A long-time Warhammer 40k fan has recently penned and submitted a lengthy open letter to Games Workshop expressing his personal distaste for the UK-based tabletop developer’s alleged willingness to support the Black Lives Matter movement whilst simultaneously dismissing individuals they “do not agree with.”
On June 4th, in the wake of the then-recent death of George Floyd, Games Workshop published a public statement to their Twitter account clarifying that the company would “never accept nor condone any form of prejudice, hatred, or abuse in our company or the Warhammer company.”
The statement begins, “Warhammer is for Everyone. One of the great powers of our hobby is its ability to bring people together in common cause, to build bonds and friendships that cross divides. We believe in and support a community united by shared values of mutual kindness and respect.”
It continues, “Our fantasy settings are grim and dark, but that is not a reflection of who we are or how we feel the real world should be.”
“We will never accept nor condone any form of prejudice, hatred or abuse in our company or in the Warhammer hobby,” it adds.
They then add, “We will continue to diversify the cast of characters we portray through miniatures, art and storytelling so everyone can find representation and heroes they can relate to.”
The statement concludes, “And if you feel the same way, wherever and whoever you are, we’re glad you are part of the Warhammer community. If not, you will not be missed.”
— WarhammerCommunity (@WarComTeam) June 4, 2020
This closing declaration proved to be far too divisive for one long time player, a fan by the handle of Branimir, whose frustration with Games Workshop’s rhetoric prompted them to pen an open letter criticizing the “quagmire of terrifyingly single-minded vitriol” that has taken hold of the fandom in the form of identity politics.
The open letter was recently publicly published to the /r/KotakuInAction subreddit.
The letter begins with Branimir outlining his love for the Warhammer franchise, “I am one of the Silent. One of those that lurk quietly in the background and immerse themselves into this hobby that I love, without sparing much attention to the community around me. I have sat and watched as the fandom and the franchise grew and changed and not once did I feel the need to truly get involved beyond a few random comments. Until now. Today, my perception of this franchise shifted irrevocably.”
It continues, “WARHAMMER IS FOR EVERYONE! I remember when I first stumbled across a little shop near my home with a glass front, barely a few steps across, that had what I, at the time, thought were toys placed proudly on display for all to see.”
“Intrigued as only a child could be, I walked inside, intent on finding new toys to gawk at. What greeted me, instead, were a few half-full shelves of boxes and an old table where to people sat, facing each other. The people themselves I paid very little attention to but that table; oh that glorious cornucopia of color and shape, and size immediately drew me in,” Branimir detailed.
Branimir added, “It was uneven you see and painted green and brown, and black, and a multitude of other colors – like a chain of hills, dug up by a giant dog. And on it, among what seemed to be normal toy soldiers, stood giants! Some were savage with horns and axes; others – noble, bearing guns and swords. All were armored! All were glorious!”
He continued, “It was like a single table, carrying every Christmas I had until that point! It was the most amazing thing I had ever seen. I stood there for hours, not understanding a single thing but enjoying how the people moved the giants and their entourages, how they used them to “fight”, how they argued over points and rules, and a thousand other minor things. It looked like the most fun thing I had seen in my life! In the end, I kept going back to that little shop again and again for more years than I care to count.”
The open letter then read, “WARHAMMER IS FOR EVERYONE! It is a simple enough statement. Whoever you are, wherever you live, so long as you share the same love for this fictional world, you are welcome among us.”
He goes on to detail that types of people he’s played with, ” I have played with people that were younger than me and those that were older than me, I have traded tips for painting with people from across the globe, I have talked for hours about the lore with those of different genders, faiths and ethnicities. These things did not matter to me then and they do not matter to me now.”
Branimir explains, “The important thing is that you are someone who shares my deep love for this bleak, distorted and amazing world!”
He then begins to pick apart Games Workshop’s Warhammer is for everyone! slogan.
He writes, “WARHAMMER IS FOR EVERYONE! It is easy enough to say but recent times have shown me it is not at all easy to do. I have seen, over the past few years, the fandom slowly get dragged into a quagmire of terrifyingly single-minded vitriol. People who had, until that point, had fun together, talking about different aspects of their hobby and debating the lore, started arguing about anything and everything – artwork, lore, politics.”
