Friday, August 12, 2011

Classic 40k for the New Professional: 40k is all about self-improvement

Oh, so here we are again. There are going to be a lot of these over the next while as I start to try and get things back in order before this year's NOVA Open.

This article was the second piece I wrote for the old site, and it has some of the things that became my "trademark" style. I started doing the hypothetical audience member conversations, where some skeptical person in the audience would ask questions that I would answer in some faux socratic method. Also, the precursor to the numbered list appears ;)

"40k is all about self-improvement"

To all those who are haters on so-called "competitive" 40k players, I would like to ask a couple of simple questions.

Are you the perfect gamer?

Are you a perfect painter?

Are you a perfect sportsman?

Are you a perfect human being?

I'd bet the answer to all of these are "no" (if you answered "yes," you're lying). Now, another question.

Are you satisfied where you are?

I'll bet a large majority of people will say "yes" to this, but the answer should be a big, fat "no."

If you're satisfied where you are without being perfect, you're no longer challenging yourself. If you're no longer challenging yourself, you're stagnating. Stagnation is bad. When you stagnate, you move backwards, loosing the gains you might have made.

40k, as a game or a "sport" (I have issues with this analogy or definition of 40k, but some people will inevitably gravitate toward it), is similar to running. "What the hells?" you might ask, "How is 40k like running in any way?" Well, read on, dear reader and you will see.

In running, you are primarily competing against yourself. Yes, there are other people in the race, and you are competing against them, but beating them is not your primary concern. Your main concern in running is to do better than you did last time. Your main concern is self-improvement. Even if you are dead last in a race, if you shave a minute off your last time, you can still feel good.

Now, I'm sure there are many of you out there scratching your head, saying, "Kennedy, what are you going on about? Yeah, running is like that, but 40k isn't." That is where you are dead wrong.

On the surface, 40k has a winner and a loser. Yes, that's true. And it is better to win, most of the time. However, if you ignore the wins and losses and focus on whether or not you played better this time you will start to see what I'm talking about. If you make the right decisions and play the game as best you can, what do you have to feel bad about if you lose? Dice rolls? No, those are random.

Now, hopefully, you're picking up what I'm putting down. "Yeah, if I try hard, I'm always a winner! Thanks, Kennedy!" Nope, we're not done yet. Now, in order for this next part to work, we need two things: 1) you need to be constantly in a state of slight dissatisfaction 2) you need to be able to be brutally honest with yourself.

Now, let's start with the dissatisfaction. I don't mean be mad or irritable. What I'm think of is more like a striving, a longing to do better than you've done. Most people feel this, especially after a loss. After a win, most people are simply satisfied with that, which is why winning doesn't help you get better. However, if you start competing with yourself, you'll feel this slight dissatisfaction even after a win. You'll be thinking, "I could have done this and drawn out that unit earlier" or "I could have wiped those guys out instead of just getting half of them" or "I could have held 4 objectives instead of 2." That's a good place to be.

Now, honesty. Really, I can't say much on this. You need to be able to do an honest appraisal. If you think that you are the be all, end all of tactics, you won't be able to look back with honesty. You have to be able to recognize and learn from mistakes to get better.

40k isn't all about the game, despite what you might think. The other areas of 40k (painting, converting and sportsmanship) are also open to this kind of relentless self-improvement.

Personally, I find the method of marginal self-improvement over time to be a whole heck of a lot easier than trying to make big leaps. If you make a big leap and miss, you'll fall down a hole. If you make a lot of small hops over smaller gaps, you're a lot less likely to fall. In 40k, this means that you're less likely to get frustrated and burned out. If you make gradual improvements over time, you are likely to feel good about yourself and get better at the game. Some people also call this setting sustainable goals. When you aim for consistent small gains, you're likely to actually achieve them.

Gradual improvement and sustainable goals are two things I'm going to talk about a lot on this blog.

So, again, I think that I come off a little pompous here. That's kinda how I feel about most of the early posts. I was trying (I think) to sound authoritative, but I just end up at pompous and arrogant. Oh well, clearly an easy second best ;)

One thing I do really like about these articles is that they are very generalist. I can quite easily replace the "40k" in this with any other game you care to mention and chances are it will still read in a semi-coherent fashion. I do find it kind of interesting to look back with the experience I have now and see that the passion I started out with for 40k has gradually waned/migrated to other things. In some ways, this whole situation of having to start the site fresh will force me to look back at what I was at the beginning and re-evaluate myself. Hopefully it will continue to be this fun.

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