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GWS 2020: Top settings, part 3

Top Eras by Age Group

Breaking out survey responses by age group, I find a fascinating exercise. Well, I find all of this data exploration fascinating but age demographic studies more so. Why? I suppose I enjoy seeing how gaming preferences change as one ages, and if my own experience fits into these tendencies.

The table below displays the total counts for each era by age group. Only a respondent's top five ranked choices were included in this tally. While a reader can divine a sense of these tendencies across eras and age groups from this table, spotting takeaways at a glance requires a bit more work.

To help identify these Era by Age Group insights, colored rankings are added. For example, wargamers in the 31-40 age group rank their era preferences as,

  1. Fantasy
  2. Sci-fi
  3. Warhammer 40K
  4. Warhammer Age of Sigmar
  5. WWII

What, if any generalizations can be made from these results? Some results may confirm accepted, common knowledge but others may provide a surprise or two.

My take-aways from the era preference by age group analysis suggests the following:

  • Age groups 51+ prefer historicals to fantasy/sci-fi.
  • Fantasy makes the Top 5 for every age group except the 61+ age group.
  • WWII makes the Top 5 era preference for all age groups and the top choice for age groups 41+.
  • ACW and Pike & Shotte seem to be mainstream eras for the 61+ age group only.
  • Napoleonics (Ranked Choice #2) and Ancients (Ranked Choice #3) are very popular for the 51+ age groups.
  • Warhammer 40K is very popular for the 40 and under age groups.

Final Thoughts

Well, not so much final thoughts but my current and evolving thoughts based upon these data. Looking at these results, I keep returning to the recent debates on the potential demise of historical wargaming. Is historical wargaming dying? What do these data suggest?

With WWII gaming making the top five in every age group, it is difficult to classify historical wargaming as a dying genre. Yes, WWII is more popular in those 41+ age groups but the younger age groups dabble as well. ACW, Ancients, Napoleonics, and Pike & Shotte seem the domain of the 51+ age cohorts. Let me term this group of gaming eras as the Classics. Is this absence from the younger age groups due to lack of interest, lack of exposure to the subject matter, a change in gaming style, barriers to entry, or something else?

When I envision gaming the Classics eras, I expect large armies covering large tables in big battle games. Perhaps gaming styles have changed? No longer are big battles with thousands of troops possible or even desired among the younger age groups? Painting thousands of figures takes time, money, more time, more money, and a lot of determination. Building up armies of this size requires many years spent at the painting desk. Certainly, these are not armies to be fielded in a short period of time.

Smaller armies in smaller battles or even skirmish gaming is a more accessible entry into the hobby. Perhaps WWII skirmish gaming and an explosion of figures in plastic are two reasons WWII is popular across all age groups?

Gaming style, whether big battles, skirmish gaming, or single figure, may be a contributing factor in wargaming era preference. Perhaps location matters? What about figure size? Gaming style, location, and figure size, I leave for consideration at another time.

I encourage readers' thoughts and comments on favorite gaming period. Why do you game what you do?

12 thoughts on “GWS 2020: Top settings, part 3”

  • PatG

    WWII - It was my parents' war and I grew up in the Airfix generation. Fond memories of playing the Panzer Blitz series with my dad.

    Ancients - Asterix and the Peter Connolly's books which led to 4 (voluntary) years of Latin.

    Colonials/VSF - I wasn't overly interested at first but of course the movie Zulu. I read a lot of Victorian literature and non-fiction as part of my degree. Studying rather than just reading Kipling and being exposed to The Malakand Force and the River War piqued my interest. I tend to favour the natives in my gaming.

    Fantasy - OD&D, Tolkien and Harryhausen.

    SF - My dad who got me into reading SF, Heinlein, Dorsai/Childe cycle, Hammer's

  • Peter Brian

    the peak in fantasy for 31 to 40 is possibly due to height of the world of Warhammer Fantasy being popular at the time when these players started and so they have continued on with a love of this genre and moved on to other games as well (Dragon Rampant, King of War etc.). The interest has wained however in newer players since the gateway (GW) product has significantly changed.

  • Hdog

    Ancients, Dark Ages, and Medievals might not have same mass appeal to the 20-40 group as the WWII and fantasy stuff, but they still seem quite popular. Given this data, while not the top choices, there do seem to be significant numbers of young people playing those categories. After Fantasy, Sci-Fi, and WWII, medievals and ancients seem to be the most popular for young folks.

  • Nigel

    Ancients. 2nd Punic War and the Early Empire. Inspired by Elephants over the Alps and the film 'Spartacus'

    English Civil War. Happened in my neighbourhood. Many options for fighting it at a local level.

    Napoleonics. The colourful uniforms, Characters. range of theatres, interplay between Horse, Foot and artillery.

    WW2. My parents' generation war. Such an extensive range of written and film documentation available.

    One incursion into Sci -Fi being around the Space Hulk game. Inspired by the iconic 'Aliens' film..

    Ellen Ripley: "These people are here to protect you. They're soldiers."
    Newt: "It won't make any difference."

  • Jonathan Freitag
    Jonathan Freitag October 14, 2020 at 11:55 pm

    @PatG, are these your Top 5 wargaming preferences in rank order?

  • Jonathan Freitag
    Jonathan Freitag October 15, 2020 at 12:03 am

    @Peter, very interesting observation about the evolution from fantasy to historicals for the 31-40 age group. Is your hypothesis that gamers tend to shift from fantasy to historical eras as they age such that this group transitions from fantasy to fantasy-like historical periods as, perhaps, a stepping stone into historicals? What evidence do you use to support this idea? Very interesting, indeed, and purports well to the continued viability of historical gaming.

  • Jonathan Freitag
    Jonathan Freitag October 15, 2020 at 12:08 am

    @HDog, the survey results support this conclusion. As Peter noted above, perhaps, Ancients/Dark Ages/Medievals are the way into historical gaming for aging fantasy gamers?

  • Jonathan Freitag
    Jonathan Freitag October 15, 2020 at 12:09 am

    @Nigel, are these eras your Top 5 ranked choices?

  • Mark Atterbury

    Lots of interesting theories. I really think this reflects how people change as they get older - I was more into the fantasy and sci-fi elements of wargaming in my twenties but evolved (or devolved depending on your perspective!) into ancients and historical wargaming in my thirties. A question on what people played 10 years ago the most and what they play now the most might help identify this progression? Whatever the reasoning, great marketing material for the games manufacturers - you should consider getting a fee from them to share your findings.

  • Jonathan Freitag
    Jonathan Freitag October 15, 2020 at 6:03 pm

    @Mark, your suggestion of adding a question on what was first choice in wargaming preference ten years ago is a good one. If the hypothesis that a gamer transitions from fantasy to historical wargaming with age is to stand, your suggested question would be a useful approach in tackling this question.

  • Nigel

    Which is my most popular varies with books I read, Films, conversations with other wargamers etc. Back in the 60's -70's Donald Featherstone divided History into four periods namely, Ancients, Pike and Shot, Horse and Musket and Modern. The idea being that warfare changed enough from one period to another to make each more distinct from the others. With an interest in a wide range of History, I chose to game one War from each period, hence the choices made.

  • Jonathan Freitag
    Jonathan Freitag October 18, 2020 at 9:25 pm

    Nigel, you follow a very pragmatic approach to your wargaming and cannot go wrong in adhering to Featherstone's period demarcations. I wish I had your discipline.

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