I once said, and still believe, that we play in very different ways, and in fact all is part of the game. I will add that we play because it gives us pleasure, and how we obtain this pleasure? some lucky ones from the first step onwards.
Nearly all those basic pleasures ferment in childhood, let me explain, I still have fond memories of toy soldier boxes unwrapped, the first look inside, the sheer pleasure of taking them out of it, and parading them on the floor… the floor?… oh my!… I was not there on the floor playing with India Rubber “mounties”… I was elsewhere… maybe some sort of mythical Canadian Northwest spreading law and justice! If you do not dig that you do not understand what adults are doing in this hobby.
I was lucky enough to grow in a house who had a library. And on top of that I was able to read at an early age. Do not recall been much bored -as of course I surely was like everybody else- but when bored I took a book out of the shelves, preferably History and went to other times and places… and learned.
This is becoming too mellow and uninteresting, let’s sum up:
1) You need information, when I was young in the fifties that meant books, now you have computers, that does not mean you will not get books mind! but access to information has never been so easy.
2) Once you are informed -you will learn that this part of the process never ends- you can start choosing a period (it simply would be the first).
3) Imagine you fall for Napoleon, it is very easy, there are tons of info about that exceptional human being (who had a lot of faults too! aka firing cannons on civilians manifesting in Paris for example… or the reinstallation of slavery in the Caribbean… the end justifies the means was his abc), no one in his right would doubt about his personal charisma and intelligence or IQ. He wrote a Civil Code that was in use in France for two centuries -on the side you know- but as a son of the Revolution he was the main exponent of meritocracy. No longer Blue Bloods ruled the world… the world was there for you to take it!… so if Kings (hereditary) were not pleased with that idea you just crowned yourself Emperor above them and HA!… of course that led to the Napoleonic Wars.
4) Now you have chosen the Napoleonic Period as a frame for your game, you will choose a scale. So vey important step and so lightly taken!… you will be sorely tempted between detail of the splendid uniforms (large scales) or brilliant strategy&tactics (minor scales). Well, whatever you decide you are on the game from the first page you read about it. In fact you can even choose a Board-game with a hexagon grid and cardboard counters and away with toy soldiers!… or why not a Video game?
5) You will need books or images of the uniforms, info about the Campaigns, catalogues of miniature figures, paints and brushes or a good painting service, and RULES!… lol… I knew they will appear somehow sooner or later, buy one set or some, try them, and in the end write your own if need be.
6) At the end of this fascinating and entertaining journey you will be ready to play and you can do that solo or with fellow companions with the same interests.
Was that not easy?, we are of course talking about years of dedication and obsession… bu all hobbies are like that (I include sports of course) it is an acknowledged understatement and the search of perfection is at the end of our particular rainbow.
In my humble opinion you are gaming or playing from the moment you step out of real life and its chores, and inhabit that private zone of your brain were imagination rules.
Welcome to IT.