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Sunday, 19 June 2016

Rant: Building a Competitive Community

Today I want to present a simple but powerful thesis: You cannot build a competitive gaming community by making your game less competitive

One of the greatest strengths of 40k is the diversity of play-styles that it supports, which is reflected by the diversity of its player base. Some players are all about the fluff and love narrative play; others are all about the aesthetics and love the 'rule of cool'; and others are gamers pure and simple, who love the tactical challenge of playing 40k. Most players, of course, will fall somewhere between these extremes, but we all have our personal bias towards fluff, aesthetics or gaming, whether we recognise it or not. And there is nothing wrong with that.

What is wrong is when one type of player tries to dictate the 'right way to play' to another type of player. The internet is full of vitriol directed towards the 'power-gamer' who brings an optimised list to a social game and upsets the 'fluff-bunny'. So why is it that we collectively don't seem to express the same outrage when that 'fluff-bunny' attends a tournament, gets utterly curb-stomped, cries loudly about how 'broken' 40k is and then leads us down the road to hell, a.k.a. Comp scoring in tournaments? Why is it implicitly OK for the non-competitive parts of the player base to demand that the competitive player base be less competitive? Why are we standing by and allowing people who fundamentally don't like competition to dictate how tournament 40k is played?

Let me be very clear: Comp scoring makes 40k less competitive. This is a truism because the fundamental reason why Comp scoring is applied is to (subjectively) limit the power of army lists so that less-competitive players with less-powerful armies are less comparatively disadvantaged. Comp drags every player down to a similar level of mediocrity; it is the 40k manifestation of 'racing to the bottom'.

Recently I've heard and read several arguments that "Comp scoring in tournaments helps to grow the tournament community". Let's break down and examine this argument:

  • You want to grow a competitive gaming community...
  • ...by making the game less competitive...
  • ...therefore attracting more players who would normally avoid competitive gaming...
  • ...and that somehow grows a competitive community?

No, you are not growing a tournament community with Comp scoring. You are growing a community of non-tournament players who get together for non-tournament organised play, pretend they are in a tournament, then claim they are successful competitive 40k players.

If that's what floats your boat, then go nuts and enjoy. But do not start advocating Comp scoring in real tournaments. Keep your disease to yourselves, you dirty fucking plaguebearers.

If the competitive gaming community wants to grow then it needs to attract more competitive players. To do this, we need to support and encourage competitive gaming. We do not need to make our game less competitive in order to attract non-competitive players!

I'll finish this rant with a rhetorical question to ponder:
If you run a competitive tournament and ten players participate, did you fail as a Tournament Organiser because the twenty casual players in your area did not show up, or did you succeed because the ten competitive players did show up and had a great day of tactically challenging, no-holds barred, real 40k?

Post Script

This post has attracted a lot of commentary from a few passionate Comp-apologists. Sadly for them, they tried and failed to argue that Comp events were still competitive whilst revealing their community's true face of obnoxious bigotry.

Comp denies one half of the competitive 40k skill equation: list design and meta-gaming. If you don't think these are skills then you should just play Chess or Go and embrace "pure strategy" without list design. Comp interferes with players in an inequitable way—punishing the elite more than mediocre—and this inequitable interference in the player-vs-player contest is fundamentally anti-competitive.

I do not disagree that Comp events tend to be populated by a wider range of Factions than competitive tournaments—you don't see many Orks or Chaos Space Marines in a highly competitive environment—but who cares if you can beat Orks and CSM when beating Eldar and Daemons is the real challenge? Higher army list diversity in an event just does not equate to intrinsically higher competitiveness.

I was surprised that some of our commentators were foolish enough to show us the true face of Comp community bigotry. Suggestions that 40k should not be played competitively, that competitive players should not have their own competitive tournaments, and that Comp is the one true faith (ALL HAIL QUEEN SPIDER!) just reinforce how toxic the Comp community really is.

But I have seen the blight of Comp rise and fall before, so I know it is a curable disease. I am patient.

Finally, don't you just love the delicious irony of the Comp-apologists both denouncing competitive play whilst defending the competitive credentials of their Comp events? So if according to you, competitive play is bad, but Comp is no less competitive than real 40k, then... dumbasses.


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