Monday, 9 September 2013

In Defence of Warhammer (40k)

by Tim MacBain

I can be, in many ways, classified as a nerd. Or a geek. Never understood the difference, so I think it’s a good idea to cover both bases. I play Xbox and computer games, I love fantasy fiction, especially epic/high fantasy, and I actually enjoy doing homework. Of course, that last fact is a moot point, since I will never be given work titled homework again, but hey-ho. It is through this classification, and the title of this article, that you all should be able to work out that I like Warhammer. Specifically, Warhammer 40000, colloqueally known as 40k.

Since I got involved in 40k in Year Eight, I have faced nothing but derision, mocking and (occasionally) insults about my participation in this hobby, arguably forming one of the causes of my hiatus from 40k since Year 10. However, seeing as I am leaving so very soon, I have no qualms about the significant dent my ‘reputation’ may well now take from this article. For Warhammer does not deserve the sad, introverted status is holds currently. I have taken it upon myself to explain why.

Warhammer is in fact a multifaceted art. Although expensive (at least £1.80 per model, and that’s really rather rare), one has to assemble the models from scratch, paint them, customise them (if you want – I very rarely bothered), and then game with them. I have heard that those applying for dentistry are required to provide evidence of their ability to work precisely with their hands, and Warhammer is on the list of approved activities. The painting, for me the most arduous part, is no different from painting art sculptures or miniature paintings, or perhaps somewhat better, for at least you are actually going to use that which you are painting, still requiring much skill and precision whilst understanding which colours go with which. The gaming side, often seen as the ‘saddest’ part, is surprisingly difficult. The rulebook is a lengthy tome (my friends and I used to joke about, reading from it as if it were the Bible – anything to make the trawling through the dense prose more enjoyable), featuring rules ranging from the determining of the casualties taken from a single ‘Blast’ weapon to the maximum number of models in a unit. Writing that sentence, I realise that it could be seen as rather sad. I would disagree – it is not sad, rather those who do not know Warhammer don’t understand the attraction of it, and if you’ll forgive my descent into half-baked psychology, one fears and derides what one does not understand, resulting in a negative adjective being assigned.

In addition, the classic image of a lonely 13 year old in thick, horn-rimmed glasses, alone in his room, crouched over a desk with a single lamp lighting his work, a small model which he is painting a plethora of different colours, is simply untrue. Well, not entirely; I freely admit I did that once (minus the glasses; I added those to the image for effect), and it resulted in the pride of my collection, my Terminators, a shining beacon of what a young teenager can do with no training or much guidance other than what he had picked up from his friends. However, it is very rare that someone stays at home for more than 40% of his hobbying time. Meeting others who play the game, socialising, swapping tips and tactics, and generally having a great time with other people is what the majority of Warhammer is about. I still remember with great affection my 14th Birthday celebration, when I invited three friends (who shall remain nameless to preserve their sanity) to mine for a large ‘Apocalypse’ battle. Yeah, we got a bit of stick when some people found out, and the battle fizzled out into a tense draw, but we actually had an enormous amount of fun, and I still consider them some of my greatest friends to this very day.

I read an article in The Independent the other day, which defended the vast sums paid to footballers. It did so by comparing them to celebrity stars such as Robert Downey Jr and Justin Bieber, who get paid a heck of a lot more for doing the same thing, entertaining. I shall use the same concept to defend Warhammer; by comparing it to computer and video gaming. This still has a reputation of being ‘sad’, but does not bring out such a knee-jerk reaction of “My god, you don’t play THAT, do you?!?”. Neither computer nor video gamers have anything to show for their craft, aside from possibly a bit of RSI and some numbers on a screen. Yes, there are conventions they can go to and win prizes (which are quite something I’ve heard), but these are few and far between, and require you to be playing at the very highest echelons of skill, which many people, needless to say, do not achieve. We who play Warhammer have a well-crafted collection to show, communicate with others face to face rather than across the Internet, and have no injuries at all (unless you step on a model, which is very painful, both from the sharp model itself and the angry owner you have just robbed of a prized item).

To play, one also needs a large skill set. This is my area of speciality. Some others find it a little long-winded, but to me it is the highlight of a long and sometimes irritating journey. You need to be able to judge distances (in inches), spot weaknesses in your opponent’s units, and ascertain the correct time to bring those reserves in. In the real world, you learn how to negotiate quickly and effectively (nobody likes someone who shouts at you until they get their way, and life doesn’t work like that), to lose graciously when you’ve given your all, and how to make friends whilst concentrating on something completely different. Schools place heavy emphasis on sport and academia, and secondary emphasis on music and drama, on ways to learn life skills such as concentration, commitment, and interaction. Well what happens if you aren’t very good at/aren’t enormously interested in those four elements? You have to look elsewhere for such lessons, and, if played properly, Warhammer can provide them. Of course, other activities can (I would personally highly recommend music, especially Chamber Choir), but Warhammer doesn’t deserve the reputation it currently has.

At some point in the last paragraph (just after ‘sport’, if you’re counting), I passed 1,000 words. You could see this as a rant; I have tried not to, but apologise if I have slipped into that tone. I will end with this, a challenge of sorts. Does that kid in your year, always reading White Dwarf in the Library at break, deserve your mocking derision? If you see a group of your peers in the Quad clustered round the latest Space Marines Codex, should you muscle in on their conversation and tell them to stop being so sad and do something that “everyone else does, ‘cause everyone else will like you then”? If you’re asked to do a presentation in English or your Tutor Group, why laugh at they who takes you through his pride and joy, his large collection of Tau?

Dara O’Briain puts it really rather well. “Non-nerds, don’t fear us. We’re gentle folk.” Don’t fear us, and we won’t fear you. Deal?

1 comment:

  1. The price is going up still (due to new finecast), never knew you were a fellow collector


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