Welcome back folks, and the surprise opening gambit for 2018 has been not wargaming stuff as such, but a couple of videos I’ve done focusing on health issues for wargamers, board gamers, video gamers, writers and, in fact, anyone who spends most of their life sitting on their behind for one reason or another. I’ll provide the links to the videos below, but first I want to give a shout-out to my podcasting buddy across the Atlantic, Jay Arnold, who runs The Veteran Wargamers’ Podcast.
Jay kindly invited me to take part in episode 31 of his show, ostensibly aimed at discussing Old School Wargaming, a subject close to my heart and, I know, to many of you who used to subscribe to Battlegames magazine. However, the first part of the show turned into a discussion about health, and specifically that of wargamers who spend a great deal of time sitting, painting miniatures, making scenery, playing games, or at the computer posting on social media and so on. We did, however, move on to the intended subject eventually! Here’s the show:
We’re becoming increasingly aware of the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle, and as wargamers we spend a lot of time on our backsides, risking weight gain, RSI, back pain, eye strain, blood pressure issues and so on. And I’m more guilty than most – in an average day, I probably spend 90%+ of it at the computer or in front of the TV. I don’t work in an office, but I do work in my home studio as a designer, writer and editor, and engage in a lot of social media stuff – almost all of it sitting. I’m overweight (currently around 19 stone – 266lbs or 120.5 kilos), suffer from Type 2 Diabetes and I’m on medication for blood pressure too, so I’m guiltier and more at risk from ghastly things happening to me than most.
Well, I got fed up with this, so before Christmas I started an exercise regimen and I’m going back on the diet that helped me to shed nearly 2 stones (that’s 28lbs or about 12.5 kilos) just over a year ago. (If you’re interested, the regime I followed was The 8 Week Blood Sugar Diet by Dr Michael Mosley, as featured in his BBC TV series.) Moreover, following the podcast with Jay and some online discussion on Twitter and elsewhere, I decided to stick my neck out, set my embarrassment aside and make an exercise video.
Here it is – it’s just over an hour long, but you can watch it in parts, or as one viewer has done, jump to the gentle Qi Gong exercises at 21:00 or the Short Form Tai Chi moves at 50:20, or even the press-ups and other final exercises at 53.57.
Almost immediately after posting this, I received a request to do a shorter video of the Qi Gong exercises on their own, at normal pace. So I produced video number 2, which went online this evening, which you can see below. I performed the exercises quite slowly so that they are easy for a beginner to follow, with some explanation as I went along, but it’s only about 16 minutes long. So, if your eyes aren’t already bleeding from the first video, watch this!
In tandem with this, I’ve also become very interested in mental health issues, partly due to my own battles with depression over the last 18 months or so since I left my post at Miniature Wargames in September 2016, followed by the death of my mother in November that year. Stress (mostly through dealing with Probate issues and my mother’s estate), a highly irregular income, frustration with lack of progress on some personal projects and some niggling health issues really played havoc with my psychological state, so I (fortunately) realised that it was time I did something about this. I also met Katie Aidley, a highly regarded boardgames blogger (see https://katiesgamecorner.com ) who champions mental health issues in the board game community, and she made me realise that the same is needed in the miniatures gaming community – so perhaps I could help bring this to our hobby’s attention.
This has led to me being much more open-minded about possible solutions to my own problems, and just as with my personal weight battle, what I’m discovering might be of interest to other wargamers. So, if you have ideas, suggestions or requests, please do tell me. My intention is to create a series of videos, podcasts, blog and social media posts that will cover wide-ranging issues about mental health in the wargaming community, how we might recognise problems in ourselves and others, and some possible solutions. I’ve already learned from my association with the Combat Stress charity how beneficial certain aspects of our hobby can be, but we also know that many gamers can feel lonely, isolated and suffer badly from insecurities or ‘comparisonitis’.
Under no circumstances whatsoever am I posing as an expert about any of this; in fact, I’m hoping to get some guest bloggers and podcast/vidcast guests who are experts, including doctors and psychologists, who can give informed opinions about these matters. if you happen to be one of those people, please get in touch!
Now, the preceding matters might give you a clue that, having been rather quiet on the wargaming scene since I left MW, I really do want to find my voice again and produce more content. I have a regular column with the lovely folks at Wargames, Soldiers & Strategy, but of course that is only bi-monthly and, as they would be the first to admit, a gig of that kind provides just a bit of pocket money, a long way short of paying the mortgage! Whilst I’m pretty chatty online, I’m having to be more disciplined about what I do, and I simply can’t afford to make substantial contributions of my time to wargames writing for free.
As a self-employed creative, I’m in a sphere where income is often perilous at the best of times. I’d love to my a full time living as a writer, but the fact is that even royalties from a relatively successful book like my Wargaming Compendium are a pittance. It’s been out for nearly five years now, and I count myself lucky that all in, it’s paid me about £4,500 in total. It’s been a best-seller in its niche – but it’s a very small niche. JK Rowling I am not!
