Chapter6.gif (957 bytes) Computer Wargames

Computers and Wargames

In the past fifteen years, computers have increasingly been displacing paper as the format of choice among wargamers. It has not been an easy transition. Computer wargamers are growing in number while paper wargamers are shrinking. There's good news and bad news in this. In the long run, computers are leading to yet another golden age of wargaming. But, in the short run, computers have not had a very comfortable relationship with wargames.

By the early 1990s, about two thirds of all manual (paper) wargamers had personal computers. About two thirds of this group actually played computer wargames. Yet while annual sales of manual wargames amounts to a few hundred thousand units (and dropping each year), computer wargames sell over half a million units a year (and are rapidly increasing). If you include the simulator type games (aircraft, vehicle and others), several million computer wargames are sold each year. Computer wargame sales keep climbing as more powerful computers make these simulators even more impressive, easy to use and attractive to people who would previously not wanted to hassle with the traditionally (and unavoidably) complex wargames.

As personal computers became more powerful, the games that could be written for them became equally more impressive. But wargames account for only about five percent of all computer games sold. About a third of the computer games sold are role-playing games (generally of the Dungeons & Dragons variety). Another 20 percent were action/arcade type games, despite the completion from the cheaper Nintendo type game machines. About 25 percent of games sold were of the simulator variety, usually putting the player in the cockpit of an airplane. The future, obviously, is computer wargames. You can get a better idea of where that future is heading by taking a look at its recent past.

Until the advent of microcomputers, any use of computers in, or with, wargames was largely hypothetical. But in 1977, when the first personal computers (PCs) appeared, computer wargames had a ready market. At that time, many gamers (more than five percent) worked with computers for a living, and twice as many again had access to a large computer in the course of their work. And even in that time, when commercial computer wargames did not exist (let's not kid ourselves here) a lot of computer time was spent on (rather primitive) wargaming on office mini and mainframe computers. Many of these games were very interesting and a lot of the work that was done on them was shortly transferred down to microcomputers.

Through the 1980s, more and more wargamers got themselves PCs. By the early 1990s, over two thirds of those who played manual wargames also had access to a PC. And all of those people playing computerized games had PCs, and an easy way to get interested in (computer) wargames.

  Chapter 5 - History of Wargames

  What Kind of Computer, What Kind of Wargame?

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