Saturday, April 7, 2012

Present givers: why you no buy what I like?

Here's something that's got me thinking after seeing this picture this morning...

Since I was a kid, all I've really wanted for gifts are wargames and books. That's it. Everyone who is or has been my friend, relative, wife, or lover knows this.

And yet do I ever get games or books for birthday or Christmas presents? Books, occasionally. But wargames? Never.

It seems to me this is a mark of how deep the gaming geek stigma goes.

Don't tell me it's because I have an "unhealthy fixation" with games. My dad has an unhealthy fixation with golf and he gets golf presents. My cousin has an unhealthy fixation with animé and gets animé-related presents. Most of my male relatives wouldn't dream of missing a Packers game and they get Packers presents all the time. In fact, I'd be willing to lay down good money that at least half of my male relatives spend far more time, each week, watching televised sports than I do in gaming-related activities. And women, before you get self-righteous, most of you spend more time watching soap operas than I do playing games (if you are Brazilians, at least). PLEASE, bull me no shit about "obsessive hobbies", mmm'kay? Especially when you're busy buying Aunt So-and-so her hundred and umpeenth cookbook.

But I can count the number of times I've received a board wargame as a present on half the fingers of one hand.


It CAN'T be because they are too hard to find, not in today's internet-dominated world. And it can't be because people "don't know what I'd like". People insist on giving me clothes and most of them I'll never wear, but that doesn't stop the clothes buyers. Hell, it'd be far EASIER to buy me a wargame than any other gift: simply go into your friendly local gamestore and ask the nice woman behind the counter what wargames are hot this season and 9 out of 10 times you'll get me something I don't have and would be interested in.

Furthermore, unlike clothes, I actually have a use for wargames I wouldn't buy myself. I ENJOY reading gaming systems and seeing how they work, even if the game topic itself doesn't interest me. Like clothes, I can always take a real stinker or a duplicate purchase back to the shop for exchange credit. Also, like books, secondhand wargames are much cheaper and just as useful as a new version.

But no one ever, ever, ever buys me games! And it would be so easy and so simple, as well as being the perfect gift!

Why did that picture get me thinking? The man in that photo is Italian game reviewer MarcoArnaudo. Note how he is a simple, normal looking gentleman and not an overweight, slobbering denizen of momma's basement. Marco, like me, is a university professor. He is married and has socially acceptable hygene habits. He hardly ever kidnaps mailmen for secret genetics experiments or hands out poison candy to the kiddies at Halloween.

The game in front of Marco is the classic "La Bataille de la Moscowa", first published in the 1970s, a game that I have wanted in my collection ever since I was 13 years old. I never buy it for myself, however, because it's a "monster game" and I don't spend cash on games which I'll have little chance to play for lack of space. But I want it, want it, want it, just the same.

And what's the price of this outrageous monstrosity? 90 US dollars. Less than the iPod I bought as an Xmas gift for the saintly woman who cooks and cleans for us. Less than the price of the clothes my in-laws bought me for X-mas the last three years running.

Marco got the game as a birthday gift. Look how satisfied he is! That's how satisfied I'd be, 90% of the time, with almost any gift that is wargame related. And yet, in spite of the fact that literally everyone who knows me knows about this, my "obsession", I have almost never received a game as a gift. In fact, looking back on it, the only person I can ever think of who's ever bought me a wargame is my ex-wife, Katinha. (Mentira: my Uncle Jim once bought me some miniatures rules when I was 10.)

So what is it, people? Is my hobby just "too strange"? Is it "too infantile"? More than watching a bunch of grown men slamming their brains into early Alzheimers on the football field three times weekly...? Is it just too geeky? More than golf, for chrissake?

What's the problem here?

This is a nit I'm picking, but it really fucking bothers me. I put a lot of thought into the gifts that I give people, when I can give gifts (even though I probably miss as often as I hit). But in spite of the fact that I am literally the easiest person in the world to buy gifts for, no one in a rush to get me something, anything ever twigs on the obvious.

Now, I'm not saying that I haven't received many FANTASTIC gifts over the years: I have indeed! But, again, these were usually gifts by people who put some thought into what I need or want. Im also not saying I deserve gifts: I have too much crap as it is.

What bums me out, however, are the folks who insist on giving me presents, don't know what to get and buy any old thing almost at random. They usually spend far more money on this useless, joyless tchotcke than they would on a wargame, even when they KNOW FULL WELL what my obsessive hobby is. There are 10 dollar wargames out there, folks! You can't even buy a pack of tube socks these days for 10 dollars! And yet I receive tube socks in abundance at gift-giving times.

So let's knock it off with the socially acceptable snobbery, OK? Being a wargamer is no less or more a "disturbing" hobby than being a football fan and, as men the world over will attest to, no one has ever had any problem buying Dad, Hubby, or Brother a new Manchetser United jersey. I'm not asking you to enjoy my hobby - I probably wouldn't enjoy yours. But if you can't think of what to give me next Christmas or birthday and you really feel that you need to get me something, why not pop on over to, look at their "wargames" section and order me a used copy of whatever's 5th on their "top ten" list?

I GUARANTEE I'll appreciate more than the tube socks.


  1. A fine rant and often true. Most of my family are similar but I am blessed with a wife who will ask for a list of things I want and then buy a selection. This Christmas gone I got the books I wanted and GHQ 1/285th Crusader AFVs. Other years I've got ASL modules. She does really well! :)

  2. I'm getting thoroughly chastized by my ex-wife on Facebook for "being spoiled"... The same ex, by the way, who'd have been pissed to the wide if I'd have bought her an encyclopedia or bowling ball for Christmas and then said "I just didn't know what to get you". :)

    I don't think I'm "entitled" to gifts at all. What bothers me is that I have a hobby that's so notorious that my friends and family constantly joke about it and yet somehow when it comes time to give gifts, many of these same people just can't figure out what I like.

    Again, if I was nutters for football or golf, people would have no problem seeing the obvious. But being interested in military history....? Where could anyone get anything that might be relevant for that? I mnean, it's not like they sell Osprey books at Barnes and Nobles, right?

    My stepmother, by the way, is also a military history nut and we are constantly sending each other books. I have a pretty good idea what she's reading at any point and come gift-giving time, I just go on to Amazon and look for something I think she doesn't have yet. There's always a huge selection of options. I'm pretty sure she does the same thing and she hasn't missed yet.

    And this, mind you, is a woman I maybe see once a year, if that, whom I never met until I was already an adult.

    My aunt loves Miss America, big cats and local history. Again, it's not hard to figure out what to get her. I have an uncle who's nutters about the history of the 8th Air Force and the history of air technology in general. He's an easy person to buy for. But somehow, most folks can't seem to figure out what I'm interested in.

    I mean, c'mon! How hard can it be to perceive these things?

  3. I feel your pain.

    I have been with my wife for 21 years. In all those years she has NEVER once bought me anything gaming related. Ever.

    I don't get it.


  4. I feel for you as well. I have managed to convert several significant others into wargamers or at least fig collectors/painters over the years. It solves the problem in the short term but eventually they end up with as much if not more stuff that you...

  5. Excellent rant. I fully understand where you are coming from with this one. These days I just buy things and give them to my wife before birthdays and Christmases. She then sees to the distribution of these gifts among my relatives, so that they all give me something I want.