There is -- or perhaps used to be -- on the market a cardboard and plastic version of the battle of Gettysburg which reproduced with great accuracy the terrain, the chronology and the units involved in that battle. It had this peculiarity, that a moderately good player taking the Confederate side can win. Yet clearly no player of war games is likely to be as intelligent at generalship as Lee was, and he lost. -- Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue
The game was called Gettysburg, and the game maker was Avalon Hill, maker of eternal classics of long-weekend war like Civil War and Advanced Third Reich. As After Virtue went to press Avalon Hill was riding high, the Prime Mover of insanely long and complex reenactive games not involving dungeons or dragons.
By the late '90s, however, the wargame market was substantially different from what it had been even a few years before. Change was brought about not only by the popular explosion of computer games and home gaming consoles, but also by shifts in retail businesses and the way people shopped for entertainment. Once again, Avalon Hill was struggling financially.
In 1998, Hasbro, Inc. bought Avalon Hill, bringing it into the family of game and toy giants that includes Milton Bradley, Parker Brothers, Kenner, and Wizards of the Coast.
Now is not the time or the place to go into this particular sob story. It's hard not to fall into a Lee-like state of resignation. That Lee's birthday passed this month without a peep from the public press -- including this site! -- is a sorrowful commentary on the complete boredom and ignorance with which the general American public, and its would-be information classes, continue to abash and debase the character of U.S. history specifically and all things that happened among dead people of a higher caliber in general.
The closest we come now is the perfunctory half-ritual of watching a film with Matthew Broderick in it in 8th Grade Sociology class -- a great film, of course, but yet another token of a much larger fading reality annexed, in rump form, to the lone task left to history: proving that the better life gets, the less we should want a past.
Remembering certain historical events -- or rather themes, like "there was slavery" -- now seems geared toward producing in people the general sensation that the rest is better off left unknown, because stuff like that is enough to settle the question of whether or not we're better off in the present.