Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Thoughts on Warhammer Adventures and why it upsets "Fans"

So Warhammer Adventures. Warhammer for kids. Specifically kids 8 to 12 years old.

Here is its pitch for 40k
And here is its pitch for AoS

Now I am not going to focus on fantasy, I'll really get to why I ignore it later, but fundamentally it comes down to the fact that in my opinion fantasy always has hope. The Grim-Dark Future does not.

Lets start with something you all are likely very familiar with: The intro of every 40k Black Library book.

"It is the 41st Millennium. For more than a hundred centuries The Emperor has sat immobile on the Golden Throne of Earth. He is the Master of Mankind by the will of the gods, and master of a million worlds by the might of his inexhaustible armies. He is a rotting carcass writhing invisibly with power from the Dark Age of Technology. He is the Carrion Lord of the Imperium for whom a thousand souls are sacrificed every day, so that he may never truly die.

Yet even in his deathless state, the Emperor continues his eternal vigilance. Mighty battlefleets cross the daemon-infested miasma of the Warp, the only route between distant stars, their way lit by the Astronomican, the psychic manifestation of the Emperor's will. Vast armies give battle in his name on uncounted worlds. Greatest amongst his soldiers are the Adeptus Astartes, the Space Marines, bio-engineered super-warriors. Their comrades in arms are legion: the Imperial Guard and countless planetary defence forces, the ever vigilant Inquisition and the tech-priests of the Adeptus Mechanicus to name only a few. But for all their multitudes, they are barely enough to hold off the ever-present threat from aliens, heretics, mutants - and worse.

To be a man in such times is to be one amongst untold billions. It is to live in the cruelest and most bloody regime imaginable. These are the tales of those times. Forget the power of technology and science, for so much has been forgotten, never to be re-learned. Forget the promise of progress and understanding, for in the grim dark future there is only war. There is no peace amongst the stars, only an eternity of carnage and slaughter, and the laughter of thirsting gods."

Now check this out. This is the Intro from Rogue Trader.
Very similar yes? Especially in the tone of it.

Really makes "Life is hard," in their pitch seem a wee bit of an understatement. I also don't get the vibe of "Adventure" to be had. More so "this is a nightmare you will not wake up from, sucks to be you." Definitely NOT the same tone and opportunity for adventure as presented in the Fantasy pitch.

But really I want to focus in on those last paragraphs in the BL and RT intros. You know, the ones that basically say you are no one. This is the worst of all possible worlds. There is no hope for a better tomorrow. Everything will only ever get worse.

And they that VERY last line in RT really adds something "But the Universe is a big place and, whatever happens, you will not be missed...."

To me THAT is Warhammer 40k. That IS THE GRIM DARK FUTURE. No. Hope.

I see a lot of people talking about the adult themes in Warhammer and whether those are appropriate or not for children. To me that is a non-issue. They obviously aren't going to delve into the depravity of Slaanesh for Pete's sake. And they don't need to. It is really easy to skirt around the most adult of content and still have a genuinely good and enriching Warhammer 40k story. Most of the current novels from Black Library do just that.
But none of them get around the despair of the universe. It is quintessential to the setting. It is a fundamental requirement. It is what gives everything the air of Grim Dark.

And to me this is what probably has a lot of people upset, even if they couldn't quite put their finger on it.

It is not that GW is trying to get kids interested in the Hobby at a younger age. It is that  they may be doing it at the expense of the setting, cheapening or distorting something they find so critical to that setting- hopelessness. This is why I personally don't mind the Age  of Sigmar Warhammer Adventures. I don't feel fantasy has ever been without hope. There has always seemed to be a promise of a better tomorrow, or a potential for improvement, or at least an ability to stave off inevitable doom. That promise now feels even closer than it did in the old world. Sigmar is a God! The Stormcast are Eternal! Its really embedded in the Fantasy genre IMO. The evil wizard is vanquished and tranquility is restored to the land. That may be grossly simplified, but the air of it is undeniably present in Fantasy. Things can get better. Its part of why fantasy is so great for escapism, particularly for young readers... say 8 to 12 years old.
See, to market a book to young readers like this they have to make it relatable so that escapism has the potential to occur, or the reader can at least empathize with the protagonists. Which is clearly what GW is attempting to do. I have no issue with the gender and racial diversity presented by their characters. It is a huge galaxy. It is going to be diverse. And everyone is clearly a teen or preteen as well. So clearly, they have attempted to go the route of "These characters could be you. Put yourself in their world."

