Sunday 31 January 2010

Zen and the Art of Wargaming

As I have said on this blog before, painting is not my favourite bit of the hobby. But when I'm in the right mood it can be quite therapeutic. I didn't realise the full significance of this until a recent trivial incident.

There I was, painting away in the dining room, some favourite music playing, the kids in their rooms and the wife watching TV next door. Alone and at peace. Then a couple of the kids come thundering in, raiding the fridge, asking questions about something, etc... and I found I was getting quite cross. Why was my peace being disturbed! Of course, I was being unreasonable, but the level of my irritation surprised me, and it brought home to me that doing this bit of painting was more than trying to work up a new SYW unit: it really was a kind of therapy.

In fact, it was like meditation. I had got into what I believe might be called a 'zen moment'. For my purposes I'll define that as a point where I was focused only on the now, on the task in hand, and everything else had faded into the background. Something like the sort of mental state people try to achieve via meditation. I realised then what a useful tool for winding down and achieving a sense of well being our hobby can be. Perhaps I should be surprised it took me so long to realise that fact.

Another positive view of the hobby came from reading a bit of Donald Featherstone recently (in Featherstone's Lost Tales). Talking of reading H.G. Wells Little Wars, he described the book as a 'classic contribution to the art of remaining young despite one's years'. That is a great description of the beneficial influence of a hobby like wargaming: a contribution to the effort of remaining young. If wargaming seems childish to some people, that's part of the point. It is perhaps more than just escapism, more than just putting the cares of everyday adult life aside. One is keeping in touch with the playful, light hearted, youthful part of one's character.

So there we are. Two good reasons to feel good about wargaming. I'll be back in the not too distant future with a SYW battle report. And I have a set of the Black Powder rules on order (at a great price from Amazon: I doubt I would have bothered at the full price). That should be worth a post or two, but I'll hold fire until I've had a game with them.

To conclude, a picture of some wargame's buddies (and my son, 13 at the time) who took part in a Poland 1939 demo game with me at Warfare 2005. I'm not sure if they're sharing a Zen moment or getting in touch with their playful natures. Maybe neither, but a good moment captured on camera. Something about too many cooks getting ready to spoil the broth springs to mind.

'Til next time!


Fitz-Badger said...

I'm with you on both points! I experience that sort of zen feeling of being in the moment and losing track of time sometimes when I'm painting minis or doing some of my other hobbies occasionally.
And the bit about playfulness and keeping in touch with some of our youthfulness is another major draw to this hobby for me.

Ross Mac said...

Absolutely right. A chance to get away from and stop thinking about the world outside, keeping that youthful spirit of imagination and fun alive, and I'll one more, a reason to get together with friends (for those of us without kids - I do envy a little those with sons or daughters who have learned to enjoy and share the hobby with them).