The current Wargames Illustrated is a nice idea. A themed issue about artillery through the ages, with scenarios to match. I don’t often buy Wargames Illustrated any more; it’s too much of a collection of glorified sales plugs and to be honest I didn’t like the way the current owners took over without so much as a word of thanks to Duncan MacFarlane who pretty much re-invented the wargames glossy as well as running WI for 20-odd years. Anyway, this tempted me to take a copy. The contents are pretty good too, but what stirs me to write is the phenomenon of wargames articles writers styling themselves ‘Dr’.
This intrigues me more than somewhat. Academics don’t use their title in the ‘tag line’ of published academic works. Odd to see it in non-academic works. In this issue we are introduced to ‘Dr Stephen Summerfield’, who pens an interesting article on the development horse artillery. But 47 foot-notes? A tad pretentious in a wargames magazine (I don’t think even I ever clocked up more than 17) but useful nonetheless, although he doesn’t manage to get the late Paddy Griffith’s surname right – something that use to annoy Paddy (who, incidentally I don’t think ever styled himself ‘Dr Griffith’ in his wargames works) more than somewhat – and one is entitled to wonder to what extent this lack of attention to detail is typical. Be all that as it may, what sort of doctor, you might wonder, is Dr Summerfield (whose doctorate is mentioned at pretty much every reference)? He is an academic who works at Loughborough University in the department of … chemistry.
Now, like me you might be wondering why we are supposed to care that Stephen Summerfield is a Dr. If his PhD were in Napoleonic history then you might see it as a deserving claim to some sort of respect for his opinions on Napoleonic history but academic historians don’t use their titles in academic work in their own specialist areas and it is regarded as faintly ridiculous to use it in non-academic pieces. More to the point, having a PhD in history doesn’t make you any better a designer of wargames (and I should know…). The subject matter of wargames pieces is usually pretty basic and introductory, which makes standing on your qualifications – even if relevant – a bit silly. I’m sure Summerfield’s work on chemistry is top-notch (even if it wasn’t I’d be in no position to judge), and a PhD is hard work so a hat-tip for that, but why should we accord his PhD any interest in a wargames magazine? It puzzles me. There are a lot of ‘Drs’ springing up around the wargames world, none of whom (where I’ve ever looked) has a PhD in the subject they’re writing about. What’s this all about?
In the meantime, if I ever start writing for wargames magazines as ‘Professor Guy Halsall’, you have my permission to smother me in my sleep.