Why Richard Was Almost Right
For the Time Being The Hobby Is Alive and Well, but it Needs to Get its Act
by Stephen Agar
it is five years since Richard Egan wrote that
article and we are all (mostly) still here. Not that the Hobby isn't in slow
decline, I think that's beyond doubt. The steady decline in the number of
Diplomacy gamestarts since the mid-80's is there for all to see. As it happens I
do not think it is primarily the fault of the commercial PBM games that have
reduced our numbers, in my opinion the main reasons are:
Diplomacy is an old-fashioned board game and nowhere as near as exciting
as multi-player Doom or Sid Meier's Civilisation. The teenagers and students who
got into boardgaming in the 70's and early 80's are now into computers.
Even if someone wanted to buy Diplomacy, it is increasingly difficult to
actually buy it. It is no longer stocked by general toy shops or WH Smiths, even
the Virgin games stores don't always have a copy. OK, if you hunt around you
will find a copy, but Diplomacy is no longer going to be a mainstream impulse
As we all know, because it's been hyped to distraction, the Internet is
where it's at. If there is a future for zine culture it lies in the World Wide
Web in (say) five years time when sufficient people have the hardware.
And of course, there's the commercial PBM games (but even they'll have
difficulty competing with on-line games).
of these things (especially 1 and 2) mean that postal Diplomacy is doomed in the
long run. That is not necessarily a bad thing as everything must run its course
and be replaced with whatever comes next. Postal Diplomacy is a bit like the old
fashioned LP, the refuge of cranky thirtysomethings and fortysomethings unable
to come to terms with a changing world.
am I depressed? Not a bit of it. The old game has a bit of life in it yet and
provided those of us who want the hobby to have the opportunity to flourish for
up to another ten years take action now, then I think we can prolong the
shelf-life of postal Diplomacy. What we really need is sufficient new blood each
year to put off the evil day when we are all playing games on computers. But we
need to recognise that, by and large, people buying the game and sending off a
flyer for details on PBM Diplomacy is not the answer it once was. The hobby
needs to reach out to those who are already familiar with Diplomacy, who maybe
played it at college 15 years ago or at their local games group 20 years ago.
Such men (lets be real, they will be men) in their thirties and early forties
are probably now (mainly) settled down and financially stable and if they're
into games they are probably into wargaming (of one sort or another), RPG,
computer games and increasingly on-line.
that is where we must look. We must target these areas with advertisements and
(if possible) articles to reach out to the large number who once liked
Diplomacy, played it a few times (perhaps even postally) and then drifted on.
Some areas of gaming can be approached through classified advertising (e.g.
wargaming magazines, RPG magazines), - for instance the article on Diplomacy I
had published in Games & Puzzles has (so far) brought in over 25 enquiries.
The on-line community can at least be introduced to the idea of PBM as well as
PBEM by those of us on-line constantly singing the praises of PBM and helping to
get over the idea that PBM and PBEM can work well together and are not
alternatives. The recent formation of uk.games.board at least gives us a UK
forum where we can try and interest domestic players and, maybe, try and form
uk.games.diplomacy. Though this is not the goldmine (or the threat) that some
suggest - my best guess is a maximum 100 UK players playing Diplomacy on the
Internet, with probably a quarter of those already in the PBM hobby anyway.
multi-games PBM crowd should bear in mind that the same fate awaits them as
well, and that the Diplomacy hobby has served other postal games players well by
introducing people to the concept of PBM, many of who then branch out into other
games. So we should all hang together (unfortunate expression that...).
is a lot that can be done - my only question would be, is there a willingness to
do it? Well, here is one suggestion...
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