Category Archives: Speculations and Opinions

Could there ever be another 40K?

The Emperor of Mankind, Rogue Trader era

I read an article recently on Bell of Lost Souls that really got me thinking.  The original is here.

As a relatively old bastard myself, I have similar pre-GW memories, only mine were more Steve Jackson’s Car Wars than Battletech.  I did play Battletech briefly.  I remember being really paranoid my mechs would overheat all the time and so I tricked them out with bazillions of heat sinks.

Anyway, we’ve all heard this sort of thing before (although not usually so eloquently).  The Warhammer 40,000 universe has changed.  At the beginning it was mad, and satirical, and hyper-masculine and violent but at least self-aware.  I particularly like when he says “In the early days of 40K, people still understood that Judge Dredd wasn’t an action hero, he was a parody.”  That says it all really.

Now the hyper-masculinity is po-faced and serious (sorry, I mean “grimdark”) and the Orks are, I think, the only real link to the old spirit.  Which is why aspects of them seem a little out of place and annoying to some gamers I talk to today.  Even the current Orks though are darker, more serious incarnations of their former selves.  As someone in the comments on the coxcomb piece said, GW today goes for suspension of disbelief over satire.  Which in my opinion is foolish given that the very premise they are putting forward, that advanced futuristic empires fly halfway across the galaxy in giant space churches to get out and hit each other with chainsaws (to paraphrase Something Awful’s Zack) is ridiculous.

So all this got me thinking.  The original 40k universe was explosively protean and shattered sci-fi wargaming (maybe even wargaming in general) with its energy and insanity.  It was informed by politically satirical British fantasy and comics, among other things.  What would a similar game be like today?  Could it even happen?  I don’t think it has happened since.  As great as many of today’s competitors are, they are all playing firmly by the established rules compared to the boldness of Rogue Trader in its time.

Tetsuo is a pretty good metaphor for the chaotic creativity of late 20th century anime

I think about fifteen or twenty years ago, a similar game could have emerged inspired by anime.  This is because in the late 80s/early 90s, Japanese anime experienced a creative boom wherein the creators made whatever they hell they wanted, unrestricted by genre and convention.  Creativity was the aim.  It was seen as the hallmark of the medium, what separated it from ordinary film.  I’m talking about the era of Akira, Ghost in the Shell, Neon Genesis, Fist of the North Star, Urotsukidoji and Ninja Scroll.

Unfortunately it’s generally agreed that that era has passed, and anime and gaming in Japan has now firmly established and solidified into clones and re-hashes.  The opportunity is gone to capture the energy.  Sure, Infinity and Anima Tactics are inspired by anime, but it’s modern anime, not the nutso stuff I listed above.

I actually think Infinity is the most exciting game there is right now.  It is inspired by anime but not just anime.  Like the writers of Rogue Trader, the writers of Infinity take their influences where they can get them and mash them up expertly.  That said though, it still seems a little pale and bloodless somehow.

I can’t honestly think of any exciting movement in fantasy or sci-fi today where the hallmark is pure punk creativity.  We seem to me to be in one of those lull periods, where we’re all plodding along and the last great beacon of creative inspiration in wargaming (40k) is fading, a totalitarian shadow of its former self.  It’s almost an eerie echo of the story of the Imperium of Man.

The internet is flooded with fan fiction.  Japan is insular and content to repeat sequels and licenses.  The Brits have China Mieville I suppose but he’s so dense and self-satisfied.  Could there ever be another Rogue Trader?  I doubt it.  Even if a creative movement emerged, there’s no guarantee it could be successfully harnessed into a game again.

Am I wrong?  Someone please tell me I’m wrong.


