Friday, June 10, 2016

The Value of a Competitive Scene

Another high stakes article where I offend half the player-base with ill-considered absolutes and get laughed out of the room by the rest. Sometimes you have to get up close and poke the honey badger with a bigger stick to get a response I guess...

This particular diatribe considers the huge advantages generated by tournament play - all presented with my usual flair and innate predilection for making huge, sweeping, generalisations.


Recent community talk has drawn attention to the fact that NZ has been very light on tournament play for Guild Ball (i.e. no "official" tournaments so far). Various reasons have been given for this:

- the imminent arrival of Mk3 Warmachine will once again split player interest, time and money
- the timing options and locations for holding tournaments are fraught with issues
- no one seems motivated and/or available and/or interested in running a tournament
- and probably/possibly there aren't enough players yet

This is disappointing but given the seemingly early growth stage that Guild Ball still (frustratingly) occupies it's also not too surprising. The unofficial event held at The Shed a while back was a great taste of what could be yet to come and was far more successful (IMO, obviously) by comparison than the Season Two league which has just concluded. That in itself is a point of discussion - tournaments pwn leagues/campaigns?

My argument is fast becoming that the lack of a consistent tournament scene is going to be a factor in the gradual dissolution and eventual demise of the game system itself. That's a big call to make I know but at the very least it will lead to stagnation and disinterest. In my experience, competitive tournament play does far more for any game system than just bring out inner nerd rage and far too many people suddenly taking a game of toy soldiers/footballers too seriously.


A live, well-organised and attractive tournament scene contributes three fairly vital components to a healthy game community:

Focus people. Focus.

A reason to paint. A reason to practice. A reason to play! An active tournament calendar encourages all of these things. There's no doubt that upcoming tournaments do work when it comes to focusing the garage gaming, upping attendance to club nights/days, and providing a deadline to get your lazy ass on the paintbrush with greater regularity.

Done well (right?) it doesn't end with the last game of the weekend either. Keeping the hype going with post-match analysis, battle reports, online discussion, blogging... it's the best kind of self-invested marketing. In the week following, the better tournaments will have you immediately keen not only for more games but also to come back to that tournament the next time around.

It can also lead to a healthy game-state through purchase of new models, lists and supplies. See something you like/get smashed by something you hate/get sick of something you've been playing hard for months... then buy into a new team/guild/faction. A (debatable) sign of system growth is multiple players buying into multiple guilds because it's a long-term indicator to those both inside and outside the game that we're in it for the future.

Consistent chatter

I perceive the health of a game in the modern context being directly proportional to the amount of talk that's going on. More YouTube videos, more Facebook posts, more Twittering, more blogging... the publication of discussion and content in a range of (digital) media is a real tell on the health of the scene. Talk further promotes increased interest, cross-meta discussion, and unity amongst the player base. It also encourages new players to get involved.

Possibly my personal favourite motivation for tournaments is a general increase in Facebook traffic and trash talk. I love trash talk. I love making big calls before a weekend then coming under enormous pressure to deliver. I love delighting in my eerily accurate, clairvoyant prophecies on how the placings will eventually fall and accidentally jinxing Nikola in the process. The jab and counter-jab of good trash talk (and associated meme saturation hell), while not to everyone's taste for sure, it is almost always done in good humour.

As long as you're happy with having a big target on the back of your head then I reckon step up and start throwing around unfounded and baseless statements of ill-intent, ego-stroking catch cries of self-glorification, and a general but kindly and well-meant "F-you!" to the rest of the punters. All good fun :)

United we stand

Tournaments bring players together, or rather (to be more specific to my point) they bring distant metas together. Warmachine in NZ reached (and may yet re-attain) it's lofty heights when we were not just hitting the big numbers (40+ players) but that we had these big numbers traveling from around the country to attend. I reckon the sense of community from standing alongside Mitch "the Schnitz" Cowan while you thrash Handsome Dave's Trolls just cannot be beat and you clearly can't achieve this by sitting around in the Dojo (although to be fair Handsome Dave is legit stealth when it comes to flying/driving around the country at the most random of times).

How can you not love this guy?

While Facebook groups and messaging certainly help to connect players across vast distances, it's the sheer mateship of bros hanging out for the weekend that really gets the scene pumping. Hitting up early breakfasts in a classy North Shore cafe before hitting the tables. Then it's off to the nearest Belgian Beer joint so that Mitch can devour schnitzel and Peter can masticate a metre-long sausage. Ah, such dubious and horrifying memories...

The games are obviously a feature of the any weekend away but you cannot underestimate just being around good people, concentrated game talk and bogus theory-balling, and the inevitable serving up from the peanut gallery reminding me why I've been nick-named "Shit-at-Guild-Ball Dave". Cheers.


So... who's going to run a tournament for us, huh?

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