Odd Horten, the eponymous hero of the wonderful Norwegian film O’Horten, fully lives up to his name. Perhaps my empathy for him is down to the fact that I’ve always been a bit of an oddball myself.
This has been brought home to me over the past week as I’ve dipped a toe into the seductive waters of online multiplayer wargaming, only to withdraw that toe in short order and thoroughly towel it off.
Here’s what happened. I was taking part in a discussion on the Field Of Glory II forum about whether a prospective buyer should invest in the game, and up popped the question of using Slitherine’s PBEM (Play By Email) facility to play against other ‘real’ players – rather than just the AI. I pointed out that the AI provides a challenging opponent already, and that ‘multiplayer’ (‘MP’) is really not for everyone. As a result, I was invited to give MP another try. Not one to shirk a challenge, I’ve now played around a dozen MP games, and the results have been interesting.
I’ve discovered, or re-discovered, the simple fact that I don’t much like the competitive side of myself that is brought out by taking on a real live opponent. It actually spoils my enjoyment of the game. Maybe that’s why, in recent years, my tabletop gaming – when it isn’t solo – has been restricted to amicable games with close friends and (more recently) with my partner.
In the rush to gain a competitive edge, my focus on (a) having fun, and (b) immersing myself in history, both get lost. The experience is very different, and actually feels a little bit unhealthy. A simple game, and a trip into the past, become something else. Something less enjoyable. Something that has more of an edge.
And there’s the rub. I suppose that edge is what other wargamers enjoy. It seems, somewhat to my own astonishment, that I don’t.
Odd? Certainly. But I daresay it’s another reason why solo wargaming has been my ‘go to’ mode for so many years.
Now this is a purely personal thing. And I’m not, for one moment, suggesting that it’s necessarily a good thing either. It is what it is. But I wonder if maybe it’s another reason why some people prefer the less competitive, more immersive experience of solo gaming to the rigours of facing a human opponent across the battlefield?