The International Diplomacy Hobby became a bit more international in 2014 thanks to the efforts of two members of the PBEM Diplomacy hobby, Zhang Fang in China and Dorian Love in South Africa. For those of you, especially you non-PBEM Dippers who think the boundaries of the worldwide hobby are inside the Seattle, Chicago, Silver Spring and Chapel Hill quadrangle this may come as a bit of a shock.
For the rest of you this brief report is designed to alert you to a bit of what’s going on out there in terra diplomatie. Let’s begin with South Africa. The South African Diplomacy hobby goes back a long way, almost to the beginning of the worldwide hobby, with a few players in the Republic of South Africa and Zimbabwe. I remember trading my PBM Diplomacy ‘zine Xenogogic with someone in South Africa and how eager the postman was to deliver each issue and collect the postage stamps on it; and I vaguely remember there was at least one South Afrikaner playing on the Commonwealth Team in my Diplomacy World Team Tournament event in the 1970s or 1980s (A seven game tournament with seven player teams from various countries including: the USA, Sweden, France, Italy, Austria, the United Kingdom and The Commonwealth.): so there was definitely a South African Diplomacy presence early on.
Today postal Diplomacy may be dead in South Africa as it is in most of the world but the PBEM Diplomacy hobby is very much alive in South Africa and Dorian Love has become known for his play and involvement in the WDC event.
In December Dorian decided to reach out to other Diplomacy players in Africa and created the African Diplomacy Federation using a Facebook page as his launch platform. You can find out more about it here:
The new site has a hundred or so members, many of them drawn from other Facebook Diplomacy sites, and although still in its infancy it’s off and running. Here’s how Dorian describes the group’s goal:
The vision is for an active, well-supported circuit of Diplomacy tournaments across the African continent, forming a Grand Prix. We would want to see a Continental tournament as well. To achieve this we will need to do a number of things. We will need to help groups of players, wherever they are organize their own tournaments, and try to form relationships between the groups. Travel may not be as easy as it is in America, or Europe, but we may be flexible, and even use the Internet where it helps us advance our aims. For example, the continental championship may well be played online if it helps us ensure maximum participation.
We should look at advancing the game at youth level in particular to ensure continued growth, and need to look at what we can do to create greater gender equality. Moving a mere 6,700 miles NE to Xi’an, China we enter the cyberspace of the Chinese PBEM hobby where Zhang Fang, another PBEM and WDC player brought me and hence you up to date on what’s going on in the Chinese Diplomacy hobby. For those of you not familiar with it Xian is one of the four ancient capitals of China, a terminus of the Silk Road, home to the famous terra cotta soldiers, home to China’s nascent but booming aviation industry, and has a population of something over 8 million; which makes it a bit bigger than Chicago.
It’s pretty rare, perhaps unique I think, to be able to trace the birth of a national Diplomacy hobby to a specific date, place and event but perhaps Fang has managed to achieve it:
On Nov 20, 2014, I created something like a twitter public account. I write/translate articles, running a game or two on it. Every Wednesday and Saturday I will complete an article and deliver it to my subscribers (now there are 30+ funs). Fang reports, “As far as I know, there were 7 PBEM Diplomacy games started in 2014 in China, with one game named (“The Last Dinner”) still ongoing. Those games were all GMed and played in Chinese. If you’re curious and/or brave enough and interested in a PBEM game with some Chinese players you might contact Fang and see what’s possible at email@example.com .
However, if you’d like to think you’ll be the first Westerner to make contact with the Chinese hobby forget it. Edi Birsan has already done that, even going so far as to “shadow mentor” the Chinese team in Dorian’s national Diplomacy tournament. Imagine, 1.3 billion little Edis running around playing Diplomacy worldwide. Boggles the mind, huh? Edi even designed a Chinese variant based on Romance of the Three Kingdoms. So once again Edi fulfills his natural role as midwife for the hobby.
But if you’d like to experience how the Chinese play Diplomacy but aren’t up to a trip to Xian why not plan on going to WDC next Spring in Milan? Fang tells me he and his new bride, as well as some of the Chinese PBEM players are going to spend part of their honeymoon there. That ought to be interesting and, yes, she’s a Dipper as well. I’m sure Zheng He and Marco Polo will be watching that!
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