Monday, February 23, 2009

The Limits of Good Taste and Knowing When to Pack It In - Part II

Open_sketchbook’s Kriegmarines – ‘Ooops, I’m also a Nazi’

Ah, this guy and his ‘ironic nazi’s’. All the stuff from the other Nazi thread applies with some fun additions. I think this quote is the most illustrative of the situation:

I'm trying, in case your wondering, to be ironic. While the look invokes what we associate with ultimate evil, the Kriegmarines show both individuality and humanity in having their names on their base and "regular human" nose art on their tanks. Their fluff further reinforces this point. They are intended, even if it's just in my head, to mock the concept of perception as it relates to the Warhammer 40,000 universe, how images we associate with Good get corrupted.

I’d say this guy might quality as an “art fag” even if his art isn’t worth a ½ a crap. Now I know beating up on someone’s hobby may be a bit rough to some, but let’s face facts – these are his SS uniform marines - an even worse concept (Now, with extra fan fiction!) than the first accidental Nazis. On top of that, a terrible execution to go with it. Big idea, bad attempt. Other fun things to note: capital G on good, no definition of the what 'Good' is (were the Nazi's good and/or corrupted?), artistic happenstances shoehorned into a last minute intellectual framework, an easy out in case people don't 'get it' and some flim-flam about humanity.

Now, while GMMstudios was a dumb-ass for seemingly not considering the implications of Nazi iconography and blond Imperial Guardsmen, this guy is a retard for not only realizing the implications, but going through with it anyway. I wonder why people wouldn’t get the subtle message of painting SS insignia on tanks. I got news for ya buddy: the irony you are talking about is some kind of retard hipster irony - not real irony. Its just more bullshit. Stop taking clues from your indie art scene friends.

Now I’ve been 'subtly' ripping on this guy’s artistic talents – the awful highlighting, dubious conversions and the abysmal greenstuff are all there – but you don’t get better without practices. Hell, my early models are just absolutely awful. Just please practice without trying to be esoteric or at the very least without making heavy use of… just off the top of my head here… the goddamn Nazis.

Now, open-sketchbook does raise an interesting point:

… I like the dramatic look and feel of the red, black, and white colour scheme…

Later on, he also admits that maybe he can see where people are coming from with the whole "your Nazi marines are a shame." and changes his symbol.

Yes, the WW2 (Nazi) Germany uniforms and iconography are very striking. I fully agree. The symbols are bold and powerful, the uniforms are sinister – everything has this hard, militaristic edge on it that is absolutely amazing. Resolute, forceful, terrifying all come to mind as well. I think that may be why a ton of people get lured into trying to appropriate some of it- they’re just trying to gain a little of that power. However, these things are also absolutely unmistakable. You use a Nazi-esque symbol and you gain only some of that power while getting a much larger amount of the stigma.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Limits of Good Taste and Knowing When to Pack It In - Part I


Now, when I'm talking about good taste, I'm not talking about the difference between fine wine and PBR drinkers or whether or not someone likes Citizen Kane. I'm talking directly to the idea that we should take care when we're painting our little toy soldiers to avoid offending people, being crude and/or creepy. An important component of my narrow definition of good taste is knowing when to not pursue or stop pursuing a bad idea in progress.

I am also not talking about armies that are silly or stupid. They may still be bad ideas, but they don’t offend anyone. Bad paint jobs, unfortunate color choices and even joke armies fall within the limits of good taste as I have defined it for this article. Just look at my own unfortunate McJack experience. Retarded? Yes. Offensive? Hardly. Hell, joke armies can be great fun and a good laugh – things that enhance the hobby experience.

For various reasons I'm going to stay away from the extremely offensive things like painting furry porn on your grav tanks, anything involving any kind of penis shaped objects of any size and configuration or even using swastikas on your dreadnoughts. The kind of idiots who would do this have to have been consciously aware of what they were doing. These things are obviously well past the limits of good taste and beyond the scope of this article.

What I am trying to do here is to (hopefully) help people avoid letting offensive things sneak into their work and help. I am trying to help regular nerds who seem to have just gotten lost in an idea or simply not considered all the implications.

I will also be making fun of people.

Examples of what I’m talking about
Following will be three examples of what I think are beyond the limits of good taste. Each of them have a number of things in common.
1. A heavy reliance on fluff of dubious quality of the artists own creation
2. Some kernel of a bad idea that has potential to take root and ruin the project
3. A heavy dose of tunnel vision
4. Over reliance on forumhammer players as a sounding board

Now while all examples I’ll present have these things in common, there are not all present in the same magnitude. At the end of the article, I'll discuss these areas and give some ideas on how to avoid them that have worked for me.

GMMStudios’ Armored Company – “Oops, I’m a Nazi”
I’ll start with this one because in my mind as it’s the most interesting to me as an (amateur) artist. The guy is super talented and an otherwise great army was ruined be a few poor choices.

This is a also great place to start because it got a ton of response in its dakka thread (making it very visible) as well as an apology from its creator. Additionally, the artist is a known quantity (or as much as anyone can be on anonymous forums) – GMMstudios. He’s active in the community, does commission and, to me, is clearly very focused on the artistic side of the gaming hobby – which may be the problem (more on this in later installments). He's not just some lunatic on a forum (as far as we know).

