On Games Workshop and Geek Entitlement

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Warhammer 40k Entitled Much?A post about Games Workshop and geek entitlement has been fomenting in my brain for a number of months now. Since falling back into Warhammer and joining many forums to gain insight into rules and tips about painting, I’ve been shocked by the amount of vitriol directed towards the company.

OK, not shocked. This is the age where comment is free, and where it’s easy to type whatever you like before engaging anything resembling a rational thought process. The recent announcement of the 30th Anniversary Marine has kicked off the whiners again, so it seems like an apposite time to try to write something about the peculiar sense of entitlement that comes with fandom.

Whilst this article focuses mainly on Games Workshop and Warhammer, its central points could apply to almost every geek brand in existence. Creators of Marvel, Star Wars, Doctor Who, and many many others encounter the same level of hostility whenever they make a move in any direction.

Are they only doing it for the money?

Yes. Yes, they are.

Games Workshop is a multinational, multi-million dollar company. With shareholders. Its roots were small, its product is cool (in certain circles), but it exists to make money from the people who like its product. See also, Microsoft, Apple, Marvel, and Dungeons & Dragons.

And that’s OK. It would be great for these places to exist as philanthropic institutions built to aid our geeky pleasures, but the reality is, money drives everything.

Don’t they owe me for all the years I’ve given them my money?

No. No, they don’t.

It would be lovely if companies existed solely to improve our quality of life, and perhaps if we lived in a small village in an idealized version of the 1950s, this might actually be the case.

Sadly though, this is 2017, where profit is everything. I’m remembering all the times I was just given a new car, because of the ones I’d bought in the past, not to mention the free gallons of fuel for driving for over 20 years. I’m thinking about all those cheap iPhones I was able to get because I’d bought everything Apple had ever made in the run up to that. All those times: WHICH NEVER HAPPENED.

Yes, you’ve given Games Workshop lots of money over the years, even my Gran has done that, but, sadly, they still want more of it. If they didn’t, they’d go out of business, which for them, and their fans, would be a shame.

The whole point of a capitalist society is that you keep wanting more.

On the flip side, the staff in the shops, the website creators, the designers, the people who work in the factories, the social media team, the HR department, and the office cleaners are all extremely grateful to you for keeping a roof over their heads and feeding their children. Remember, GW may be a faceless entity, its CEO may earn lots of money, but most of its employees don’t. Your passion has supported their lives. Cool, huh?

Terrible or Terribly Expensive?

Why do they keep making terrible figures?

The answer is not, “because they know we’ll buy them anyway.” Well, it might be, but if it is, whose fault is that?

Because, here’s the thing: You don’t have to buy the 30th Anniversary Marine. I agree, he isn’t that exciting, but nobody is making you buy him. You don’t have to. If nobody does, GW will think harder next time about their commemorative model and come up with something better. If you moan bitterly about it but then buy the model anyway, then you’re proving to GW that you are the chump that you’re moaning about them taking you for in the first place.

But why are the models terrible?

They’re not. Nobody could look at the evolution of Citadel miniatures and say they’re not at their very best at the moment. Sure, some models are better than others, but there is an undeniable upward trend in miniature quality. Not just at GW, everywhere.

Capitalism breeds competition and competition means improved customer experience, or so the doctrine goes. It has merit here. GW has had to respond to the shift in the market and it has. Its rules are better, less labyrinthine. Its models are better, and with the Start Collecting boxes, the entry price point for the hobby is coming down.

Another thing I have noticed amongst fandoms of all types, but strongly in Warhammer, is the cry of “It’s rubbish!” Usually delivered with more expletives and better adjectives. I’m guilty of this too. See something you don’t like, decry it as inferior. I don’t particularly like the world in which Age of Sigmar is set and I may have complained that it’s terrible.

I saw a tweet recently by a creator (I’m sorry, I can’t remember who they were or what they were creating), and it said something like, “Instead of saying ‘X is terrible.’ I’ve started saying ‘X is not to my personal taste.'” In doing so, the writer went on to observe, they’ve generated a host of interesting conversations. Conversations that would have been closed down if their initial tone had been dismissive.

Try it. It works. Don’t like the Kharadon Overlords? Don’t just say they’re crap, recognize their merits, but explain nicely why you would prefer them another way. It’s OK not to like something, but your not liking it doesn’t make it invalid. Who knows? If you explain what you want in a cogent enough way, you might gain a following, and Games Workshop might listen.

Because…

Nobody sets out to make something people don’t like.

Even Michael Bay.

This is something I’ve learned since reviewing. Whatever has been created, the team that created it, in almost every case, has done so in good faith. Nobody spends hours of their life designing and creating something with the intention that it sucks. Games Workshop did not completely redesign its game and destroy the world it was set in just to annoy people. Yes, it was done to create better revenue streams, but it was intended to make the game, and your hobby, a better experience.

They didn’t make the product just for you, they made it for everyone. If you don’t like it, then I’m afraid it’s your problem. The rest of us don’t need to know.

Obviously, things aren’t quite as simple as that. There are some things that are objectively worse than others. Yet consuming it and then moaning about it isn’t a great way to make your point. Batman V Superman and Suicide Squad have together grossed over $1.5 billion, so where’s the incentive to make a decent movie?

Won’t somebody make the awful miniatures go away? Graeme Shirley’s amazing skeletons from the ‘Warhammer’ Community pages.

They make too much stuff. How can I possibly keep up?

“They make too many things.” Which, if you love something, has to be the most absurd argument against it that you could ever make.

“It’s not fair–I can’t afford it all.” Again, you don’t have to.

I know it’s hard. We geeks are obsessive collectors, and that can be tough. We want the whole the set. The speed with which GW releases stuff is all but impossible to keep up with, even for those with large hobby budgets. Contemporary society seems to have hit on a mentality of “Have it all. Have it now.” It’s the modern condition, driven by marketing companies in the name of market forces.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Choose the things you really like and buy those. Pace yourself. This stuff is going to be around for a while. GW release their minis in waves. Wait until the wave has finished before you buy. You probably have a box of unpainted plastic at home. Give it some love until the current release schedule is over.

Whatever game you play, miniatures games are expensive. Yes. It’s an expensive hobby. Most hobbies are. Whatever you’re into–games, cycling, food, drink, or football, our leisure–is huge business, and everybody wants a slice of our wallets.

Games Workshop (insert other geek brand here) is a company, the very existence of which depends on taking your money. They’re coming for it with every trick they have. Whether you choose to give it to them is entirely up to you. Stop whining that it’s not fair. You may be buying toy soldiers, but sometimes you have to act like a grown-up too.

In summary, then.

In the words of Swift, one of the world’s greatest philosophers, “Haters gonna hate, hate, hate…” Nevertheless, relax a little. Feeling like you’re owed only brings misery. You can’t control the story or the merchandise, but you can embrace the community if you wish. Take the bits you like, ignore the bits you don’t. Create new stuff where you can. Remember most geek brands started small, with passion.

If you can’t find what want, don’t moan about it, build something new. You never know, in 30 years time, you might be releasing your own anniversary commemoration. You may, if you’re lucky, attract a giant fan base… that you can never keep happy. The hobby is huge, with many facets. Embrace what you love and enjoy it.

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