#RPG – The Lost Biker Culture of Gaming

We ain’t havin’ no Chaos MCs on our turf!

NB: Biker culture is quite different in the UK than in the US. If you are wearing the patches of a ‘rival’ club in the USA, you will more than likely get a right shoeing. In the UK… eh, not so much. Still, while you can view my ‘cut’ as a parody, I see it as a homage and as a show of respect to MCs around the world. Even so, I tried looking for a local club to get permission from, and there aren’t any, other than a little band of recreational weekend warriors. Be careful about wearing cuts or patches wherever you are, and keep the local culture in mind.

Take my name out of your mouth, it’s not my cock.

One of the things I miss about the RPG subculture is the no-fucks-given, middle-finger-extended way in which it used to embrace the childish ‘satanic’ accusations. This was done through the embracing of heavy metal and other subcultures, including that of biker clubs (MCs).

It’s not necessarily the music that I miss. Bolt-Thrower were never really any good, but going into a Games Workshop to find yourself surrounded by metalheads and bikers made you feel at home. Contrary to appearance, they were also, always, the sweetest most welcoming guys in the world. Of course, the corporate culture changes at Citadel/Games Workshop around 1990 and they stopped selling RPGs and gave the metalheads the heave-ho to project a more family-friendly appearance. More’s the pity.

I’m the only one in the GC, so I’m president by default – for life 😛

Gaming, like headbanging and like joining an MC, used to have a bit of an air of danger to it even though it was nerdy as fuck. Without that culture, I’d never have found my style. I’d never have found my tribe. I’d never have seen Slayer live (and that’s a kill-or-cure life experience let me tell you). I would not have continued into goth, industrial and many of the other significant influences in my life.

I wanted to pay my respects to the lost tribe of gamers. I wanted to ground my current identity in my past. Not for nostalgia, but out of respect and as a constant personal reminder.

Obviously alluding to percentile dice, but also to the 1% outlaws. Seemed appropriate, given the notoriety 😉

I first hit on the idea of making a ‘Gaming Club’ cut way back in the day, when I was a mere sprog and when AD&D was in its dying gasps. I didn’t have the money. I didn’t have the time. I didn’t have the Internet back then, though I did have a heavily patched blue denim jacket – as many metal fans did.

I was reminded of that idea when I finally deigned to catch up on ‘Sons of Anarchy’, which would have been around 2015, or so I guess. Still, I didn’t have the spare cash or the time to put into the project. Short of a few web-searches for custom patches, it didn’t amount to anything (plus I was preoccupied with Gamergate and related issues).

My group of friends have gone by this since forever. I’m no longer entirely sure why. Flash Gordon? ‘Ming’ being slang for weed? Both? Probably.

Most recently, two crucial things made my idle idea come to fruition. Firstly I played (and enjoyed) Days Gone and even in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse the biker culture, brotherhood and the symbolism of the ‘cut’ were a big deal in that game. Again, it reminded me of the old idea. I also had started buying cheap stuff from wish.com to add production value to my videos and my gaming. Suddenly, I could get an affordable black denim vest. I had the motivation, and it was easy to do. A quick search around Etsy and I found a place that did custom patches for a reasonable price.

Then it all came together.

It does put a smile on my face to don my ‘GC’ cut. Hopefully, it also conveys to others the sense of pride and place I have in the gaming community and its history.

The original ‘Rollin’ 20s, Lake Geneva Originals’ shirt was too complicated to turn into patches, but you can get it HERE.

The Advent of Physical ‘Piracy’

It’s a WWI Mark IV. Don’t claim ‘unique’ and ‘distinctive’.

I’ve already made a few comments about this story on Twitter, Facebook and G+ but I think it’s really worthy of a full on blog post. The short version, if you don’t want to follow the link, is that some people are already using fabbers to make copies of physical objects or to produce models similar to those produced by certain companies.


Yet again, as with ebooks, gamers seem to be a bit ahead of the curve when it comes to adopting new tech, but companies it seems are still lagging behind.

We’ve been through this before with MP3, we’re going through it with ebooks and movies and the same mistakes are being made over and over again. It sickens me to see companies refusing to learn from history and getting into the same, pointless, expensive, litigious, good-will burning cycle over and again.

The music companies did the absolute wrong thing in going after music ‘pirates’, suing little girls and trying to shore up a broken business model. Until the apple store came along anyway. Even now they’re still trying to stop the various streaming and radio-alike services and yet again, all it’s doing is making people resent them.

We’re still seeing it with films, but the better solution – Lovefilm, Netflix, on demand movies, that’s coming around slowly though companies still seem too keen on doing staggered releases which only feeds piracy as people get frustrated waiting for their favourite shows or films to come out.

Ebooks? We’ve still not quite gotten to the iTunes or Netflix stage there, though it’s coming. Book publishers still seem intent on over-charging for ebooks and, again, doing the frustrating, staggered release model that, again, feeds piracy. Wizards removing their old PDFs from the market is a prime example of a ‘Wrong Move’ in this arena.