Now, moving passed all the GMM apologist stuff: Oops, you’re a Nazi. In his fluff section, he mentions the kind of influences he wanted to include- Thor, Empire… WW2 Germany. Wait, WW2 Germany? Wasn’t that that zany time when someone named Hitler was in power? I feel vaguely like he did something bad…. If only I could remember! Wait! Oh, yeah.

Bottom line: WW2 Germany is inextricably linked with the Nazis. There’s a reason it’s called Nazi Germany during this period.

Now, I am not going to accuse GMM of being an actual Nazi or even a bigot. I’m also not going to run him out on a rail. I will, however, accuse him of exercising poor judgment.

You see, anytime you are dealing with WW2, there is one thing to keep in mind – A LOT OF REALLY BAD STUFF HAPPENED AND YOU HAVE TO BE VERY CAREFUL ABOUT REFERENCING ANY OF IT. Mostly, because people are a little touchy when it comes to things like genocide and nuclear weapons. Just an FYI.

Over any other element (with possible exception for his overt Aryan implications), is the symbol he decided to use that damns this project. Not a swastika, but definitely red, black and white (same color placement) and very reminiscent. It’s a very iconic symbol and even using something that is derived from it, calls into mind the original and all the awful that it was stamped on. Its use is even outlawed in Germany, so that should be a hint to anyone to stay the hell away from it. There's not a lot you can do with a swastika that will take the stigma away without making a joke out of it.

Add in the German propaganda, the german text, the blond Thors and blond tank drivers and you have yourself a nice little “nazi taco’ as the artist puts it. Not his intent, but there nonetheless. There is very little you can do to distance Nazi based imagery from all the terrible things that happened while still maintaing the look and feel. Now matter how good an artist you are, you simply can't unlink genocide to Nazi Germany.

In fairness, I think the reason this guy got so much negative feedback is because he is so talented. The ideas he makes use of are a little scary when they’re presented so well. Additionally, not every model has the Nazi stigma; some would be fine out of the context of the whole army - but a select few really drive it home. Everything plays into the one, very obvious breach of good taste.

However, none of these are an excuse for any reliance on Nazi Germany as a starting point. Just don’t do it.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

New Content - now with substance!

I've been kicking around an idea for doing larger articles with some kind of goal rather than a boring update about painting my toy soldiers. I've had some ideas kicking around my head for a while and I've decided to some painting advice articles. I may not be a 'professional', but I feel like I have more to share than just pictures of my armies and a few bland apologies about abandoning my blog for 3 month stretches. I don’t know if it’ll do any good, but who knows who might read the ol’ blog some day..

So, I'm going to write some articles that aim to share my views on the painting hobby as well as help out anyone who reads it. Some of these will be painting techniques/tips some of these may just be plain old advice. So expect to these kinds of articles more as well as the occasional rant.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Warmachine Mk. II

Privateer Press announced a new version rules set for Warmachine due on 2010.

Good news to me. Without speaking to much about there specific changes to jacks, unit formations, etc, the big thing for me is the potential to just plain clean up the rules. I really dug Warmachine for a while. It was one of the few games that got me into a FLGS to play with, gasp, strangers. But, after a while, the rules got to me.

Warmachine's Failings
One of the key things that drew me into the game was the rules. They were well written and clear despite their complexity , seemed to engender fast and competative game play and were supported by a readily available and constantly updated FAQ. However, the rules also drove me away.

Only looking at Warmachine Prime, all of the above is true. However, Warmachine is suffereing from massive rules bloat. Every book has new units, new core rules, new abilities and so forth. And, as GW has proven, writing a flawless gaming document is hard. A such, the official FAQ is HUGE. It gets down to the point where you need few hundred pages of rules spread across half a dozen rule books and access to the FAQ just to play a skirmish game with no more than 50 guys on the table. Game play can gets bogged down in double checking rules (especially when you're first learning) and it sucks total balls when you realize you won or lost because of a misread.

Warmachine as M:tG with minatures
At this point, palying warmachine is like playng Magic: the Gathering. There is this insane attention to detail that must be paid to all rules interactions. This works for M:tG because the rules hardly ever recieve signifigant core changes (everyone knows them) and beacuse the game is so abstract. The M:tG errata is also stable in comparison. Add in distanes, LOS and model size into the mix and it gets a bit more complicated. Add in a number of abilites that work systemicaly incosistantly and an everchanging FAQ and you get a mess.

Warmachine, come back!
So, what eventually killed me was ending up having to play a side game of rules lawyer just to make sure things run right, fair and smoothly. As it stands, I'm extremely excited about any changes to the warmachine rules that streamline the game and make things more consistant.

Quck Hits - Volume 3

Another lengthy hiatus, another lengthy 'catching up' post.

New paint Job
As you may have noticed, the blog is getting a bit of a face lift. The new template should deal with some of the formatting issues I had as well as make things more readable. Still a few tweaks to be made, but it's nearly finished

New Focus
I think I may try to shake things up a bit on the ol' blog. A detailed chronicle of my gaming adventures can be kinda lame. So I might spice change things up a bit and try writing some 'articles' and such. Make this more of a soap box for my views on the hobby as well as a painting log. Maybe even gaming in general and talk about video games as well.

More Updates
I certainly hope so. But I am a liar when it comes to my blog post frequency.

The Iron Warriors Project
Is still going on after months of no progress thanks, in part, to Warhammer Online. That's over now, so I return you to my regularly slow pace of progress.