Fit to Be Tied

Early in the life of most games, their online forums can be a useful place.  You can get advice on what to buy to get started, discuss rules you’re not quite sure about, and pick up some tips on strategy.  Everyone’s excited and eager and willing to help each other out.

Inevitably though, given enough time, that all goes to hell.

Dominant personalities will emerge with whom no disagreement will be tolerated.  People will tire of answering the same newbie questions over and over again, even if they’re from actual newbies who could use the help.  Groupthink sets in and woe be unto anyone who goes against it.  And eventually, the forum becomes a cesspool of masturbatory infighting that you’re better off just avoiding.  The World of Warcraft forums went through this process years ago.  And I wonder if the X-Wing forums are beginning their slide.

What’s lit the match recently is what was probably the inevitable outcome of a recent rule change from Fantasy Flight Games.  They added the option for two players in a tournament to declare their match an intentional draw.  Which might not seem like that big a deal; two people deciding they don’t want to play a game of little plastic spaceships isn’t the end of the world.  Until the nightmare scenario many predicted would happen did.  The top eight players in a major tournament realized that if they all declared their matches against each other in the current round draws, they would guarantee they’d all be in the final rounds.  Never mind that Players 9 and 10 had a shot at moving up if they won and someone in the top eight lost; the top eight simply didn’t play, making all the other games going on irrelevant.

Naturally, all hell broke loose on the forums.  For some, this was an outrage, an abuse of an already suspect rule that flew against all conceptions of sportsmanship.  For others, it was the logical application of a legal option that the top eight would have been crazy not to have taken advantage of.  Some accused the top eight of lording their subterfuge over the players they’d eliminated.  Others claimed it was a deliberate protest to demonstrate the absolute worst case scenario.  Multiple threads opened to rehash these arguments over and over again.  And amid it all, there were threads wondering if the game was even fun anymore, and if the forums were a welcoming place.

Me, I see both sides of it.  Yes, it’s a legal rule.  Yes, it’s a stupid rule.  Would I do it?  Probably not.  Then again, I likely wouldn’t be in the top eight at a regional tournament.  I might think differently in the moment.  But what I do know is that neither resolution nor satisfaction is going to be found debating the point in a faceless message board argument.

If you’re enjoying a game that’s been around for a while, I think my best advice is to enjoy it with the people you’re playing it with, either in person for games like X-Wing, or the group you gather online with if it’s an MMO.  Trying to find validation or recognition in an online forum is only going to make you question if you’re having fun the right way.


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