About Wargame_[space]

Wargame_[space] is a place I’ve chosen to collect my game writing, which has appeared in such places as the magazines Computer Gaming World, Computer Games, and Massive (may they rest in peace), the websites Gamespot, Gamespy, Flash of Steel, and Quarter to Three, and some other places.  Some of it has appeared in those places before, and some of it is new.  It’s a place where you can find my writing easily, without having to constantly follow my Twitter feed @spacerumsfeld, although you are encouraged to do so anyway.  If you have any questions, you are encouraged to contact me at the address(es) listed here.

The site is arranged by categories, although in general these are post-hoc classifications of pieces written as one-offs. Still, they serve as useful sorting arrangement for stuff I wrote. For context, I’ve described some of those categories below.

Games Domain: Back in the 1990s there was a website called Games Domain that had a substantial portion of the gaming readership at that time. It had game hints, tips, cheats, codes, and whatever else gamers wanted from a website circa 1995. Part of the site consisted of Games Domain Review (GDR), a mostly volunteer enterprise that had the responsibility of writing reviews of the boxloads of games that arrived at the Games Domain offices. It was an eclectic collection of strong personalities who fought and argued and believed various things in the era before forums, and I miss it. There was an earnestness to the writing that was comforting and endearing at a time when earnestness was still acceptable. The proximate cause of its downfall was its purchase by theglobe.com, that notorious Internet bubble entity, but no rational business model existed for a site composed of writers who wrote only because they felt they had something to say. It was sold to British Telecom, and then Yahoo, but by then the part that was GDR was long gone. If you search old posts on Usenet, which is something you either know about or you don’t, you’ll find a lot of arguments about games that use GDR as a sort of reference point for “non-commercial” reviews. I was the “assistant strategy editor” between 1997 and 2000 or so. I took the opportunity to write a lot of opinion pieces about wargames. One piece was picked up and used (with permission) as course material at the US Army War College. It was called “Detail vs. Realism.” I also wrote some other things, and a few of them might still be worth reading. Mostly, though, the pieces were included here for sentimental reasons.

Geryk Analysis: My friends Tom Chick and Mark Asher started a website in 2000 called Quarter to Three, which was supposed to be a reference to that time in the morning when you are playing a game and suddenly realize your repeated “just one more turn” postponement of sleep has taken you far past the point of responsible bedtime. Just typing that makes me nostalgic for a time in my life when that was possible. Early in the site’s existence, I wrote a “column” or whatever you want to call it about game design. For reasons too esoteric to explain here, each column ended up having a rebuttal, but I have only collected my pieces. Tom Chick still runs a vibrant Quarter to Three today, and has rejuvenated the site in the past few years with a number of contributors, but the Geryk Analysis pieces got lost in a site redesign many years ago, so I have “rescued” them here. Several of of the pieces (Wargaming and Rise of Legends) weren’t technically part of that series, but are included because they are thematically related to the other ones. Some of the pieces are pretty dated, but I’m attached to them.

War in the East: This started as a request by Tom Chick at Quarter to Three for game diaries, right around the time of the release of 2by3 Games’ War in the East, a modern reworking of the early ’90s classic Gary Grigsby’s War in Russia. Along the way, it changed from being a simple recounting of my progress through the game to a mix of design analysis, historical commentary, and examination of the minutiae of wargaming. Of all the articles I have written, this has gotten more feedback than anything except perhaps “Detail vs. Realism.” It’s an ongoing series, and I will probably carry it through to the historical end of the war, although this isn’t on any timetable. There isn’t a good way on Quarter to Three currently to see them as a continuous whole, so I’ve posted them here with Tom’s permission. New ones will be posted here.

Battle of Britain: This is a second game diary that I wrote a few months after the War in the East series about TalonSoft’s venerable game Battle of Britain (released in 1999). It’s shorter, comprises a more coherent whole and was written in rapid succession over a shorter period of time (except for the finale which lagged the rest by four or five months). It was also written from the beginning in the style that has no name but which on this page only I’ll call “archaeology of game mechanics” consisting of taking the mechanics of a game and subjecting both their presumptions and effects to previously published historical scholarship. I think the series proves conclusively that the game Battle of Britain is nothing like the actual Battle of Britain, which is observably obvious prior to playing the game for one minute or reading one word about the battle in any history book but took me 20,000 words to document electronically.

Starship Week: This is a series of ten pieces written for no reason other than I had gotten back to reading some science fiction and then reminiscing about science fiction in gaming. As I wrote them, they turned into a way to talk about genres I don’t normally explore, meaning anything not based on history with a tank in it. I used to read a lot of science fiction and play a lot of role-playing games before I went to college. I conceived of this series as a way to write about those things under the cover of a project, because if you plan something carefully enough, the reasons behind the planning get lost in the planning itself. If you like this series, you can buy it as an ebook for $2.99. In fact, if you are reading this site, and think everything you’ve read here is worth three bucks, consider spending it on the ebook.

Gaming Graveyard: I wrote a lot for Gamespot (in the time when it still paid well) while in graduate and medical school, but much of it was the kind of review work that while I stand behind it, I have no particular attachment to it. I haven’t collected it here for that reason, as well as because Gamespot is still a going concern and some things are still available on their website. Something that is no longer available there, and which has been gone for years, is a long-form piece I wrote on the cancellation of a flight simulator game called A-10 Warthog. At the time, the game’s cancellation was a big deal, which reflects both the charming reality that (a) people still cared about a hardcore flight simulator, and (b) people were still unsophisticated enough to see conspiracies in ordinary business decisions. But good stories are still good stories, and for those interested in such things, it did provide a window into the decisionmaking process at a large game developer, which wasn’t nearly as voluminously documented as it is now. I can not longer find the images for the piece anywhere online, so just the text is posted.

Reviews: I reviewed a lot of games once upon a time. It’s not a format I like because I’m much more interested in the thought process behind a game design and how it plays in practice than whether or not it is worth buying. The whole genre of “game review” developed around a demographic to whom a $60 game was a major purchase. The forms and conventions of these reviews are still stuck in an intellectual tar pit that limits the discussion in a way I find baffling, even in publications that have the intellectual strength to extricate themselves. In many ways, I find reviews to be the least interesting way of talking about a game. Still, I wrote a lot of them, and I like a few of them still, so I saved some.

Reading List This is the secret other reason for the existence of wargamespace. I get regular requests for reading recommendations related to military history and wargaming, and since many of the requests are similar, I had taken to preparing some standard recommendations I could copy and paste. But rather than restrict this to email, I thought to post them in a readily available space. In doing so, I’m following in the footsteps of Tim Stone’s Flare Path Reading Room, but with selections chosen by myself, with my own (biased) commentary, and without the explicit connection to wargames.

In any case, thanks for reading. You can email me at bruce and then the at sign and then wargamespace dot com.