Friday, September 11, 2020

Sgt. Zocchi

In the annals of gaming (broadly defined) periodicals, there are few that can compare to Avalon Hill's The General, whose first issue appeared in May 1964. That first issue was a staple-bound newsletter only twelve pages in length. No one involved in it would likely have had any inkling that it would still be published nearly a quarter of a century later and become one of the most influential and celebrated magazines of its kind. 

There's a lot that could be said about The General, but that's mostly for others to do, since my direct experience of it, despite growing up not far from Avalon Hill's headquarters, was minimal. However, given the regular intersection between wargaming and the nascent hobby of roleplaying, there are plenty of things in its pages worth commenting upon here, particularly as it pertains to the history of RPGs. 

A good example is this brief article from issue #1, announcing the appointment of a 29 year-old US Air Force sergeant to the position of the magazine's Southwest Editor.
Articles like this delight me on multiple levels. Most obviously, seeing notable individuals in earlier phases of their lives – "before fame," if you will – is a terrific reminder that they are real people and not marble statues. Plus, looking on a young Lou Zocchi, whom I've only ever known as a middle-aged or older man, is simply remarkable. Further, that The General had regional editors is a reminder of how widespread a hobby wargaming used to be. Such perspective is vital when considering the history of any hobby.

Beyond that, though, there's the article itself, which reads more like a monologue at a celebrity roast than a formal announcement of someone taking up a new position. My favorite bit is toward the end, where it reads
Lou's father was the man who engraved the Lord's Prayer on the head of a pin. Whenever people talk about pinheads, Zocchi's name naturally comes up.

It's all affectionate mockery, of course, which is what makes it so charming. This article could only be the product of a close-knit and amiable community of people engaged in a shared passion. I'm more than a little envious of never having been part of it.

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