Wargaming Survey Part II: Grognards Revealed
Welcome back, wargamer. Thanks for taking the time to come back for this follow-up visit. I have some interesting results to share about the “typical” wargamer based on your survey as well as the results of over 640 of your friends (Wargaming Survey Part I: Understanding Your Local Grognard). Let’s take a look at the data and get right into it.
I’m sure you are interested to learn about my initial hypothesis when I put this little experiment together. This is what I thought I would find:
Hypothesis: I believe we will find a strong correlation between rational thinkers who are also wargamers. This would suggest a field of respondents who are part of the “Rationals” sub-group of personality types (ENTJ/INTJ/ENTP/INTP). Despite the extroverted rationals, I expect to find an overall trend toward introversion within the wargaming community, perhaps explaining in part why it is so hard for the community to grow beyond niche status. Combined with the three functional requirements noted in the original article (interest in military history, detail-oriented behavior, and the intellectual factors), the actual percentage of the population predisposed to wargaming is miniscule. Taken in total, there are many restrictions which will always condemn wargaming to a tiny enclave of players, at least until someone changes the definition of wargaming, or until there are breakthroughs in how wargames themselves are developed and played.
Control Set: The control set for this experiment will be the 1000′s of people who have already taken this type of personality survey. The results will allow us to compare “wargamers” with the rest of society. This should draw out any leanings wargamers may exhibit.
There is a clear spike of the INTJ personality type among wargamers
Before laying out the specific and entire survey results, I would like to expand upon my hypothesis just a bit and explain my thoughts on just how the results supported or did not support that hypothesis. First and foremost, the data seems to absolutely support my theory that the majority of wargamers are indeed an introverted lot. An astounding 36.97% (237 people) of respondents put themselves in the INTJ personality type. Perhaps it is no coincidence that I myself am part of this INTJ sub-group, given the INTJ penchant for gathering and processing information. (some links on what it means to be INTJ – link link link link) The truly interesting facet of this particular survey result is that of the population at large, between 1 and 3% fall into the INTJ category. Statistically speaking, this shows a very significant part of our community is drawn from a very tiny subset of the entire population. While we all seem to know this to be inherently true (we are an odd lot, and have always known it!), this illustrates it in a more concise manner.
To complete my hypothesis about the Rationals sub-group, it turns out that the combination of ENTJ/INTJ/ENTP/INTP personality types accounted for 53.04% of the total number of wargamers. The vast majority were from the previously noted INTJ group, followed by the ENTJ and INTP groups, with ENTP far in the back with only 2% of the total. Indeed the Rationals sub-group constitutes the majority of the wargamer community who took part in this survey. (more about “Rationals” and other temperaments – link link) Again, this is greatly disproportional to the amount of Rationals present in the population at large.
These huge spikes in the personality types were very much in line with what I expected to find given my anecdotal experience in working and playing against other wargamers for the past 20 years. Nonetheless, it was interesting to see this hypothesis emerge with the incoming data. Yet, the deeper mystery to solve here is whether wargamers are born or bred into this hobby. Why do INTJ’s get brought into wargaming in such prolific numbers, relative to other personality types? To explore this, I asked a few questions about how gamers got into wargaming in the first place, as well as how long each person has been wargaming. Once again, there were some pretty amazing numbers.
Most Grognards of today would immediately recognize a bookcase wargame. Will the wargamers
of tomorrow know them as well, or are PC wargames destined to dominate the genre?
Of our sample set of over 640 wargamers, 85% said their first true wargame was a board game, although 69% went on to say they now only play PC wargames. This makes sense when you consider that almost 80% of us have been gaming for 16+ years! Not surprisingly, fully 70% began wargaming before the age of 16 – suggesting that a lot of folks grew up in the Avalon Hill era of board gaming before the PC came to the forefront of the wargaming scene. Furthermore, 66% of respondents indicated that they “discovered” wargaming through their own exploration rather than have anyone introduce them to the gaming world. This mirrors my own discovery of the hobby, and suggests my “revelation” of finding my first wargame was actually pretty typical. So much for being unique! Perhaps the inquisitive nature of the INTJs led them into book and hobby stores where they then discovered board games.
Yet, it is perhaps far more important to understand where “new” wargamers are going to come from, knowing that book and hobby stores will probably not have the same cache of board games that were present 16+ years ago when many of us got our start… If we can agree that most current wargamers first got into the hobby before the age of 16, it stands to reason that inquisitive 16-year olds of today are playing computer and console games which may be THEIR gateway into more serious wargaming. There are any number of first person shooters, real time strategy games, and grand strategy games on the market with aspects that could provoke interest in taking the next step. For example, playing Call of Duty or Hearts of Iron could easily get a young gamer to ask questions about World War II. Coupled with an interest in military history, it is easy to see a pathway developing towards the wargaming destination… I believe this is an area worthy of further study using more refined survey questions than what I created here. For now, this remains merely an educated guess. [Note there are HUNDREDS of anecdotal stories attached to this survey, and I invite you to peruse them and make your own judgments about how and why people get into this hobby! Discuss the results here.]
