When I was at uni I spent most of my time rock climbing and mountaineering which was predominately a white, male middle class pursuit. There were a few exceptions but not many. Climbing was a closed shop, the only way you could get into it was if someone you knew was a climber and was willing to teach you, or you went off to uni and joined the uni club. Traditional climbing clubs were the preserve of cynical old buggers who didn’t really tolerate new people. The climbing world was very small and insular, and if you were a climber you knew most of the climbers in your home area, and you knew many nationally. It really was that small of a counter culture.
This all started to change with the introduction of climbing centres. At first they were populated by the same people mentioned above, but centres realised that when the weather was good the climbers stayed away (climbing walls were the bad weather option). So the centres were open, but empty with bills to pay. They started putting kids birthday parties on, started running learn to climb courses, and set up indoor centre ‘club’ nights where lone climbers could turn up and find someone to belay them (and vice versa). The result? There are a lot more women climbing, and youngsters, and people from every creed and colour. Climbing culture has changed, but for the better.
So playing with toy soldiers? Roll the clock back many years and who played with soldiers? Little boys, and predominantly white little boys. As our societies have changed their make-up, toy soldiers have become a thing from the past. They do still exist but are very much on the side lines, unlike being in the window of every toy shop. Computers, tablets and phones replicate playing with toy soldiers but without the need for Airfix or Brittans (sp?).
There is an exception, Games Workshop. Pretty much the only place that you will see toy soldiers on the High Street. And it is doing very well at what it does. Still predominantly attracting boys, but now of different creeds and colours. If you visit the games shows you are beginning to see a trickle through of these GW players. Just as indoor climbing walls generated some outdoor climbers maybe some cross over and try other ‘eras’; some climbers who learnt to climb indoors are happy as they are indoors, so many GW gamers are happy as they are. Last weekend I visited my local shop for some spray varnish: Saturday morning, it was heaving with small people playing games. Has to be a good thing.
The future will tell if these small people stick at it. It worked for climbing. Maybe it’ll work for gaming?