Wednesday, 17 August 2011

General Ramblings: Casual vs. Competitive (or How is Warhammer like Football?)

I’ve been away for a while. Summer holidays, and all that. If you’ve noticed; thanks for following me that closely.

Today’s topic is a sensitive one. Why? It goes to the very way we view not only our hobby, but by extension ourselves.

With the rise of the blogosphere, and in particular blogs such as 3++ Is the New Black, Yes the Truth Hurts, and Bell of Lost Souls, the competitive aspect of our dearly beloved hobby has changed.

 Visit those blogs (the first two are more competitive-focussed) by all means. Read their often sage advice. And tell me this: when did miniature wargames become a sport? (A modern sport, that is, not the old-fashioned for-fun kind).

When did 40k stop being a game?

My take: it didn’t. But the Internet has made it seem that way.

And here comes the controversial part:

When an activity reaches a certain level of competitiveness, a large part of the casual fun to be had disappears. At least in those circles.

Take a look at football (the real kind, the one you play, you know, with your feet). I have concluded that a large portion of the badness associated with the sport (the riots, the harsh atmosphere, the players who fall over as soon as an opposing player gets within ten feet) is due to the fact that it is, in many ways, no longer viewed as a game. It’s become too serious.

I’m not saying 40k is football (Emperor forbid). I’m just saying I’m seeing a trend towards people taking their toy soldiers too seriously.

I’ve played a good bit of WarmaHordes lately. Casual, “anyone-wanna-play?” type deal. I put what I have into the games; I do my best. Sometimes, I lose.

It isn’t a big deal.

Nothing rides on the games, so I can focus on playing and enjoying that particular battle, rather than worry about the consequences of winning or losing. And I think this might be where the competitive side of wargaming loses out.

The big picture grows too important. You end up not playing your games for their own sake, but for what they contribute to your score. You end up not seeing the trees, ‘cause the forest’s in the way.

Obviously, taking the advice of a player like me, when it comes to competitive gaming, is sort of like taking painting advice from someone who outsources all his projects. But for me, personally, the games that mean nothing end up being more individually rewarding than those linked in a campaign or tournament.

Does this mean that campaigns and tournaments are invalid approaches to wargaming? Nope. But, and here’s the kicker, if this is what you think of when you think of wargaming (placings in tournaments, the feeling of crushing all before you in a sweeping series of campaign matches, even the Prize Support), I think you need to start looking for those trees I mentioned earlier.

So that’s today’s rant from me. Less coherent than usual? Maybe. Still valid? I think so.

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