“At first, the discussions were somewhat civil but soon emotions started to take over. People began to argue more passionately, insults started flying and the accusations came soon after,” he elaborated.
He elaborated, “‘SJW’ some said with scorn, ‘fascist’ others replied. Some were accused of being archaic relics, too interested in the past of the fandom while others of being whiny, spoiled newcomers who could not appreciate the heritage of the lore.”
“People started getting banned, fans fought with fans and even the various moderators of the forums and social media sites began to choose sides,” he explained.
He continued,” ‘Enough’, a few calm voices said. ‘None of these things should matter! We are all here because we love the setting and find a place to spend our short respites from the issues of the real world. Even if we don’t agree on things, can’t we just respect each other enough to keep these things things where they below – in the real world?'”
“Alas, those voices were too few and the people like me – uninterested, unconcerned, silent, were far too many and too self-absorbed to take a stand,” Branimir wrote.
He then stated, “Today we reap the harvest of that apathy – a community that is more fractured than ever and is on the edge of breaking apart. A community that used to be united by a shared love but is now divided by hate.”
“For the longest time, I hoped that Games Workshop would step in and urge for calm and peace. That they would help heal the rifts that had opened up between the various groups and bind the Warhammer community into a single whole again,” he continued.
Branimir then details his hopes were answered, “Sadly, my hopes were answered. Recently, Games Workshop released a statement in support of an altogether admirable position – one of tolerance, kindness and respect for everyone’s differences. After all, why should small things like the color of your skin matter? Aren’t we all the same where it truly matters? We all live our lives as best as we can and we all love the same hobby. What is the point of focusing on our small differences when we can focus on the many, many things we have in common?”
Despite believing that the overall statement was an “altogether admirable position – one of tolerance, kindness, and respect for everyone’s differences, Branimir took specific issue with the final sentence of the statement.
He explained, “And yet, this statement was marred by a few words at its very end that were the death knell of my hope. Seven simple words that broke that illusion of kindness and understanding: ‘If not, you will not be missed.’
Branimir then elaborated why he took issue with this concluding statement, “If you do not agree with us, then you are unwanted. How can you speak of respect and tolerance when you are not prepared to offer them in kind to those you do not agree with? Is your own opinion on things more important than the tolerance you so valiantly seem to preach? Do you really believe that you can fight intolerance with scorn and disrespect with apathy?”
He continued, “‘If you will not be missed.’ If you do not agree with us, then you are unneeded. Is this the message you wish to send to your fans? Do we really mean so little to you that you are prepared to toss us aside so easily? Are we not worth your time and effort to treat us with respect and try to convince us of the validity of your position? Or are we simply a resource to be used and abused as you see fit and to be tossed aside when we become even slightly inconvenient? Is this what awaits even those of us that agree with your statement? A simple pat on the head and a ‘Good boy’ until the time you decide we too are problematic for one reason or another?”
Branimir continued to take issue with that final statement, “‘If not, you will not be missed.’ If you decide to leave us, then you will be unlamented. Games Workshop, you have chosen your side in the debates that are going on in the community. Sadly, you have also chosen to inflame the arguments that rage within the fandom. Instead of calming things down and working to repair the fractures, you have decided to exacerbate the problems that we were already facing. You have drawn a line in the sand that will force people to choose sides and I cannot, for the life of me, understand why.”
Branimir then concludes that Games Workshop’s slogan is a lie.
He writes, “The statement ‘WARHAMMER IS FOR EVERYONE! – is a lie! Ultimately, you have made it abundantly clear that you are not interested in tolerating those who do not agree with you, in respecting those with different opinion.”
“You have shown yourselves to be prejudiced and authoritarian and I, for one, will no longer stay silent. I will not fight you, Warhammer is your IP and, much as I love it, I have no right to demand you change things for my benefit. However, you have brought to my attention the fact that I am unwanted and unneeded here and so, I will leave,” Branimir details.
Though Branimir disseminated his meticulously crafted letter to various individuals related to Games Workshop on social media, the disillusioned fan ultimately recognized that “the majority of people will not appreciate what I have to say,” sadly announcing that he would be leaving the fandom and wishing “them the very best and hope that, whatever happens, Warhammer survives and thrives in the future.
You can read the letter in full below:
As of writing, Games Workshop has not publicly responded to Branimir’s message.
What do you make of Branimir’s open letter to Games Workshop?