The discussion regarding a professional journal for wargaming is an interesting one. Rex Brynen makes cogent points about the logistics of having a refereed journal dedicated to the practice of wargaming. Having been assistant editor of such a journal in my academic past, I can verify his points. Without repeating the previous arguments against such a journal, I would still add that because our community doesn’t live in academia but rather in the world of classified events, the bulk of people who would have something useful to contribute would find it very difficult to do so in most circumstances.
But I think the case needs to be made for a publication of some sort nevertheless. The first idea that we simply need to drop is that it be refereed. Aside from the logistical issues already elaborated upon, such a journal doesn’t actually address what our need really is. One of the most useful things that happen at Connections is the often spirited dialogue that erupts regarding subjects ranging from the mundane (such as definitions of terms) to the complex (such as my personal crucible, the usefulness of social science in PolMil wargames). For those who have attended Connections in the past, you know that the downside of Connections is that we have the same discussions every year. Even the notion of a journal is a subject that we raise year after year.
As I see it, our needs in the near term are:
– The ability to continue these discussions outside of Connections so that when we return, our working groups can focus on a much narrower and focused band of topics of concern to the community.
– A forum within which we can advance the legitimacy of our profession outside the boundaries of our own minds. (I still come across people who either have no clue about wargaming, or think it’s a complete sham. This is a real problem for us, and we need to think about how to do outreach to overcome that more often than once a year.)
– A place where new ideas about wargaming can be shared within the community without having to subscribe to or keep up with 20 different tangentially related sources.
Put simply, we don’t need a refereed journal, but we do need a place to publish our thoughts and ideas that are directly or indirectly related to our practice such that all of us know where to find it. That place also needs to allow conflicting opinions to be aired and meaningful debates to be had. We need an actual journal to do that rather than a blog forum for the very simple reason that we write differently for print than we do in the comments section of a blog. I WANT to read well considered debate, I DO NOT WANT to read flame wars that WILL result from trying to do this in a free-form, potentially anonymous blog/web enabled environment. An EDITED journal can go some way to prevent debates from turning personal, while elevating the thoughtfulness of the dialogue. We’ve already got volunteers lined up to do the heavy lifting. All the rest of us need to do is think and write. I say let’s get on with it.