Tuesday, July 7, 2015

How to Hate a Game, Properly

"Hate" is a strong word. It's got a lot of polarizing connotations associated with it, but the truth is that you are (sometimes) allowed to just not like something so much that no other word would suffice, like with raisins and grocer's apostrophes. But I don't believe for a second that there's ever a legitimate reason to use that word in the context of wargaming due to the nature of being a totally voluntary activity. If you're driven to hate, then you should probably stop wargaming.

This week in the wargaming world, there's certainly been a lot of "hate" being thrown around due to the release of the Age of Sigmar (AoS) ruleset for Warhammer (Fantasy) from Games Workshop. Now, if you're looking for my opinion on this ruleset, you're going to be sorely disappointed no matter what AoS camp you're in because I don't have one. So where is this going? Well I thought this as good a time as any to actually talk about why it's OK to not like a game and how I go about trying to be respectful when expressing it to others.


Know what I don't like
Before I can go down that road of not liking a thing, I need to be damn sure what it is, specifically, that I don't like. I need to accurately identify the target because otherwise I can quickly become confused and conflicted, and my arguments come across as mindless whinging.

For example, I don't like GW games. However, what exactly don't I like? Is it the company or its games (and which games)? Those are two very different entities. Its perfectly OK to not like both, but I need to separate those two things before I assign my reasons why to the right party.

Know why I don't like it
I realize straight off the bat that the reasons why I don't like a thing are highly subjective and rarely objective. I don't have to verbally justify why I don't like a thing if I don't want to, but mentally I need to know why I don't like it if I want to speak from a position of knowledge.

For example, I don't like GW because I feel they have abandoned their community. I don't like Warhammer because I don't like their "to-hit" mechanics. I don't like games that have a terrain-building phase because I feel it creates unrealistic battlefields. Those examples are my opinions and I frankly don't give a shit about what anyone else thinks of them. They're mine to do with as I please, but I need to understand them and then attribute those dislikes to the right target. It would be unfair to blame 40k on the fact that GW doesn't support it's community well.

Being very deliberate and honest about choosing why I don't like a thing means that I can like it to a lesser or greater degree depending on the total number and the weight of those gripes. It's not necessarily a black-and-white world. This makes it easier to find common ground and not let those dislikes get in the way of opening my mind to new possibilities.

Again, for example, when the so-called End Times came to Warhammer Fantasy Battles, I was actually pretty keen on the idea, despite the fact I'm not a fan either GW or WHFB. I felt that it was a bold and refreshing move and provided an opportunity for GW to reconnect with it's community in a new way and possibly address my other concerns. Don't get me wrong, there remains a fair amount of skepticism in my mind that they can pull it off, but as a non-GW fan, I'm curious to see where this thing goes, and more than a little bit tempted to actually try AoS out.


Know when to fold 'em
I try and know when I'm outgunned by a more knowledgeable (or slightly unhinged) opponent. My opinions are my own and nothing the other party can do will force me to change them, but it's not worth the effort to press on when I'm facing serious opposition. My honor is not on the line because in the end we're talking about toy soldiers. It's important to know when to deploy that good old standby: "agree to disagree" and leave it at that. If they won't leave it at that, that's their problem, but I've got to be prepared to walk away. Similarly, when someone plays the Agree to Disagree card on me, I try to accept it, move on, and get back to having fun with toy soldiers.

Stay classy
This is the hardest part, and I'm not always successful. I try and remember that behind every opinion and every line in a rulebook, there's a person that is at least passionate enough about the thing to have taken the time to express or write about it. That thought or text could be totally batshit crazy but there's still a person on the other end. We're a community, and communities live and die on the respect and integrity of its members. So say we all (hopefully).

The Bottom Line
If you only take away only thing from this article, please let it be this:

It's OK to dislike a game, but don't dislike a person because they like the thing you dislike. In the wise words of the Offspring, you gotta keep 'em separated.

Thanks for reading, and happy gaming!

8 comments:

  1. Good post! I'm very much in the same boat. I dislike GW because of their business practices and disregard for their customer base. I also dislike their models (as a general rule) over the last 7-10 years. However, I do like previous editions of their games and toys, especially Specialist Games and Perry bros sculpted miniatures. I'm very careful not to let the former ruin my enjoyment of the latter. I had a look at AoS and definitely put it in the dislike box which means I can happily go back to playing with those parts of their material I do like...

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    1. Great! Glad you enjoyed it! I can only hope that there are more like you out there in the game world :)

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  2. Good Stuff I have very little feeling about GW's games I just never got into them. I played Fantasy Battles a few times... they were adequate though it was no fun getting trashed by flyers when my army list had almost 0 options for them, but I digress. I agree that one shouldn't down a game until you have played it or at least read the rules and we all need to be better about respecting the human behind those words on the page or computer screen.

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  3. I totally agree with your take on WHFB. Had similar experiences and it left me disinterested. But I actually think AoS might offer some good games. Good thing I still have those figs somewhere!

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  4. as one of the loudest in the recent Anti-AOS debate i can only say this, Great article. it has opened my eyes to why i should hate a game v a pre-conceived notion without playing a game or knowing why i "hate" something. i learned something today. thanks for the article. shared it via G+ and twitter using #warmongers hashtag. i genuinely think more people need to read this.

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  5. I agree Mike. It's easy to see why people hate AoS, but I think the premise is wrong in many cases. People hate it, IMO at any rate, because it's a port substitute for WHFB. I think once people realise it isn't a substitute for WHFB then they can judge it for its own merits, or otherwise. Being clear about why they hate it has to be a priority, so then you can do it properly. That said, I like the chaos models in AoS, but the 'Empire' just seem odd, like a confused mash up of 40k and fantasy. The rules seem suitably fun, and a totally different made set than the rigidity of Fantasy.

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  6. More good points, thanks Sean! I think time will tell, but my biggest worry are people razzing on people for liking the game they don't. That's just something this hobby doesn't need.

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