I want more events that are not tournaments, not called tournaments, not promoted as tournaments and not focused on finding the Official Best Nerd like tournaments are.
In and of themselves, tournaments are fine. A prevalence of tournaments, or things that are presented as tournaments and so draw a tourney crowd, is poisonous, and that’s the problem for me. Even the events which the competent tourney players deride as ‘hobby’ are still promoted and conceived of as competitive, and so people come with their competing hat on, with all the emotional investment and self-esteem associations which that implies.
I’d like more events which have an explicit focus on… I don’t know, something else. Creating a good story. Playing the most games over the weekend, rather than winning the most (Privateer’s Eternal War format always seemed a bit like this). Conquering a giant Mighty Empires board. Playing totally different styles of game to the usual line-up-and-fight Pitched Battle.
That last one’s my favourite. GW used to do something like this… the Open, I think, back in the mid-nineties. You had to bring something like 1500 points of one army (including at least one special character) and 500 of another, and then all the games were… something weird. A straightforward 1500 pointer with weird deployment and narrative victory conditions, a game with the 500 points and the special character and just that, a big game with everything where you swapped armies at the start and just had to KILL ALL THEY DUDES to win and a single-model race round a table with everyone involved. Oh, and I think there was a quiz involved somewhere too. Look, it was fourteen years ago and I wasn’t that interested at the time, do you really expect details?
Of course, they called it a tournament, which was a misnomer if you’re asking me: a tournament is a test of skill, in which players compete in the most balanced environment possible using the given rules set, in order to find out which of the players who turned up is the Official Best At Playing Wargames (or the Official Best At Playing Wargames Plus Other Sundry Stuff That Isn’t Mutually Inclusive With Playing Wargames, which is what most events with conflated painting/sports/comp/winning/narrative scores end up being, much to the frustration of many attendees). Whatever the Open was, it wasn’t a tournament. It was something different, something about playing a kind of game you wouldn’t normally play against a person you’d never met before, rather than deplying a well-rehearsed, endlessly-practiced with Plan For Ultimate Victory into operation.
Yes, there’s still an element of competition in many of my alternative suggestions, in that there is a goal to be achieved, and some people will do better at achieving that goal than others. Also, these games are games with victory conditions, so you’re never going to eliminate competition entirely. The point is, though, that nobody walks away having won or lost the event – there’s no Best At Everything award for one person to win and the rest to lose out on.
This allows space for personal goals to be set – and yes, you can do that at a proper tournament, but there’s an argument that not going in for the Big Prize skews the results or strength of schedule or what have you. Not sure I agree with it, but the whole potential for drama can be avoided if the people who come to tournaments with personal goals, rather than with the Big Prize in mind, have access to an event where those sorts of goals are appropriate and encouraged rather than interpretable as somehow deviant.
While I’m on the subject, I might as well add that I was dreading reading Big Jim’s post a little bit, on account of the title. I came in expecting a call to arms and was pleasantly surprised to find an incisive question about the variety in the events scene.
If I’d like more variety, I’d also like less badges of honour and flags to rally behind, less bloody labels for people to become entrenched in and defensive over. We’re all people here. We have different priorities, but nailing our colours to the mast as a Hobby Gamer or a Competitive Gamer or a Narrative Gamer or whatever is just limiting ourselves and inviting conflict. More variety, less lines in the sand. That’s the short version.