There is an element of what is often called the "silly hat brigade" in wargaming, which labels those people who turn up to conventions wearing military gear. This can range from oversized persons wearing combats to those who are clearly re-enactors of some sort. You can tell the latter from the former, because re-enactors have everything right down to the last detail and will tell you how they did it too. The term can also apply to those wargamers who wear hats to get into roles when playing games. The first time I ever wore a "silly hat"was at a Conference of Wargamers event at Knuston Hall, which are run by the Wargames Development Group. The Wargames Development Group's agenda, assuming their is a group agenda, is about pushing the boundaries of what we take for granted in wargaming. I have enjoyed both of the conferences I have been to, but haven't been able to repeat the experience for a number of years due to issues around money and time.
Anyway, the use of silly hats in games, often cause die hard wargamers to squirm a bit, actually a lot in some cases, and one can end up reading rather disparaging humour pieces in the glossy wargame magazines about the subject. Given the general opinion people have about wargamers that I find on the odd occasion when I speak about my hobbies to others, I feel this is a bit like throwing stones in glass houses. You generally get more acceptance among role-players, who understand the whole idea of props and getting into role better.
At one end of the sill hat continuum you have players who use props to get into a fairly conventional game, so as to enhance the fun of the game. At the other end you have people who play games that are driven by the props, and where the "game" is all about looking and acting the part. These people are often called re-enactors if the emphasis is on the history, or live action role-players if the focus is on the character inter-reactions. Me, I'm a episodic role-player. I can get into a role for a while, but really can't maintain the obsessiveness of being a re-enactor as such. Though I can pass for one at a push. However, there is a wide degree of variance even at this level as the obsessives angst over the details, or not. As they say YMMV!
Now me, I have played in a live action role-playing campaign for the last 10 years. It is called Contact! The games uses airsoft replicas to resolve conflict. For those of you who are reading this and don't know what airsoft is, let me give you some background to it before going on any further.
You probably have heard about Paintball, well airsoft, called softair in the early days, is the Japanese answer to Paintball. When Paintball first started they tried to import it into Japan. The Japanese authorities tested the equipment out and found that if you replace the gel paint ball with a steel ball bearing rather interesting things happen when it is propelled at objects at around five foot pounds. So they said no to paintball. However, quite clearly the idea of running around and shooting at your friends is a lot of fun, so they came up with an alternative.
Instead of using half inch paint-balls, they scaled the projectile down to a 6mm plastic ball bearing instead, and reduced the energy the gun produces down to about one joule. All was then happy in the Land of the Rising Sun as a new generation of players started firing compressed air 6mm bbs at each other. Then a company called Tokyo Marui produced the first Automatic Electric Gun. The hobby went from being a quite specialised technical pastime to one that was more accessible to people as it made the guns easier to use, and required less support equipment like for instance air tanks.
Since the early nineties airsoft has become more mainstream, and like any hobby that acquires a big enough player base, has splintered into various groups who play for different reasons, which brings me back to silly hats. Within airsoft their are those who walk onto the field with nothing but the minimum they need to play the game safely, but airsofting's roots lie in the realism of the guns, so the tendency is to wear some military gear, usually cammies and some web gear to carry stuff. From here one can easily get sucked into milsim (military simulation) and having to have the right gear to represent some kind of special forces operative right up to the re-enactors who reproduce particular armies units. Stuck in there somewhere is the live action role-playing brigade, who are using airsoft game mechanics, pain of being hit by a 6 mm bb, to resolve scenarios involving conflict and intrigue with a lot of milsim paraphanalia for good luck.
As Skinner & Badiel would say, that's me that is. Here are some links for your browsing edification:
Arniesairsoft. Big general purpose forum with a news front end.
Airsoft News Europe. A news site of all the latest breaking developments.
Contact! a lovingly hand crafted html site of labyrinthine proportions that has the background information, mission reports of the 10 year campaign that Dean Wayland runs out of decommissioned nuclear bunker in Essex, England that suffers a bit from his obsessive attention to detail, and a not always seeing the big picture.
From this the hobby spread out around the world. Initially as groups of gun enthusiasts who wanted copies of guns that they couldn't own because of the laws in their countries, or who wanted to shoot things and people without entering a contract to terminate their relationship with their friends, and end up staying for a long time in a government sponsored institution where new uses for soap would pass the time of day.