And now we are to the crux of my argument.

We are asking 8 years old to step into a Galaxy where THEY DO NOT MATTER! Where you are less than nothing. Where everything is hopeless and YOU WILL DIE AND NO ONE WILL CARE!

And is that the message we want 8 years olds to get? The real world is hard enough. Childhood depression is a real thing. Hell, there are young kids that commit suicide. And sorry if that seems too harsh to say or you think its not relevant. I wish it didn't have to get mentioned, because no one should be committing suicide, let alone children. Buy it is real. And as such, hopelessness is the LAST thing you want to be presenting to kids, particularly since the hobby already tends to attract those of us with less social acumen and standing than others, the exact group most susceptible to depression. Some of these kids are already outcasts. Do we really want to have them escape to a world where what little meaning they have is actually nothing?

No. And I think GW/BL knows that. The Authors they have hired to write these books most certainty know that. Thank goodness. I honestly doubt the books WILL contain that message because it is so wholly inappropriate for children. I sure as heck hope they do not put the standard intro that talks about the laughter of the thirsting gods in it.

BUT that goes back to what I was saying, the universe is somewhat compromised without that message. SO in order to make the books socially acceptable and morally appropriate for kids, the setting must be modified.

And that is what is upsetting to some. GW says it won't affect anything. And sure, the main arc of characters we care about won't be affected at all. But the fact that a ray of sunshine, there is something RIGHT in the world at the end of the day DOES affect something. The universe is a little less grim. A little less dark. And while in reality that would be welcome, it is wholly against the core message of 40k: "In the grim dark future there is only war. There is no peace amongst the stars, only an eternity of carnage and slaughter, and the laughter of thirsting gods."

All the above aside though, ultimately it doesn't affect us, the average hobbyist. We can simply ignore it the same way you ignore that one crap album from your favourite artist or the unsuccessful spin off from your favourite show. Cast it out as junk. We already do that with C.S. Goto novels.

Plus, she hates weapons? And can fix everything with learning?!?!? What in the name of the Emperor is this Heresy?!?!

Two final thoughts that weren't part of my initial drafts
1- Don't be one of the jerks out there harassing the Authors of these books. They are doing nothing more than the job they were hired to do. Until the books are released, I am going to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they are treating the worlds we cherish so much with professionalism and dignity. I may disagree with the direction GW is taking by conceptually bringing forward children's books, but that has nothing to do with the authors. They aren't sitting is a chair laughing saying "TAKE THAT NECK BEARDS! I AM ACTIVELY TRYING TO RUIN YOUR HOBBY". In fact I am sure they are hoping for the exact opposite, where their stories enrich the universe, create new hobbyists, and are successful (which means more work for them. Of course they don't want to see a ruination of GW IP).
2- I personally don't see this lasting long or being too great a commercial success. There is too much competition out there and a little bit of googling by a savy parent will lead them to either discover this is a gateway drug to a super expensive hobby or a gateway to books not appropriate for their children. Even with no basis, how appealing is the title "WARHAMMER" to a parent?  In a world with Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Redwall, etc. etc., what hope does WA have to catch on? It is relying on already established fans to introduce it to their kids... kids we were already likely to introduce the hobby to. And if these books get put in the Sci-Fi section of a bookstore instead of the children's section... no hope.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Allies of Inconvenience: Episode 10- Deathwatch, Drukhari, Harlequins and Titanicus

This month we cover our hobby progress as Chris and Evan build up for NOVA (with a slight detour into AoS factions). Ian then discusses the Deathwatch codex with us, followed by Chris covering Drukhari and Harlequins. We close the episode by discussing the previews of Adeptus Titanicus coming this summer.

00:00 Intro
03:00 Hobby Progress
27:03 Codex Deathwatch Discussion
44:28 Drukhari and Harlequins Discussion
1:08:22 Adeptus Titanicus Discussion

Songs and Soundclips
Blue Mark- Atlan Urtag
Kaap mere- Bugotak
Clip 1 - Brawndo
Clip 2 - Clerks
Clip 3 - George Lucas
Clip 4 - The Princess Bride