When people in the normal world ask me what I do, I usually stammer for a second before improvising something about “architectural scale models” or “collectable miniatures.” It’s because tabletop wargaming and roleplaying is such a difficult thing to describe succinctly to the uninitiated; it would be like trying to explain the Star Trek fandom to someone who’s never seen television before, and then trying to explain that you make model phasers for a living.
Lets face it, this is a deep niche we’re all in, and specializing in terrain is an even deeper niche within that niche. I’m buried up to my chin in niche here. I honestly can’t figure it all out myself, it’s such a strange thing that we humans do, taking the imaginary invention of someone else, and adding onto it, making it our own and expanding on it. The Warhammer 40k universe is a particularly strong example of this infectious fantasy.
We make scenery for a wide variety of games, but so far nothing out there has come close to receiving the same attention and treatment as the worlds created by good ol’ GW. All over the world, there are thousands upon thousands of fan sites, blogs and dedicated gamers, painters and other hobbyists that have embraced the world of Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 to the exclusion of everything else, including sunlight, sleep and sanity.
So what is it about The Grim Darkness of the war torn future that is such an appealing escape tool for so many people? From what I understand, it’s not exactly the most cheerful imaginary world ever invented. In fact this absolutely amazing description by an unknown Something Awful forum user makes it sound like a hopeless, miserable place to live. And yet people put colossal effort into recreating this universe and living in it, from writing epic fan fiction, to spending countless hours building space marine costumes and other props.
There is more Warhammer 40k webcomics and fan-art out there than anyone can get a handle on. From the vaguely smile-inducing, Sunday comics variety,
To actual mainstream Sunday comics,
To the utterly incomprehensible. (Yes that is a group of 40k themed pregnant anime girls. No, I don’t understand any better than you, nor will I be investigating the matter, it only will lead to dark, disturbing places.)
You have artists of great skill who have obviously been captivated by this rich fantasy universe, creating sublime and emotional works.
But you also have plenty of furries.
A healthy smattering of the utterly insane,
And of course, the bronies.
I don’t know what kind of strange warp-spawned lines of force draw the My Little Pony fans and the Warhammer community inexorably towards each other, but there are a LOT of Warhammer 40k/My Little Pony novelty armies, fan pictures and stories out there.
I say they’re novelty pieces because they say they’re novelties, but is it really novelty when you put this much work into something? This means something more to the creators, but what that meaning is still feels like one of the internets more closely guarded secrets. (To the Brony furiously typing out a reply to me right now, I don’t really want to know, as long as you’re having fun it’s all fine with me.)
This leaves us in a terribly confusing landscape, overflowing with people who want to be part of this game’s lore, to reinvent it and themselves in some way through the Grim Darkness. And, to make matters even more confounding, the company that started the whole mess in the first place now stalks the internet, purging threats to its Intellectual Property with a mighty hammer.
Of course none of this even touches on the vast forums of rules debates, fluff arguments, angry fans, hobbyist blogs, news sites and the never-ending flood of new players just discovering all this for the first time. I never would have imagined that this funny little game from Europe about goofy looking armored space knights riding around in landspeeders made from deodorant bottles would grow into this.
I suppose what all this means, is that somewhere inside each and every one of us longs… to, uh, live in a nightmare universe of hopeless war and demonic entities? No, I have no idea what it means. It’s all too deep for me, I just want to make terrain and I get giddy every time I realize that I’ve barely scratched the surface of this rich and inspirational world. That’s my niche, it’s my own obsessive “thing” that I take away from this hobby. So thank you Games Workshop, thank you and please don’t hurt me.