Now we see GW making the same mistake only with physical objects. What you have here is not a threat, but an opportunity. GW has had some… questionable business practices over the last twenty years or so (since 1990) and has a bad rep. Here’s an opportunity to fix a lot of that damage and steal a march on competitors like Fantasy Flight or Privateer Press who have been gobbling a chunk of GWs business.

Engage with your fans. Put your patterns up FOR SALE at a reasonable price. Go through your back catalogue of designs, all the way back, scan your old figures. 3D printing doesn’t wear out moulds. You have decades of great designs and games and you could make a bundle off the patterns for playing pieces from all the old greats. Gamers would go nuts for it and you’d get a huge amount of good will and be able to create a trusted space in which hobbyists could share their own conversions, modifications and figures.

If you don’t, somebody will. A company less hidebound, more forward thinking, agile enough to innovate and take a risk with a view to the long term.

Not that anybody ever listens to me…

Two Grumbles for the Price of One! BARGAIN!

Games Workshop

This was a very interesting post to read. A perspective from what was probably a generation after I came up in gaming. It’s – perhaps – hard for people outside the UK to understand but Games Workshop has always pretty much dominated hobby gaming in the UK. This hasn’t always been a good thing. Up until around 1990 it probably was a good thing. White Dwarf was a general gaming magazine, the Games Workshop stores stocked games of all kinds and were great place for people to meet up, play, network and chat.

Then they hit on the great idea of going exclusive, ditched anyone else’s products and set about single-handedly gutting the UK RPG scene and driving many indy stores out of business. That fucked off a hell of a lot of people especially as they seemed so unrepentent and many of the people running the stores became downright hostile.

The internet kind of fucked that business model – as is noted in the article – but I still can’t help but feel that they’ve fucked over the hobby to the point where it’s irrecoverable. GW is still pretty much the only game in town, the only thing people are exposed to at a young age and they don’t treat their customers that well. I’m sure it turns a lot of people off. They don’t even stock their own related RPG products.

Something’s got to give at some point and I think it’ll be GW, but I don’t see how anything can come up to replace them in the environment as it stands. Oddly, the best thing for both GW and for the hobby, might be if they wound wind the clock back to 1989.

Fat chance.

Mansplaining Time

I’ve praised the Machine Age guys for what they’re doing with Farewell to Fear but Filamena’s new post seems to run counter to that and what I’ve praised them for, which is a rather healthy take on dealing with difficult topics/prejudice etc in game settings. Which is to treat them just like monsters (kill them and take their stuff).

A fantasy world needs sources of conflict to be engaging. It needs challenges, environmental, social, combative, political, moral, whatever. In that sense fantasy worlds do need to be unequal, nasty, full of injustice and problems of all sorts that our heroes can then step up to and sort out.

Both ‘sides’ can have their cake and eat it in this context because while the world may mirror our own in some ways it can be freer in others. It can be both free of dogpiling social censure and delicacy around certain topics AND provide the opportunity to kick arse – which is itself an impolitic solution to social ills. A mix of fantastical cultures that embody the best and worst of our ideals and devotions gives us a lot to decry and exalt as our alter-egos.

No setting is zero sum. That’s the great advantage that RPGs have over computer games. You can make meaningful and unique impact upon the game world. That’s where the fantasy part really comes in. It’s not the magic or the orcs, the fantastical settings, the technology, it’s the fact that in these worlds we can have genuine and impacting agency in a way you simply can’t in the real world.

I find it hard to understand the complaint that fantasy art normalises anything. It seems as outre to me to claim that the idealised humanoid images of men and women in fantasy (as opposed to fashion) normalise objectification etc as it is to claim the images of dragons normalise the concept of giant fire breathing lizards.

All games run by player consent.

All games have the capacity for things to change.

Explicitly saying X, Y, Z is not as effective, IMO, as leaving it implicit. Plus it confounds one of my creative principles, not that I expect anyone else to follow them. Indeed I wouldn’t have thought it would even NEED to be made explicit.

Railing against fantasy worlds that contain these ills but are based on fundamentally different physical and metaphysical ideals also strikes me as pointless. In a setting where good and evil are explicitly laid out black and white concepts and where gods exist it seems… silly to complain about it. I don’t find it enjoyable myself, so I hack the game or play a different one or play a character that rebels against and confounds it. That’s good fun.

I can’t overthrow a corrupt and moribund political system. Citizen Top, the Brujah Anarch, he can.

I can’t out a corrupt corporate official who is embezzling funds meant to go to charities or to low level workers. Og the cyberpunk hacker can.

I can’t end the exploitation of women in sex trafficking, Chains of Liberation the sky pirate from the western island can.

My depression is a weakness, an affliction, in ImagiNation it’s going to be a strength. Something I can use and my writing talent will be something that can directly affect the world.

Worlds with nasty shit in them are interesting and exciting to play in and we, in our groups, have the agency to make cathartic change within those worlds and that is what a lot of people get out of it. Men and women alike.