So, in order to make some of the other activities that I would love to engage in more viable, such as maintaining this blog regularly, creating videos and podcasts and so on, I need to make them a source of income. Advertising simply doesn’t work in a meaningful way: I tried Google Ads, but the income stream from them was pitiful. I suppose it might be possible to attract advertisers to this site, but that’s hit and miss, and you need to generate extremely high traffic to make it a substantial income stream. Only TMP and TWW manage to do that, because they are frequently visited forums, and I would guess that TWW is some way behind TMP in terms of income. A mere blog in our sphere would stand little chance of attracting those numbers.
Another alternative is sponsorship, but again, this blog would be unlikely to attract significant interest from sponsors. Moreover, I would prefer to retain a reputation of complete independence from any corporate influence. I suppose if I were able to attract a significant number of corporate sponsors who would ‘balance’ one another, it might work, but until that becomes a possibility, I’m not sure about this route. (I’m open to being proved wrong!)
The answer, it seems to me, is to ask for your support in the form of micro-sponsorship via Patreon. In this model, you agree to take out a modest monthly subscription – it can start as low as the price of a cup of coffee per month. You can choose to either pay a set fee per month, or per item created – so, for example, if you agreed to $2 per item, and I went barmy and cranked out a dozen things that month, you’d be billed for $24. But fear not, given my workload, unless the Patreon route proved incredibly successful, the likelihood is that I would be able to create maybe a couple of things a month maximum – say, a blog post or two and a short podcast or video. I’ve learned not to over-promise! If at any stage I think it’s genuinely possible to increase production, I’ll let you know in advance.
As a Patreon supporter, you would gain access to anything I do earlier than everyone else, and there would be a special ‘Patreon Club’ in which members would gain extra time with me for Q&A’s or online chat, and I’d also provide occasional additional content, such as scenarios or artwork or videos. I know that, for example, Neil Shuck’s Meeples & Miniatures blog and podcast has managed to attract some income this way to cover his costs, and Katie Aidley has managed to attract significant Patreon support in the board game community. (She also has over 4,000 followers on Twitter, a remarkable achievement in such a short space of time.) You could also let me know if you might be interested in seeing different types of content, such as short or serialised military fiction.
Realistically, I will need to attract sponsorship of at least £100 a month to make it an even remotely viable option for me to set aside time that could be used for design or other copywriting work, but having run a little poll on Twitter (which has been very sobering because of the proportion of nay-sayers it revealed), I think there might just be enough potential support to get the ball rolling. If the income rose to several hundred pounds a month, then I could really start creating some significant work in the wargaming and military history field that I hope you would really enjoy.
The image here gives you an idea of how the Patreon page will look – and yes, I’m reviving the Battlegames name both on Patreon and here on the blog. I know that it would be un-economic (sadly) to create a print magazine in the mould of the glossies – tried that, still paying off the debts to prove it! – but I worked hard to create an effective brand, I still own the domain name (you can use battlegames.co.uk to reach this page) and I know it still has a following among many of those who first supported that venture.
So it’s at this point that I need your help: what kind of content would you be ready to sponsor? In-depth blog posts? How-to tutorials, perhaps incorporating video? Product and rules reviews? Video or podcast interviews with hobby luminaries? Or perhaps my own opinion/thought pieces, whether on the blog, or solo video or podcast? (Video and audio can be transcribed so that you can read what has been said if you prefer.) Maybe you’d even like to see some fiction in the mix – I’ve had ideas for stories based in my Wars of the Faltenian Succession, as well as stories set in historical situations (think Sharpe, for example), and epic fantasy too. I’d also like to include some ‘pure’ military history and archaeology. As an example, Professor Tony Pollard of Glasgow University was involved in the Waterloo dig recently and has plans for a huge wargame recreation of the battle, which would surely make interesting reading and viewing.
So the aim is to provide, if you like, a one-man multimedia magazine, so that I can make wargaming a serious part of my career again. I shan’t be commissioning articles from other people, though there may be the occasional guest blogger and of course, I hope to interview the great and the good of the hobby, museums, history and archaeology as and when I can. So please, in the comments below, let me know the kind of thing you’d like to see and, most importantly, would be prepared to fund me to the tune of a coffee or two a month. Without your support, the idea is really a non-starter, so I need to gauge how much effort I can afford to invest in the idea.
And unlike my poll on Twitter, if you’re really not interested or think it’s a stupid idea, just walk on by – I need to find and address the audience who *will* support this potential venture. Thanks!
Thank you for wading through this monster, wide-ranging post. Your support and feedback means a huge amount to me and, oh, I nearly forgot – happy new year!
UPDATE: 03.33, Sunday 7th January 2018
Following the tremendous feedback I have received here and elsewhere, I’ve taken the plunge, and have just launched my Patreon page here. My future as a wargames content provider now rests in your hands.