Excluding the sillier versions of postmodernism which claim that things do not exist if we do not talk about them, I think there might be a case to answer. Not that I am particularly happy with that idea. As you may have gleaned from the posts here in the past, I have a background in science, and science does not really do postmodern. A frequent stance, after all, between scientists and postmodernists is that of distinct hostility (see the Sokal Affair: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sokal_affair). Still, let me ponder my ponderings and see if a case can be made that I am, in fact, a postmodern wargamer.
One of the main tenets of postmodernism is a rejection of meta-narratives, by which is meant a rejection of overarching explanations of events, people and things. Thus, postmodernity can reject such ideas as ‘progress’, on the basis that progress is only progress for some, for others it is exploitation. Similarly, hierarchical structures of human society can be rejected as exploitative; things do not have to be as they have always been, as used to be assumed in, say, the medieval period.
Whether this last point is historically true is rather moot, or we would still be there, of course, but that is not really the point here.
With respect to this blog, I suspect that it does tend to reject overarching narratives of wargaming. As I have mentioned several times before, I do not believe the notion that one set of core rules can provide a reasonably accurate representation of warfare over the last several thousand years, no matter how much chrome is applied in the form of expansion packs, extra rules and army lists and so on. I do get somewhat disheartened by the selling of large sets of very expensive rule sets whose mechanisms basically refer back to one original idea in a given period.
So that, I suppose, is the first tick in the postmodern box. I do not buy into the idea of an overarching rule set, from which all other rule sets are derived, with just a bit of polishing.
A second point is that, more or less as a consequence, I do not agree with this idea that a single model of an event will capture the events, or even a reasonable subset of events. That is, a single model or rule set will not capture all the nuances of a battle.
At some level, this is astoundingly obvious. An army level rule set will not, cannot, capture the events of a single person at, say, the Battle of Balaklava. Some individuals were in the lancers charging up the valley, some in the infantry or the heavy brigade, some making tea in the camp overlooking the whole debacle. A few were generals. We might be able to capture the important events and influences on the units, but not the trajectory of the individuals on the day.
To tackle the events in an individual’s battle, we would need to narrow the focus to, say, a skirmish level game, or even a role playing game. This, of course, would allow us to track the progress of the individual, but we lose the bigger picture, at the unit or army level.
I also do not think that we can, in principle, assume that many role playing game level activities going on will give us the battle. An army unit is, in some senses, more than just a crowd of people. It has training as a unit, esprit de corps, and whatever else is drilled into it. It is not just a bunch of several hundred people hanging around together. So even several hundred role players will not, I suspect, give us a historical unit’s behaviour.
Even at a given level, I am really not sure that a single model will yield the results that we need. Any model surely has to take some sort of average of behaviour, and exclude the extremes. A unit may have run at the first shot, but most units do not do this. The average tends to blend out the extreme. So we have to choose our models to pick out the things that we thinks are important, and the way we think they are important.
Clearly, these decisions about importance and the interactions of the important things will vary among models. At a simple level, interactions between training, morale and tactics will determine how we are imagining our soldiers will fight. Some may close in for close action; others stand off and shoot at long range. This may not be due to a single factor, but the ways even these three items can interact can, and will, vary from model to model.
If, therefore, postmodernism indicates a fragmentation of overarching narratives, then, as a wargamer, I probably am one.
If postmodernism means that I do not think that one single description of reality (or, in this case, a historical event) will do, then again, I suppose I am probably, in that sense, postmodern.
Furthermore, I have, in these posts, occasionally questioned our sources of historical, and hence, wargamer-ly information. I suspect that lurking somewhere in here is something that could be accused of postmodernism – a scepticism about what people have written and why. As it happens, I do not subscribe to postmodern theories of deconstruction (which I think tend to the incoherent), but I do think that, as wargamers, we have a tendency to pick out the bits about battles we like and ignore the rest.
As a brief example, frequently classical writers bemoan the poor state of the army, and explain how a new general got them up, trained, fit and generally raring to go, and thus winning the next campaign before the enemy (used to the old, lax, army) got out of bed. This happens too often to be particularly true, I think; it is a literary trick to explain a success, to lay it in the hands of the victor. We need to be more careful with how we read, but we do not need to dismiss everything we do read.
So, counting up the issues here, I seem to be about two-thirds postmodern.
I'm not sure whether to say 'oh dear' or 'hooray'...