: gatekeeping, and hate speech.
Gatekeeping is the lesser of two evils but make no mistake, it’s evil nonetheless. Growing up, I always viewed things like organized sports to be exclusive clubs where outsiders weren’t welcome for a myriad of reasons. I realized as I got older that this was only true of certain individuals who take any sport far too seriously. Things like having the wrong brand of skates, baseball bat, glove, ball? Don’t even bother playing. Not knowing the stats for every player or following every game when they appeared on TV? Are you even a real fan? I should mention this is not a knock on people who love sports. In fact, I’m in a football pool, and I’m encouraging my kids to play basketball, hockey, and soccer. I’m only speaking from experience about people who act like if you don’t fit a certain mold, you don’t belong. In my case, growing up in my area, it seemed to mostly center around sports. The same may not be true for everyone.
Imagine my surprise when I found out that gatekeeping applied to other hobbies as well. I’d always figured (some) sports people were just wired a certain way. As it turns out, some humans, in general, are just wired a certain way. Gatekeeping can be found in practically any hobby, and it’s entirely possible the problem may be worse in hobbies that could be considered academic in nature. I’ve read rants about how someone organized stamps incorrectly in their collection. I’ve seen people obsess that a particular train engine would never be coupled with those freight cars. God help you if you install an incorrect bomb load-out on a 1/32 scale A-10 warthog – it’s not historically accurate and is therefore wrong wrong wrong! That memory combined with that motherboard? Filthy amateur.
You can see where I’m going with this.
Miniature wargaming is full of these people as well. There are some people who really just love to point out any flaw they can find with someone else’s army and it’s honestly baffling. This is a hobby – something meant to be pleasurable and a diversion from the burdens of day-to-day life. Who cares if the markings on a Space Marine aren’t canonically accurate? If you look at Games Workshop’s art over the years nothing makes sense and the “official” art is full of canon-defying errors for the sake of “the rule of cool”. And make no mistake – at the end of the day, someone else’s hobbying does not affect you at all. If someone posts a picture of their latest accomplishment, and all you can think to say is something negative, don’t even bother. After all, it wasn’t your time or money being spent, there’s absolutely no need to dump on someone else’s hobby pursuits. It doesn’t matter if it wasn’t painted exactly like the box art! Creativity should be encouraged not stifled! Can a Space Marine duel-wield heavy warp flamers? Who knows! Who cares! This is a game made up of plastic model spacemen who live 40,000 years in the future – anything is possible!
INB4 “But – the rules!”; yes you’re right, in every game there are rules so you can’t go too far with this one, at least not if you’re going to be playing in official tournaments or sanctioned events. For all else, you do you.
My second point is a bit more touchy. Something else I’ve seen, something that seems to be growing in scale and is far more troublesome than the ‘gaming purists’, are the ones who want to gatekeep not just the lore of the game, but the actual people who are partaking in the hobby. I’ve seen intensely angry threads from individuals who feel that people of certain cultures, gender, orientations, or abilities should not be allowed to post about or participate in any wargaming hobbies.
I cannot fathom the logic that goes through people’s heads when something like this comes up. And maybe that’s just it – there is no logic here, it’s just ignorant hate speech, plain and simple. And it has no place in any hobby. While it could be argued that the purists are just overenthusiastic individuals, there’s absolutely no argument imaginable for calling out someone based on any trait. Some of what I’ve seen both sickens and horrifies me, and I have to admit that the courage and strength portrayed by the people being targeted go far beyond what I feel I’d be capable of mustering if I was in their shoes.
One thing I have to say for Games Workshop is that regardless of any business-related snafus they may have had (as discussed in my last post), they’ve been consistently supportive of fighting hate speech in any form. That in itself has earned my respect for the company as a whole.