As graphics and AI technology improve, the distinction between casual strategy and
true “wargames” will be more and more difficult to define.
In the interest of time, I’ll quickly summarize some of the other results that I found interesting.
On the question of whether the wargaming hobby is growing or shrinking, getting stronger or weaker, etc. the community was almost evenly split. There is no consensus on whether it is weak, strong, or growing. This is somewhat significant when considering most of us are long-time veterans of the hobby, and should have a good idea of the course of wargaming given our longevity. This suggests (to me at least) we are either in a period of uncertainty within the hobby, or that the hobby has consistently been tracking along the same path neither growing nor shrinking to any appreciable degree…making it hard for long time enthusiasts to put their finger on where things stand now or are going in the future.
Another question I threw in based on personal experience was how many local friends you have to play against. Personally, I have always had trouble finding local opponents, which was something I always attributed to a combination of my introverted leanings and the dearth of other wargamers in my social groups. I was interested to learn if others shared a similar situation, and found that almost 46% of wargamers report that have ZERO local wargamers with whom they can play face to face. A lucky 15% knew 3 or more wargamers locally. It is probably a reasonable assumption to say that our introverted backgrounds play at least some part in preventing us from getting out and meeting other wargamers.
I threw in one question to support my initial belief that wargamers almost certainly need some interest in military history in order to play these games. When asked to rate their interest in military history, I was not surprised that 84% rated it as “high”, with the other 15.1% rating it as “moderate” and only 3 people out of 640+ said they had absolutely no interest in military history. I think it goes without saying that military history and wargaming are complementary areas of interest for us. The vast majority (76.7%) marked reading as their primary source of their education in all things military history, and this seems to support the pedantic leanings found in the typical wargamer. Nonetheless, I was quite surprised to learn that over 50% of you actually got some military history education in school…something must have been missing from my textbooks!
Conclusion and Data
What have I learned from this exercise? First and foremost, wargamers ARE a unique group – which was really no surprise to this veteran gamer. Yet, seeing those introverted rationals stack up in the data was somewhat of a pleasant surprise to me, even though I’ve always subconsciously known it to be true. The few wargamers I’ve run across face to face have always been intelligent and bright individuals, but most have been reserved with those introverted tendencies I myself possess. No, wargamers typically aren’t shut-ins or vampires, afraid of contact with the outside world, but 3/4 of us exhibit some introverted leanings based on this survey. The fact that over 1 in 3 wargamers are in the exact same INTJ personality group illustrates this point with great effect. Furthermore, introverted youngsters are less likely to proselytize outside their closest friends about this great new hobby they’ve found, helping explain a bit more of the difficulties in growing the hobby.
Additionally, wargamers are overwhelmingly interested in at least some aspects of military history. I surmised wargaming REQUIRES an interest in military history, and I believe this to be mostly true based on the results. This is supported by looking at other hobbies shared by wargamers such as model building, miniatures, reading, and so forth. This suggests, at least somewhat, that these other hobbies are areas where we can turn to find future wargamers (in addition to the war-themed PC games mentioned earlier). Many of the personal stories attached to this survey mirror my own discovery of wargames, simply by stumbling upon them while looking for new military models at the hobby store. I really wasn’t surprised the data showed this supposition to be true. All of my personal wargaming friends over the years have definitely had an interest in military history.
Some future areas for study might include topics such as exactly what is required for a person to move along the continuum from casual strategy gaming to Grognard wargaming. Knowing more about this, we might be able to anticipate what types of games would be most conducive towards attracting younger casual gamers into the wargamer arena. Another area of curiosity would be to discover what it is that makes this a male-dominated hobby. At face value it would seem that young girls/women are less likely to be interested in military history than their male counterparts, precluding them from ever sitting down to explore a game about the Eastern Front. But what about games with no military history elements? What areas of gaming are most women drawn today, and do any of those hold hope of promoting wargaming to our female colleagues? A final area of research (an imperfect science to be sure!) might be to determine exactly where the boundary lies between strategy/casual “war-themed” games and the traditional wargames. It is possible some of us old Grognards could have new wargames pass us by without ever knowing it, simply because they are games unlike anything we have seen before…
Finally, I present all my data to you by turning on the results to the survey software. This will allow you to see all the information I collected here, and I welcome you to use it to draw your own conclusions or counter my theories. I make no claims on being a scientist, and I have tried to faithfully assess the numbers without injecting too much personal bias or opinion. However, since I am inside the group being studied, there was undoubtedly some influence upon my interpretations. The numbers you see in the results might be slightly off from what I have written here, since the survey is technically still open for wargamers who would like to participate.
Thanks for taking the time to take the survey (for those that did) and for spending the time to read this summary. I hope you are able to take away at least a little better understanding of your local Grognard. He is not all that different from you or I!
Discuss this article on our forum!
Brian “Siberian H.E.A.T.” King is the CO of Armchair General Magazine’s website, armchairgeneral.com. When that doesn’t keep him busy enough, he can sometimes be convinced to actually sit down and write articles on military history and wargaming. His wife is also a test subject in the quest to discover exactly how difficult it is to get women to play wargames!
Brian King (May 2005)