Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Competitive vs Casual play - my thoughts

From the outsets, I want to make it clear that it is in no way my intention to offend anyone with this blog, but rather highlight the differences between the UK and other countries. Most of what I'm saying is based casual observation, so if you think I've got anything wrong, then please comment.

So, where's this one come from? Well, I've been listening to 40k Radio and Dice Like Thunder, and they've raised the issue a few times, Jervis Johnson wrote about it a little while ago and today, Siam Hamm Fritz made a comment about a tournament he recently attended, which got me thinking.

On one of the podcasts, someone said that someone who plays casually doesn't care if they win or lose and he's probably right. The thing is, in the majority, us Brits see the game completely different to the rest of the world. But before I go into why, I want to give you some examples.

The tournament scene in the UK is virtually nonexistant, yes they do happen but nowhere as fequently as in the US, Austrailia or the rest of Europe, but the hobby scene is HUGE. GW makes about four times more in the UK than they do in the US and then the same again from the rest of Europe. It's rare to find a newsagents that doesn't stock White Dwarf, even in my tiny little village, our corner shop stocks it. When it comes to GW stores, there's 6 within an hour of me (Shrewsbury, Chester, Liverpool, Manchester, Stoke & Birmingham) and numerous hobby stores and gaming clubs.

So, if there's so bloody many of us, where are we? why arn't there hundreds of blogs and forum posts from Brits? Well, the key point in the phrase is casual! Out of the 40 or so gaming friends I have between clubs and mates, I'm the only one who blogs or checks out forums regularly. There's another guy who occasionally goes online but other than that, the rest are just happy to play some games, have a laugh and enjoy the hobby. So, as Brits, we don't really have a strong presence online, but that doesn't mean we're not playing games and getting pissed. When it comes to tournaments, there's only one guy out of the 40 that has any real interest that way. My local club only has one tournament a year for the three main systems played yet they have a campaign that's been running for the past ten years.

Now considering the amount of players, it may seem strange to have such a poor tournament scene and so many casual players. Well, reason is something uniquely British and harks back to the Tom Brown school days. The principle of athleticism, or playing in the spirit of the game. This is where the phrases "let the best man win" and "it's not winning, it's the taking part that counts" have come from. This principle is deeply instilled within all British people, it's still the basis of the physical education our kids do at school. A Brit will have more respect for someone who tries and fails than someone who has a good chance of succeeding and does.

A perfect example of athleticism and how it's rooted within the British mindset is Eddy the Eagle Edwards. For those of you who don't know who Eddy is, ask any mature Brit and they'll tell you he was a star or as my mate put it, a great man. A few winter olympics agos, Britain decided not to entry a ski jumping team in the olympics. Since no one was going, Eddy put himself forward with no experience of ski jumping whatsoever, he hadn't even skied on real snow before the olympics. He didn't have a chance in hell of winning, the general consensus was that he'd probably kill himself on the first jump but everyone in the country was behind him, because he gave it a go - athleticism.

So, going back to the idea that casual gamers don't care whether they win or lose. Well, Brits in general don't, we don't look at the game as a way of beating someone or grinding them into the ground. For us, the key word is "play" when it comes to playing a game. We don't consider a game bad because we lose, we consider it bad if we don't have a laugh. As my mate put it, if you don't have a laugh, what's the point in playing.

Well I hope this gives you an insight into why us Brits are so casual about the hobby. Hope I haven't offended anyone but if I have, sorry. Please feel free to comment, I'd love to hear your thoughts.


Cawshis Clay said...

I haven't noticed anything remotely casual about how you Brits enjoy your hobbies! Some of the best blogs I follow are brits...and the amount of love put into the models. Yeesh. It's good stuff!

I agree with you that there is very competitive culture here in America (I'll take your word for it on the Brits). Lots of us "casual" players (in that we don't do tourneys) still play to win...though some with more gusto than others. Since I exclusively play with my friends, winning every time will quickly lose me playmates. I know I have to try out new wacky lists and occasionally let folks take back moves or provide makes the games more fun if everyone is playing well (and not just playing!).

So that's one benefit of competitive playing over here in America. We push each other to play better and then we get more nailbiting finishes and more exciting games.

I just have to get better at the whole "helping my friends learn to play without crushing them" thing.

Nice post! I really enjoyed it!

bG said...

Perhaps part of the misunderstanding is that just because we don't feel the absolute need to win every game that we play, doesn't mean that we don't play to win.

Every game that I go to I play to win, and will do my absolute best to win, but if I don't, it isn't the end of the world to me. I'll take what I can from the game, and try to improve myself for the next game. But I won't ever be devious, underhand or try to bend the rules just so that I can win a game.

Will said...

I wish the atmosphere in the States was more like that. I'm a casual gamer at heart and don't care for the cut-throat games and tournaments that abound.

Chicago Terrain Factory said...

In the US, tournament play stands in for the UK hobby clubs. Winning the tournament is fun and all, but most folks come out for a chance to see people and get a few games in.

Anonymous said...

I started 40k back in the Rogue Trader days, back then getting any stuff was rather difficult in germany (thats where I live). Even then I was mostly interested in "the hobby". Im 37 and most people I play with are about the same age, we usually play just for fun, as do most of the players of my age that i came to know. Maybe it goes with age, the competitive spirit I mean.Btw I started playing again after years of abstinence, the rules of the fifth edition kind of appealed to me for the style of play I like.What drove me from the hobby just before the 4th edition were not competitive players, but rules lawyers. To make the most of your Army list is actually something to be expected, basing your force on unclear, ambigious rules , misprints and contradictions is just no fun and can be extremly annoying.Good thing for me that don´t have to put up with that anymore, the people in my area appear to have some common sense.otherwise I might have considered moving to britain, then again its just a game. thanks for letting me rant

The 25mm Warrior said...

Ahh I know the feeling. I played Mage Knight competitively (did pretty good at it too). I will never do that again though.

Thank you for the tips. I didn't look at it from that perspective. I confess I was ignorant about the asking people to click part. Oh well, no big.

Still I personally don't like not being able to promote something I am involved in so I'm just nixing the ads altogether.

Good looking out and thank you! No offense taken:)