Remembrance Day 2018: The Great War 100th Anniversary11 Nov 2018 4
This article was originally publisher on 11th November, 2016. Jeff felt his words still hold true now as we remember the 100th anniversary, and so this article is being republished on his request. There have been minor edits to fix old errors and to tighten the prose.
Many years ago, my mother questioned my burgeoning love of wargames as, perhaps, ‘glorifying’ war. I was young enough that the question discomfited me, and yet it did almost nothing to mitigate my attraction to the genre, even though I have since posed the question to myself often. Not too many years later, I had occasion to visit the Arromanches D-Day Museum and the Canadian War Cemetery at Bény-sur-Mer, France; the spectacle of rows upon rows of crosses at the memorial, in almost any direction I looked, appalled me at the time and still have that effect. Those images (including personal photos I took) and my experiences there obviously did not ‘turn me off’ wargames, and yet I continue to ask myself these questions; but I have not found a satisfactory answer. Perhaps I can come up with one now.
I am not about to begin a philosophical discussion here or debate the merits of wargames, nor ask what is it that attracts us to games that, undeniably, are based on the most horrific events in human history, that is, war. A case has been made elsewhere that wargames have qualities such as teaching logic and strategy; indeed, many nations’ militaries use them for that very reason, and even commission their design to use as training aids. Even chess, if one wishes to open up a broader discussion of games based on war or conflict, could be considered a wargame. Not to mention all the so-called ‘shooters’; even most RPGs arguably have elements of war or at least combat, where one or more virtual human duels another(s) to pixelated death. Does playing any of them, then, glorify war and death? Even worse, does it cause certain impressionable people to go out and commit acts of violence, because they ‘learned’ it playing certain games? I say, as I’m sure all readers would, “Nonsense.”
For me instead, playing wargames does quite the opposite to glorifying war: It honours the sacrifice that our veterans, current and former, continue to perform for us on a daily basis. When I play wargames I often think about how, if we hadn’t had so many heroes on hand at just the right moments, things – namely, wars – likely would have gone in quite a different way. I doubt I’d have the freedom now to play virtually any game I want, not to mention write about them and be at liberty to express an opinion one way or another. Although this may not be the reason – or even a reason – I play wargames, I think it answers the question of glorification, for me at least.
Although I was very briefly in the military myself, I thankfully never came close to war. I also spent a few years at a contractor for the Canadian military, helping them out with ‘non-soldierly’ tasks so they could, well, be soldiers. During my time in the far north, several of their comrades fell in Afghanistan, and while there every Remembrance Day November 11th (readers in the U.S.A. know it as Veterans Day) was a solemn day of ceremony and tradition, attendance at the service mandatory unless you had a critical task. I did not, and I did not begrudge a minute of it.
“In Flanders Fields the Poppies grow” begins a poem by John MacRae, a Canadian major (at the time) and doctor in the first World War. Doubtless most readers have heard of it, if not read it all themselves. I invite every reader to do so, or else perhaps watch this video, or this one; the first is only two minutes long, the second four (or I’m sure you can find your own!). Better still, attend local ceremonies if possible. I think we owe our veterans that much. Truly, it’s a “Pittance of Time”.
On behalf of everyone here at Wargamer.com, we'd like to thank our veterans for their service and ask everyone to remember the sacrifices of those who came before us.