Seeking Entertainment Through Battle: Understanding the Meaning of Consumption Processes For Male Warhammer Enthusiasts


David Park (Ph.D. UW-Madison) Xavier University, LA Sameer Deshpande (Ph.D. Student, UW-Madison) University of Lethbridge, Canada (2004) ,"Seeking Entertainment Through Battle: Understanding the Meaning of Consumption Processes For Male Warhammer Enthusiasts", in GCB - Gender and Consumer Behavior Volume 7, eds. Linda Scott and Craig Thompson, Madison, WI : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: .

Background and Location

The informants for this study gathered together at the C&C Game Room in Madison, Wisconsin to play Warhammer. Warhammer is a strategic battle game played with various miniatures on a "battlefield." The "battlefield" is usually a tabletop with enough space to accommodate several figurines and additional items such as small trees or hills. Players need a basic start-up kit with a small army and an extensive rulebook. Besides the figurines in the start-up kit, there are several different kinds of figures with distinct characteristics and values that can be purchased additionally. Each figurine is used to compete with other participants’ armies through various spells and "battlefield" scenarios. In addition, extensive rules apply to the game. Each figurine or army can defeat others through the accumulation of "damage scores." According to the rulebook, these scores increase when players are able to defeat their opponents during various battle scenarios.

Methodology and Findings

Multiple methodologies were used to study the all male tribe of Warhammer enthusiasts. Naturalistic inquiry and eleven in-depth unstructured interviews were the dominant means of gathering information on the tribe. Additional methodologies such as non-participatory observation, photography and audio recording were also used. Our five-member research team consisted of North American, Scandinavian and Indian male graduate students. The North American and Scandinavian researchers interviewed participants, kept an observation journal, as well as developed their own interpretation of the data before sharing with the rest of the research team. After completing our interviews, we categorized our data through classifying and labeling processes suggested by McCracken (1988). The categorization processes helped develop the themes in various stages of analysis (Spiggle, 1994). Later, we employed member checks with the project informants. After analyzing the interviews, we noticed five themes emerge during the various consumption processes.

Socialization: "Socialization" connotes how the tribe of Warhammer enthusiasts socializes inside and outside of the "C&C Game Room" that serves them as a communita. The notion of friendship was mentioned several times as a main reason why the enthusiasts hang out together. This tribe appears as if it may not have much of a social life outside the game room, but it does socialize a lot within its walls. Nonetheless, the depth of the relationship can also be questioned. Few of the respondents socialized with each other away from the gaming center. Thus, even though they believed the people at the gaming center were their good friends, they rarely spent time with one another.

Attraction to Imaginary Violence: Almost all of the respondents held an attraction to violent imagery. There seemed to be two main themes with violence that surfaced within our interviews. First, most of the informants used violent imagery in their descriptions of the game. We simply refer to this component as "violent discourse." The second theme that surfaced in the interviews is referred to as "violent influences." These influences consisted of the media that may have influenced the respondents’ attraction to imaginary violence.

Accomplishment: As the informants began to elaborate on the miniatures they revealed a focus on the actual interactions with physical figurines. They were drawn by the figurines’ visual appeal and often invested a lot of time and effort in painting and assembling these warrior replicas. When some of the informants lost a "battle" or discovered their figurines to be slaughtered, they took it personally as if they were hurt. A second facet of the "accomplishment" theme suggests winning over the more experienced players (often referred to as "the vets") of the tribe is almost as gratifiying.

Competitiveness: Winning was important for the players. They point out their preliminary assessment of the environment or of themselves as not being very competitive may be incorrect. In addition, the game’s competitive nature also allows players to be creative through imagining various battlefield scenarios.

Creativity/Imagination: Indeed, most of the informants enjoyed consuming Warhammer because it allowed them to imagine and create various war scenarios. It also allowed them to imagine different historical time periods and thus become 'transferred' back in time. In addition, the actual figurines allow the players to enter into a different reality through their fictitious names and physical forms. For example, there are Lizardmen figurines that fight various dragons and other magical creatures. In addition, the hands-on component of the game allows the players to be more active in creating the scenarios as they play.


Cova, Bernard, (1997), Community and Consumption: towards a definition of linking value of products and services, European Journal of Marketing, 297-316.

McCracken,G. (1988). The Long Interview: A Four-Step Method of Qualitative Inquiry. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Spiggle, Susan, (1994), Analysis and Interpretation of Qualitative Data in Consumer Research, Journal of Consumer Behavior, 21 December, 491-503.

Thompson, C. J. & Troester, M. (2002). Consumer Value Systems in the Age of Postmodern Fragmentation: The Case of the Natural Health Microculture. Journal Of Consumer Research, 28 (March), 550-571.


David Park (Ph.D. UW-Madison) Xavier University, LA Sameer Deshpande (Ph.D. Student, UW-Madison) University of Lethbridge, Canada


GCB - Gender and Consumer Behavior Volume 7 | 2004

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