Sexism in Gaming Art: Final Words

After weeks of discussion with people online and in real life (yes, I am more than a disembodied text-machine), I think I’ve finally solidified where I stand on the issue of sexist art – models, characters and illustrations – in gaming and in fantasy in general.  Hopefully I can express myself well, and this can be my last word on the subject for now. Continue reading


The Other Sexy Models

Today’s bit was inspired by the soon-to-be-notorious discussion on Sinsynn’s Sexy Models post, and the general discussion in the community at the moment on this topic (see this excellent post at Tentakel).  The post that you’re reading now replaces one I had half-written on the subject of sexist – as opposed to sexy – models.

First some background though.  In real life I mostly work on research in ethics and moral philosophy, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that I think humans should be excellent to one another, and that we have the potential to change things and to make the world and ourselves better.  There wouldn’t be much point studying ethics if you don’t believe that we have choices.  I also think the easiest way to find out how someone wants to be treated is to ask them.

I’m not opposed to sexy models personally, though I do think many of them are obviously pornographic and should therefore be treated as porn, not as art.  However, the attitude that male gamers are somehow qualified to judge what female gamers should and should not be offended by – well, I was going to say it “upsets me” – but that’s too strong a word.  I don’t easily upset.  Let’s just say it made me want to write a post of my own.

This is one of my favourite models ever, Justine the Demon Hunter. I own it but haven’t painted it yet. She looks sexy, heroic and feminine, and is wearing full plate and a hood. It can be done.

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Too Into Gaming

The other day I crawled out from under my rock (by which I mean crushing avalanche of essay marking, reading and baby-wrangling) long enough to notice that 40k 6th edition is pretty much guaranteed to come out soon.  Actually it would be more accurate to say that Capn Stoogey dragged me out.  That is,  he sent me a text saying “6th is out in July”.

This is big big news for us 40k players of course.  I’m not going to insult your intelligence by pretending I have anything valuable to say about it.  I haven’t been following the rumours, I haven’t touched a model since my failed Night Goblins and I haven’t played a game in a couple of months – and that one had to be aborted half way through.

So what the hell am I writing about, you ask?  I just thought since Warp Signal is in part a record of my gaming habits, I should record the following fact:

BABY KILL GAMING

…Well, not just baby.  Baby plus grown-up job.  I think it’s really interesting how I feel about this though.  I just don’t really care.  Having my gaming habits broken forcibly has shown me that they were just that – habits.  I know this because I have broken a number of bad habits over the years, like smoking, drinking too often and too much, and er, laziness.  The thing about all of them is that once they are broken, you find it hard to see why you cared so much about them before.

I assume we all know the feeling of getting too into gaming.  Hell, some of us have probably lived our lives that way for years on end, and see nothing wrong with it.  I’m talking about obsession: constantly checking blogs, forums and other news sites for info, engaging in long-winded debate with the rest of the community, indulging in your gaming habit until it’s all that you can think about whenever you have time to think about anything.  This is how I’ve been for much of the time I’ve been writing this blog.  And I’m starting to wonder if it is healthy for me.  Like I said, the fact that a year ago I could not have imagined going a day without thinking about gaming, and now it barely crosses my mind, is a pretty good indication that I had an addiction.

So is gaming a bad habit?  The community tends to applaud obsession, and people compete with one another to be more hard core, or more dedicated, or more deeply immersed, or whatever.  But this doesn’t mean anything.  Any group of addicts is going to talk and behave as though their addiction is actually a good thing, and reinforce one another.  That’s just what they do.  So I guess to honsetly answer that question we need to look elsewhere.  Intuitivley I think the answer is “sometimes.”

I like to think I’ve always been a voice of moderation in the blogosphere.  I take pride in being a casual gamer, and I try to shoot down arguments that equate being “hard-core” with being a “true gamer” whenever I see them.  There are many ways to play and none are more valid than any other.  But even I have been obsessed.  I may not play constantly or compete to the death, but I did think far more deeply about games and gamer culture than was smart for me, considering I had other things in real life that were much more important.

