Concerns About the Communities and What You Can Do

Posted: December 10, 2015 in Community, Miscellaneous
Tags: , , , ,

Greetings Fellow Dice Masters!


I have been in the tabletop gaming community a very long time. I’ve judged for Magic: The Gathering events, Pokemon events, and many other competitive events over the years and ran casual play for those games. One thing I saw a lot of was the mindset of, ‘if I’m not winning, then I’m not having fun’. I would see a player at an FNM or Pokemon League and they would look like twenty of their best friends just died. I’d ask them what was wrong and the answer was always the same.

“I’m not winning.”

I would try to encourage them and it always failed. These casual events shouldn’t make players feel defeated and they shouldn’t walk away feeling like they need to win all the time. There is no way to change the attitude of players without a collective effort. The only way to help casual players out of a slump is to continue to encourage casual play in a less competitive atmosphere.

Many venues make the mistake of offering huge prizes for events that don’t need them. Venues breed a highly competitive atmosphere among players and inadvertently crush their casual players. The venues need to change their tactics a little to help cultivate a casual atmosphere.

I want to express the competitive versus casual theme from several viewpoints and address the major concerns I’ve heard from each one.

So looking at it from the venue’s point of view, I’ve had these questions come up in conversation among others and naturally, it’s mainly about money.
Why not keep it all competitive? Don’t competitive players spend big money?

Well, if you cultivate and grow a casual community, you will not only gain customers, but you’ll grow a loyal and dedicated community that will purchase their product from your venue and not the competition that doesn’t hold events. Places like Wal-Mart, Target, major bookstores, Hastings, etc., all sell the gaming products but not all of them host events. And while competitive players spend big money on occasion, your casual group will spend money on packs, snacks, and accessories more often. The casual player will buy a booster box or a gravity feed, pack by pack. That brings more profit over time than the competitive player that only spends two hundred dollars every three months on boxes. It can be financially beneficial for a venue to grow a casual community over only hosting competitive events.

Then the main concern I hear from the exclusively competitive players is about how diluted their competitive scene becomes.
Why is everyone trying to turn competitive events into casual play?

Nobody said that. Smart venues will schedule a teaching night where they can demo the game and maybe hand out promos or free cards to new players to help encourage them. There should be strict limitations on what players can use at these events, like no Super Rares for example. At my FLGS, we have Dice Masters Monday, which is casual, and competitive play on Saturday. We have done fun formats in the past on our casual days to inspire players to build different teams. Some of the stuff we’ve done for different holidays are only characters with certain colored dice. We’ve done special affiliation days and even a battle of the sexes with male characters versus female characters. For our competitive days, we don’t limit what our players can use, with one exception – Houserule, banned Ring of Magnetism, Action Attraction. We collectively banned that particular card because when you pair it with any one of several cards, it makes for a very unpleasant game.

But nobody, at least that I know of, is trying to dilute competitive play with casual players. You will always have the rogue casual players that want to try competitive play and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that! As an exclusively competitive player, be a little more understanding when you see a new player or someone that isn’t running the best cards on a team. Maybe give them some advice on what to change. If they like their team, then maybe suggest a casual atmosphere, if one is available. If not, you could always mention to your venue that some of the players aren’t as skilled or don’t have the best teams and propose a tournament format from time to time that could accommodate those players.

The concerns and views I hear most from the semi-competitive/semi-casual players are usually about conflicts between everyone.
I can play casual and I’m a decent competitive player. I love the game and play any chance I have. What can I, as a player and lover of the game do, to help quell the fire between everyone?

There are a few things people can do if they want a more stable gaming atmosphere. It takes some initiative and creative planning in some cases to get the ball rolling. Going to your venue and proposing a separate night for casual play, with limits on what can be played is a good place to start. You can also ask the venue if they would consider giving out older promo cards or maybe some extra cards that they have lying around to help cultivate the community. Some venues that do that will require that the players spend a small amount of money in the store to get the freebies. That’s fine too because it helps the store get a little something back. Most players just buy some packs so it’s helps the players grow their collection and helps the store move product.

It also helps if the venue knows they don’t have to keep up brackets or even monitor the group more than they would a normal customer. If you run brackets, it’s best to use the old-fashioned method of pen and paper, or Challonge if you have access to internet.

As for exclusively competitive players, there isn’t much you can do except offer them an invitation to a friendly, casual game with limitations. If they decline, whether politely or rudely, don’t antagonize them or belittle them. Just politely let them know that you understand and wish them luck in their next tournament.

To help encourage the exclusively casual players, you can assure them that it’s not competitive play. We don’t run brackets on our casual nights. We just all get together and play which ever teams we feel like playing, and play against who we want to play against. Our casual nights are literally that – relaxed atmosphere, hanging out, having fun. The best way to get your casual group going is to offer the relaxed, fun get together at first and then maybe offer up a fun tournament from time to time.

For the other players, like myself, that can be competitive and play casual, you’ll likely have more luck appealing to them. Pitch the idea to them, get a group together and go as a group to discuss it with the venue, and maybe take up donations of extras to occasionally give out to new players. This group is definitely the easiest to get into casual as well as competitive. They’re typically players that just love to play the game on any level they can, which you know if you’re one of them.

This brings me to the exclusively casual players. These are the players that you will hardly ever see at a competitive tournament and their major concerns are about how they’re treated as players.
When I go to play in tournaments, other players get mad when they play against me and tell me that I’ll ruin their tie-breakers. What can I do to be able to play and not have to worry about rude players?

Unfortunately, you can’t force people to be nice. The best thing you can do as a casual player is to go to your venue and ask if there is a casual night. If there isn’t one, you can always ask to start one or just have people meet you up at the venue when they have open play time. It’s very important to keep communication open with the venue. If the venue feels like they’re being left out, they could shut down any casual play and that would be bad. If you want a more casual tournament, you can ask the venue to run some fun events with limitations on cards. If they don’t like that idea, you can always offer to run them yourself using pen and paper, or Challonge if you have internet access. If you’re really just wanting to play and not run anything, you could ask some of the competitive/casual players to help start up a casual night and see if they would run it.

One of the most important things to remember about running events or casual nights – starting and maintaining them is like a job. It requires dedication and without a love of the game and the community, it will not thrive. These communities don’t spring up overnight usually. I’ve done this so long and for so many different games over the years, it’s like second nature to me to be able to start a community up. I do everything from making promotional pamphlets, hosting demos, giving out some of my extra stuff as incentive, helping the venue with OP kit expenses, encouraging players, teaching intermediate players combos, doing blogs, running Facebook groups, enforcing rules – venue rules and my own for the community, and always keeping casual fun. It’s a thankless job, but I don’t mind. I think some people get the idea to start a play group and imagine other folks hoisting them aloft and singing songs of their awesomeness. I don’t want anyone to take the role of organizer too lightly. But I also don’t want to scare anyone away from it. I thoroughly enjoy being an organizer and I get to play in almost every single event. The only time I don’t get to play is when my child is being difficult and throws a fit.

Organizers are not perfect, which is something everyone needs to remember. If you’re an organizer and make a mistake, don’t sweat it. Stressing the small stuff with make you lose your cool later. When you make a mistake, pick yourself up, brush yourself off, and keep going.

So if you decide to be an organizer, don’t go into it lightly. Understand that it is hard work at times, but when your community starts growing and folks are having a good time, it’s very rewarding to see and it gives you that fuzzy feeling inside. I have a difficult time imagining not being an organizer.

Remember to keep it fun and friendly!
If you have other ideas or methods that work in your area, feel free to add them in the comments!

Roll on, Dice Masters!

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