GWS 2022: Changing tide of interest

By Jon Freitag

One of the long-running questions on the Great Wargaming Survey asks respondents to gauge where they find themselves along the wargaming spectrum: "Are you mostly an historical wargamer, a fantasy/sci-fi wargamer, or somewhere in between?" Genre is the term I use for identifying this wargaming spectrum. The Genre Scale runs from '0' (Entirely historical) to '6' (Entirely fantasy/sci-fi).

For the 2022 survey, a follow-up question was added. Since the question above captures only a snapshot in time, I wondered if wargaming genre preferences are static. The follow-up hopes to address the question of whether this snapshot in wargaming preference changes over time. Does a wargamer's preferred game genre adapt with time or do gamers remain solidly in one camp over their hobby lifecycle? Movement along this continuum may hold insights into the future of the hobby.

Today we take a look at this question and responses.

From the survey results, about 65% of respondents marked that their wargaming preferences have remained consistent over time. Almost two-thirds! Nearly 25% say that they started playing more historical games while about 10% say they are playing more fantasy/sci-fi games. With hobby undertones suggesting that historical gaming is on the wane for a variety of anecdotal reasons, it may provide some solace that more than twice as many wargamers are increasing their gaming in historicals than those playing more fantasy/sci-fi games.

Counts of wargaming preference changes

Preference Changes by Gaming Genre

Breaking the totals down by Gaming Genre along the seven-point scale, do any patterns emerge?

Figure 1 (below) illustrates that wargamers choosing the extremes of the spectrum (Entirely historical or Entirely fantasy/sci-fi) remain remarkably consistent in their selections. Almost 93% of Entirely historical gamers remain as such. Similarly, nearly 98% of Entirely fantasy/sci-fi wargamers remain purely fantasy/sci-fi wargamers. Even the next step on the ladder ('1' for historical gamers and '5' for fantasy/sci-fi gamers) continues to show consistency. Those wargamers situated somewhere in the middle ('2','3','4' on the scale) maintain consistency in gaming genre for about half of the respondents.

Percent of preference changes by Gaming Genre

For example, a respondent selecting a ‘2’ on the Genre Scale with “yes, starting to play more historical games” could have been a ‘3’ or higher in the past. Notice that for all of the genre classifications, a wargamer is more likely to start playing more historical games than playing more fantasy/sci-fi. In all but the Entirely fantasy/sci-fi genre, those starting to play more historicals outpace those starting to play more fantasy/sci-fi by at least two-to-one.  Surprising? It is to me.

When the totals are aggregated by Primary Interest as in Figure 2 ('0','1' for historicals; '2','3','4' for mixed; '5','6' for fantasy/sci-fi), does this tendency change?

Percent of preference changes by Primary interest

Aggregating the results as shown in Figure 3 (above) demonstrates that primarily historical and primarily fantasy/sci-fi wargamers tend to stick to their genre (consistent preference is 86% for fantasy/sci-fi and 78% for historical). About half of all gamers having a Mixed interest tend to maintain their chosen interest combination. Notice that in all groupings, gamers tend to start playing more historicals to fantasy/sci-fi over time. In particular, 36% of Mixed gamers tend to play more historicals than in the past. Does this tendency to migrate toward historical wargaming over time bode well for historical miniature gaming? What if these data are disaggregated by age group? Does this tendency remain?

Preference Changes by Age Group

From past analyses, survey results illustrate time and again that the younger age cohorts tend toward fantasy/sci-fi wargaming while the older age cohorts tend toward historicals. Do these younger wargamers migrate toward historicals in later years?

Percent of preference change by age group

Figure 4 (above) suggests that this may, indeed, be the situation. For wargamers age 50 and under, roughly 30% of wargamers in each of the age cohorts claim to have started playing more historical wargames. Starting to play more historicals outpaces starting to play more fantasy/sci-fi by at least 3:1. What do you make of that?

Given your current status along the genre spectrum, has your gaming choice remained consistent over time or are you migrating toward playing more historicals or more fantasy/sci-fi?

Does your individual experience align with the wider survey results?

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