Sunday, December 18, 2011

Treating your hobby like a hobby 2

Ok. So... I have definitely come to some conclusions about the questions I posed almost rhetorically in the previous article with this same picture. Some of them are things that can definitely be applied to everyone, and some of them are things that are maybe only applicable to me. I guess we'll see.

So, for those of you who didn't read the previous article (or who read it and have bad memory, like me ;)...) the question that I posed was this (basically): How do I enjoy the hobby and cut out that frustration and anger that most all of us feel to some degree.

Well, here's where I let you in on a little known secret of blogging. Something like 90% of my writing stems from stuff that happens to me. I could probably call that just a writer's secret, since I also did the same thing when I wrote for print publications.

This week, I played a bunch of games of Warmachine (a bunch being defined in this case as like 5). I played every single game with my Retribution of Scyrah army, to which I have become pretty spectacularly attached. So attached that I actually sat down and read all the background material I could find on the army. This is something which I have never felt prompted to do with any other Warmachine faction. I can only compare this to my fairly intense love for several factions in other games (40k and Malifaux being the key examples).

I lost all but one of these games. Yet, I didn't walk away feeling upset or frustrated. I didn't feel angry. I had fun playing the game, even when I was getting my ass handed directly to me after having it sliced off and seared. How?

Well, part of it was definitely my attitude. I went into the games with a lowered expectation of how I'd do, so I didn't put my ego down on the table with my models. That's something I think a lot of us do when we play, whether we plan to or not. After we've spent so much time carefully tweaking lists and painting models, we expect that we deserve to eke out a win, especially if we play against an obviously inferior list or a swarm of grey models who've never even heard of primer. We know, somewhere instinctual, that all the effort we've put forth means we've already earned that glorious, glorious victory.

Problem is: This is a dice based game, my friends, and nothing is ever certain.

So, really, I had to make a conscious decision that I was going out to play as opposed to going out to win. And when I say that, I don't say it as an indictment against anyone. I really don't believe that we consciously set out with the attitude that we're gonna win every game, but I think that's where we end up after we've put so much into our armies. And I know that it takes a conscious effort to overcome that innate feeling.

Ruminating on this made me think back to this year's NOVA Open and some of the games I played there. I lost almost all of my games of Malifaux in the 30 point tournament and was very frustrated. I had brought my best master, my best pieces, my best plans and still I lost. I got so frustrated because I knew I was supposed to win those games. The lists across from me just weren't as good, and I knew I could beat them. And yet I lost.

That's where the frustration came from: the divergence of what I knew and what actually happened. Cognitive dissonance, we might call it ;)

And when I really think about it, that's probably where a lot of my personal frustration with 40k comes from. Maybe it's where a lot of other people's frustrations with the game come from as well. However, I think I get such an intense feeling of anger and frustration with 40k as opposed to other games because with 40k, it's not just the individual game that I know the outcome of, it's the very design of the game itself.

I know what I want 40k to be. I want the game to be balanced so that every faction is good and has an equal chance to win in every single match-up. I want the game to be an exercise of tactical acumen where skill and good play can overcome "power" builds or the luck of the dice. I want there to be a decent level of depth to how the game plays. I want... lots of things, and every time that I play, I am forced to try and reconcile these desires that are always present in my mind with the reality that the game is a sloppily put together exercise in selling models put together by apathetic designers who have an entirely different vision of what makes an interesting game than I do.

So. Really the answer to my question of how to treat the hobby like a hobby is this: You have to constantly remind yourself of what you're doing and why you're doing it.

For me, I'm playing these games to exercise my mind and to relax and have a good time with some similar minded people. That's the end goal. I'm not out to win some major sports championship and net myself a lot of money. I'm not really fighting any kind of war. I'm playing a game. My goal is to have fun.

Now, that said, there are some things that can remove that fun no matter what mindset you approach a game with. Poor game design that leads to immense imbalances is one that I really have problems with. "Why did the designers even give you these options? They're not any damn good, no matter how cool the models are!" Another one is unsporting opponents or unpleasant opponents. I'm sure I don't need to give examples there ;) There are plenty of other ways as well. Unfortunately, there is no easy solution to that part. Personally, I try to always remember one of my rules: "You can only control yourself." However, even that doesn't always help.

So, really, I'm not entirely sure that I've come up with an acceptable solution at all. I know that I certainly don't feel as if I'm done pontificating on this subject quite yet, so I suppose I ought to tell everyone to expect a trilogy ;)

Side note: For anyone interested, I will be doing a post detailing the games I played in the recent Warmachine tournament. Theoretically, it should be next. The main stumbling block has been trying to remember exactly what each of my opponents had because my dumb ass didn't write it down at the time ;)

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