And there it is.  Gaming is important, but for me, it’s not my life’s work.  It’s not the most important thing.  It’s important to me precisely because it’s not important, if you get my drift.  It provides a contrast to all the real, grown-up, totally amazing things I do in my life.  I have a beautiful partner and child.  I actually get paid to be a philosopher, which is a pretty out-there job.  I mean who does that, really? All of these things are things I should be thankful for, and things that deserve more attention from me than gaming.  Gaming is for when everything else is going smoothly and I think “hey, I would really enjoy playing Skyrim for a couple of hours right now, or going to a mate’s place to play some 40k.”

But that’s just me.  Gaming is not my job, and I don’t want it to be.  The thought of being a professional gamer fills me with horror, to be honest.  It seems like a bad way to spend your life.  Being a game designer would be better, but truthfully, there are a lot of things I’d rather be than that, including what I currently do.  And I don’t want gaming to be just a habit either.   That looks suspiciously like being a professional gamer without the pay.

So expect to hear less from me from now on.  I’ll update when I do some actual gaming, or when, like today, I really have something to say.

Have a good one, and remember – games are important, but not serious!


The Nostalgia Project

OK so this is not about gaming, again.  I know, I’m getting into bad habits . . . more hobby soon.

I have this budgeting trick I do where every week I transfer $20 into an account, and when I have enough I buy something that I (or my girlfriend) wants but that we couldn’t normally justify buying in one go.  It works really well – in the past we have used it to buy the complete DVD collections of Buffy and Angel, a pair of high quality work shoes that should last for several years, and an Epson scanner.  It’s amazing how quickly 20 bucks a week adds up.

Anyway because I’ve been so busy with work and baby I now have about $200, growing every week, and no particular project to spend it on.  I’ve decided to buy something nostalgic to me that I’ve always wished I had but that is not easily available any more.  Here are the choices I’ve narrowed it down to, but it’s a tough one.  Maybe some readers can cheer me on in a certain direction? Continue reading


Tired and Cranky: Jervis Deserves Better

I’ve been meaning for a while now to write a little post sticking up for Jervis Johnson.  I am a big fan of generally treating other people with respect (something that more often than not finds me at odds with internet culture), and I’m pretty much totally disgusted with the online vitriol that is directed towards games designers, in particular Jervis and some of the other GW people.

In my opinion the sorts of things people say about him are not the sorts of things any decent person should say about another human being.  And that’s the problem – the internet can make certain people (by which I mean idiots) forget that game designers are people: actual human beings like you and me with feelings and families, who do what they do for reasons that they probably sincerely think are good ones.  No-one should have to suffer death-threats, curses and spite from cretinous moral infants because they tried to make a game for people to share and enjoy.

Well, Lexington over at GAME OVER has written a post sticking up for the Dark Angels codex, and more particularly has said some nice stuff about Jervis.  I’d just like to draw everyone’s attention to it if you haven’t seen it already.  The only thing I’d like to add is that Jervis is clearly not a brainless chimp throwing rules at the wall like so much monkey shit.  Read his Standard Bearer articles and you’ll see he has a clear vision honed over three decades of game design.  If you can’t see that, or you don’t like his vision, then don’t play his games.  He’s not a bad designer, he’s a good designer designing games that you don’t happen to like.  Have some fucking human empathy.

Anyone who’s been in an industry as volatile as game design for as long as he has deserves respect.  No matter what you think about his games, thinking about games is his job.  If it’s not yours (and for most of us it isn’t) then shut the fuck up.  Talk about him with respect if you’re going to talk about him at all.


WTF is a Lochaber Axe?

. . . Or, Thinking Too Much About Fantasy

Today I thought I’d write something a bit different.  It’s just something that I’ve thought about a lot on and off over the years – fantasy and suspension of disbelief.  So be prepared to descend into a whirlpool of nerdy over-analysis.  Or else just click on one of the excellent blogs off to the right there.

Or just look at the cute bunny.

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