I try and maintain a range of interests apart from gaming, but that’s become a little harder recently. I’ve been a season ticket holder with London Irish RFC for just over twenty years, not always the happiest of times with the team being in the doldrums for a while, but things had started really clicking – the best season for years, a great crop of promising youngsters sticking with the club rather than moving on, exciting times. With things going so well on the pitch fate decided to stick its oar in; the club collapsed financially, the current owner unable to sustain ongoing losses and a promised takeover bid failing to materialise, so the professional club has effectively ceased to exist. It’s heartbreaking, primarily of course for the players and staff, and leaves quite the gap in the calendar from September to May.
There’s also history, particularly military history, something sparked at the age of six when I was given a book about the Battle of Britain. My interest waxed and waned over time, but has built over the last ten years (an inevitability, according to the ever-reliable Daily Mash – “Getting into Second World War one of men’s four signs of aging”).
Early historical debate centred around key questions such as “which plane is the bestest”, thankfully an argument that could be solved by the definitive work on the subject: Amazing Aircraft Top Trumps (the Fairey Battle may have been shot down in droves, but with a crew of 3 it was undeniably better than a Spitfire. As long as that was the selected category.) Of course one leaves such childish nonsense behind and progresses to mature and sophisticated enquiry, questions like “which plane in War Thunder should be bestest but is not because teh lazy devs have not modelled it rite”. I started to dig into historical sources a little more deeply to find out exactly when a particular variant entered squadron service, or how widely 100 octane fuel was used in June 1940; though rather scattergun there’s some impressive research in game communities (and other areas, such as scale modelling), if you can pick through the more extreme flamewars over the precise shade of primer used on Bulgarian tanks in 1936. Fortunately my level of interest rapidly tails off after 1945, where the worst charge you can level at participants tends to be “unhealthy obsession” rather than “actual treason”; with ever more modern vehicles being added to the game some folk resort to the use of still-classified documents to try and bolster their argument.
The baby steps into “proper” history took me to AskHistorians on Reddit, a rather more collegial atmosphere with the emphasis on learning instead of winning futile arguments, and strict moderation to ensure thorough answers aren’t drowned out by rapidly regurgitated half-remembered anecdotes. I’ve been participating for six or seven years as a flaired user, answering a question or two a week on average, and learning about everything from vegetarianism in the 19th century to the myth of the Bermuda Triangle to the local effects of the English reformation. Concerns over the future of Reddit have led to the site temporarily blacking out, though, and currently being restricted; hopefully things can be worked out on the current platform or a new one found.
Oh well. Perhaps it’s the universe’s way of telling me to spend my time in a more productive manner. Or, far more likely I think we can all agree, to play more games. Pretty sure that’s it.