And without academics, there's no understanding of art and without understanding there's no respect.
I don't know what to call this statement other than bullshit. The "understanding" of a given work of art is up to the individual viewer. Sure, criticism can broaden your mind about how art can be perceived and interpreted, but in no way is understanding predicated upon academia or critics.
I don't need an academic to tell anyone how to understand my work. I'm interested in what an academic might think about my work, because an academic is a reader like any other reader, an I'm interested in the reactions of my readers. An academic is a reader who writes.
As a full-time academic myself (one who has been very busy the last year..so first post in a long time here)--Jason is 100% correct. Academics, for the most part, are full of bullshit themselves. I'm not putting down academics--but when it comes to contemporary art criticism, e.g.---it is usually b.s. (perspective over time---then things tend to get more clear and less caught up in fads of the day).
Demanding work in the realm of academia can teach a lot--the pronouncements of academics...eh.
As an aside, I'd also probably quibble with the asertion that 'no one makes these kinds of games anymore'. Here I Stand and Virgin Queen are very much of a kind with Magic Realm et al. They are brilliant, batshit-insane crunch-monsters of simulations. I think their mechanics are a bit more refined, their scopes a little more narrow, but comparable? Absolutely.
Sure, but wargames have always kinda had that. What about some more diverse themes?
What's the modern equivalent to Car Wars? Rush n Crush? Wreckage? ha!
I don't think Here I Stand or Virgin Queen are wargames, though, and that's not an attempt to start some assinine 'what is a wargame' debate. Both HiS and VQ are clearly more interested in being historical simulations - with marriages, births, exploration, religion, et al - than confining themselves to warfare. They are a breed unto themselves.
I have another suggestion for brethren to the great wacky complex games of the late 70s, by the way: Android. It was a sprawling, ambitious, quasi-insane game design that should have been supported (and developed) a lot more than it was. In an ideal world, FFG would have spent six more months developing that game, it would have been a rousing success, and FFG would currently be heralded as vanguards to the golden age of AT. As it stands, they learned the wrong lessons from a few failures and are now mass producing bland card games.
I'm not disagreeing with your main point - there's clearly no modern Car Wars - just saying that there are signs of wan light in the darkness.
Good point about Android. It does seem though that there's a gap that someone could fill that could pour in the Circus Maximus/Source of the Nile/Gunslinger/Car Wars type games.
GMTs found a healthy niche and don't seem to be too interested in that direction as they seem to want to develop wargames and 'family/euros' (though Leaping Lemmings is very good).
I wonder about a company like Worthington though. They gave a try with Cowboys. I don't know how well their wargames are doing compared to some of the other heavy hitters like GMT or MMPs ASL, but what's their biggest hit? Hold the Line? Hearts and Minds? Perhaps they should diversify their portfolio and bring in some of these outlying themes but with 'wargame' sensibilities. Create their own niche.
Or perhaps it's a fruitless effort. Battletech seems to be one of the dinosaurs still kicking around in it's somewhat original ruleset. I'd be interested to see how well those recently released starter boxes are doing.
If I could change two things about Android to make it a better game:
1. Half as much flavor text on the cards. Less to read out loud, and leaves players free to use a little imagination to fill in the gaps.
2. Dial down the potential impact of the conspiracy puzzle. I've played a couple of games where the conspiracy puzzle made a given type of favor worth 4 VP each, and that changed the gameplay in a way that pushed the game away from the theme.
The thing is, it was books like Watchmen and less mainstream comics in the 1960s-1980s that made going back and analyzing stuff like Little Lulu, Wonder Woman, Superman, Calvin and Hobbes, Crumb, et. al. possible. Watchmen made people realize that comics weren't just "the funnies" and that the concept of superheroes had certain underpinnings and subtexts that could be explored.
The Little Lulu Library, with annotations and academic writing about Lulu, started up in 1985, the year BEFORE Watchmen; so I call bullshit on Watchmen being the trigger for going back and analyzing old comics.
Sure, and punk rock was actually being played in the mid to late 1960s but it wasn't until '76/'77 that it was a "thing".
Certainly there was academic writing and people thinkin' REAL HARD about comics before Watchmen...but Watchmen brought that kind of approach to the funnies into a larger consciousness. Speaking for myself, when I read Watchmen in issues back in '86, I didn't really get a lot of it since I was 11, but it did make cast a wary eye on supers.
Very interesting discussion, all. I'm sure I will drag it down somewhat.
1. I think the 'great epic games of the 70s/80s' are still out there. There are probably just as many wargames published per year now as there were in the heyday of AH and SPI. Well, maybe not SPI, but those guys were nuts with the volume of games they kicked out.
The change has been that there is a whole new category of 'euros' or light-to-midweight games. This really didn't exist in any great form in the 80's, which is why games like Cosmic Encounter seemed so revolutionary. There was basically retail Toys-r-us games, and the much more complex war/mini game, with no in-between.
So I will venture a guess (with absolutely no empirical evidence) that the number of people playing the more complex games is the same, they are just a lower percentage of the game hobbyists, because we have so many folks that only like the lighter fare.
Games like Car Wars are out there, but they tend to be in the miniatures space. Infinity, Leviathans, etc, are fairly recent and play in that same arena.
2. I'm a big believer that critical analysis can help designers, at least the next generation. Not having to reinvent the wheel helps in any endeavor. Musicians are better off for studying music theory, even if they use it to know when to break the rules. Same with art theory, film theory, etc. Understanding 'baseline' design is important, and there hasn't been nearly as much work on this for game design as for art or music. In fact I think there's been more in video game design than boardgame design, although there is a lot of overlap.