Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Second Generation Gamer

Courtesy of Narrative Control and Theory from the Closet, I've discovered something about myself. Sean spoke about someone he'd gamed with as being a second generation gamer - the gamer child of a gamer parent. More of this happens with each passing year, as the generations who grew up with original D&D become parents and pass on the hobby to their kids.

Now, I've never thought of myself as a second generation gamer because I picked up the hobby from my older brother and he picked it up from his school friends. Put like that, it sounds like a virus, but that's just how it appeared in my life.

Or so I thought. The notion of a second generation gamer made me think of my father, the retired major, and then the penny dropped. It was another military man who had created Braunstein as a hobby offshoot from genuine military training exercises - wargames. And now let me tell you a little about my father.

He joined the British Territorial Army as a young man and served with them until he migrated to Australia, whereupon he immediately enlisted in the Australian Citizen Military Forces (later, the Australian Army Reserves). He continued in the service until forced retirement, and then spent an additional few years as an officer supervising the Australian Army Cadets. All told, that's fifty years in the civilian military forces. During his time in the Australian Reserves, he spent many years training officers, with specialisations in military history and wargames. He would set up the situation for the trainees, including terrain and mission objectives, and then provide them with responses to the actions that they took. Sometimes he would take a non-referee role and take control of the enemy forces, commanding them from a separate war room, set up in another tent or room of the barracks.

In gaming parlance, my father was a GM. Suddenly, all those years of making plastic models of battleships, WWII aircraft and miniature armies with him fall into sharp relief. When I look at him through gamer lenses, he's not only a GM, he's a support GM who looks after NPCs, he's a miniatures gamer, and leans quite heavily on the side of realism in his preferred rules[1].

I've always known this about Dad, and always thought his military interest sparked something in me too, but I've never appropriated the tag of "gamer" to describe him. When I do, it makes me a second generation gamer - a gamer who is now on a mission to find a game to play with his father.

1. Indulge me as I tell another story to support this. An area of special interest for him was the American civil war. He had studied it and used it in officer training, even down to the contour maps of the battlefields. About a decade ago, he made his first visit to Gettysburg and from his memory of the contour maps found General Lee's command post, pointed to another point short distance away, and remarked, "You know, if he'd stood over there, he would have won this."
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