It is interesting, from time to time, to consider what wargames might be, if things had developed differently. This might appear to be a rather pointless exercise, but the history of wargaming is as contingent as anything else, and presumably therefore could have turned out differently.
Of course, fundamentally, wargaming would have been rather different if warfare, particularly western warfare had been different. If, for example, the highest point of western warfare had been something like the Flower Wars of Central America, then we would not be frantically painting up hordes of Napoleonic infantry for our Waterloo anniversary games. We might be carefully finishing our exquisite figures of Wellington, Blucher and Napoleon for the re-enactment of the show down a La Haye Saint, and perhaps adding in a few spectators, but aside from that we could not be worrying about the mass.
There is also the issue, I suppose, that wargaming, as a human activity, has all the advantages and disadvantages of the nature of human activities. If you look around the world, you will see that society, and the different bits of it, organise themselves in distinct patterns, and these patterns often reproduce themselves.
For example, I pay taxes. I do not much like doing so, but I do so because if I do not I will be punished. My society does not tolerate people who do not pay taxes (unless I have clever accountants and lawyers employed to help me avoid taxation liability. In which case the rulers tend to wink at it because they are doing the same thing.) I am disciplined into paying up; more so, I am, in fact, paying up even before I see the money, because my employers kindly remove it from me before I see it. Again, if they do not do that, and I do not declare my income, we would probably all land up in prison.
And that is part of the point, of course. If no-one paid taxes, the government which demanded the tax could not, in fact, put everyone in prison. After all, there would be no money to build and staff prisons, and no staff anyway as they, too, would be of the criminal fraternity at that point. Given that there would be no health services, education, mass media and so on, it is probably as well that this does not happen, but the point it that we collude, consciously or not, with the prevailing culture. We have been trained or disciplined to do this.
In a democracy, of course, this is all well and good. The defence that the government cannot spend my taxes responsibly is only a partial one. Various people have tried, for example, withholding part of their taxes on the grounds that they disagree with government policy over, say, nuclear weapons. The courts have not upheld these cases. Where self-discipline fails (or, worse, people start to think for themselves) punishment steps in. To add insult to injury, the people still have to pay, even when they are let out of prison.
By now, I expect that you are starting to wonder what all this has to do with wargaming. Possibly you will have spotted the link already, but I shall try to be explicit. The same sort of thing happens in wargaming, although obviously without the punishment associated with the judicial system. Nevertheless, we are still disciplined, consciously or not, by the wargaming system.
A minor example of this might be role playing games. Now, many wargamers are, or have been, role players, but not that many actually admit it. RPGs appeared in the 1970’s and were deemed to be insufficiently wargaming for many wargamers and their clubs. Role playing was banished to back rooms or out of the clubs entirely. It developed its own culture, and probably started to discipline its own members in a similar sort of way. The role players learnt that their sort of behaviour was not acceptable in serious wargaming circles. Many wargamers who have or still do play RPGs simply keep quiet about it.
I am not saying, of course, that there is no overlap. Wargames do pinch ideas from RPGs and vice versa. I know of Flashing Blades campaigns which have landed up with big battles fought out as formal wargames. Often, role playing lands up with the individuals engaged in far bigger actions than RPGs can cope with. A change of scale is required. Similarly, wargames are often focussed on specific individuals, be they commanders, a particular squad, of whatever. While we, as humans, like our categories, the boundaries are a lot more fluid than we give credit for.
Be that as it may, there are still accepted norms within wargaming which we have to work within. We need figures, and rules, and dice, and measuring devices. If we try to create a wargame outside of these things, we are probably no-longer recognised as wargaming. The activity defines itself as having these things, and not having them is exclusive. By the mere fact of its existence and the activities associated with it, wargaming disciplines itself. It has no power to punish (except, perhaps, by ridicule), but it does know what wargaming is and what it is not, even though there are some grey areas.
As an individual wargamer, then, I self-identify with the activity of wargaming, which is determined by the activities of painting toy soldiers, reading military history, and playing games designed, roughly, to represent that history. Stepping outside the accepted norms is usually no longer accepted as wargaming. There are some exceptions, of course. Innovations do count, and take time to be accepted. A couple of decades ago, for example, 6mm figures were only vaguely on the fringes, except for micro-armour. These days, they are much more accepted, although not totally so. The point is that these things come into the culture, and can be accepted or not.
As I might have mentioned before, there is no overall locus of control or power within wargaming. But I think the point of the ramble above is that there does not have to be. We are trained to discipline ourselves within the hobby. And if we step outside it, we cease to be wargamers.