Illuminations: Competitive Vs Casual?
Jamie Macneil (Jmacneil1329)
When I first started playing HeroClix, it was purely for fun. I work with a group of teenagers, teaching them strategic games, and I picked up HeroClix to play with them and to have a cool game to teach. We had a lot of house rules, mistakenly messed up on a lot of power interactions, and had a great deal of fun. Most importantly, we were able to help the kids make friends, have a good time, and develop some life skills. We didn’t have many resources, but we tried hard to get donations for pieces and spare board games. We even bought discount bricks online to run tournaments for them. After a while, the other volunteers, Sam Nurge and John Elia, and I started playing by ourselves with all sorts of teams, reading over the ‘Realms, and having more fun making competitive teams and being more involved in the game.
The next step for us seemed to be going to bigger tournaments, but as we read the forums and talked to more people online, we got the impression that competitive players were a mean group who would stab you in the back and steal your dog if they got the chance. This led us to stay away from any big tournaments (no matter how much we wanted the chance to make our own figure or ATA) and make assumptions about anyone that went to big tournaments and events. I never wanted to find myself becoming “one of those meta guys.” I told myself I would have no part in being a jerk gamer and therefore wouldn’t go to any conventions. Just like most other HeroClix players, I found the biggest jerk who was semi-competitive and type-casted the rest of competitive clixers to be just like him. When we brought the teens that we worked with to weekly events, he was the type of guy who would cheat them with false rulings and short clixing when I wasn’t looking. It always made me upset and turned me away from the competitive scene even more.
A few years later, the Infinity Gauntlet came around right when I was headed back to college. The figures and Infinity Gauntlet were too good to pass up, so I found a group to go to near my school and started taking the drive to the store. I even taught a few new guys to play and brought them along. The store was called Comics and More and it was in the King of Prussia mall, the second biggest mall in America, so naturally it brought a large and diverse group. Every week these guys helped my friends and I build teams, gave us free figures, and even bought our entry fee for us sometimes; they were by far some of the best clixers I’ve ever met.
During one of these events, I was in the running to win, and I had never won before so I was pretty excited. I had figured out a tricky team based on BB Shazam and IH Hulk/SM Libra. Basically, I would convert Bruce Banner into Hulk (who ignores all damage unless the attack roll is doubles) and have two Libras there to re roll opponents attacks (because its not prob). I would get in people’s faces to tie them up, while Shazam would swing around with two AIM Agents and pick people off. In the second to last match, my opponent told me the Hydra TA didn’t benefit you unless the person shooting actually had the Hydra TA. The judge confirmed the ruling even though I argued against it, and it cost me the hit I needed to win. I ended up coming in fourth. When my opponent found out the ruling was wrong, he called me the next day, apologized profusely, and gave me a free Black Adam SR figure to make up for it.
I realized I was in the best play group ever. I was surrounded by people who wanted to benefit, not only the game they were playing, but also the people playing it. My friends and I were always invited back, invited to different events outside of gaming, and generally taken care of. What shocked me is that I was playing with some of the best players in the game.
I found out most of these people went to high level events, competed at a Worlds level tournament, and even regularly played with a Worlds winner at another local play group. I was perplexed. I thought Worlds players were wolves in sheep’s clothing! I thought Worlds players were all out to get me! I was told they were all jerks that couldn’t care less about anything except prize sharking and glory grabbing, but I realized that was wrong.
After that, I started to attend more events, went to all the local tournaments, and met a lot of great guys. When Realms Open Championship’s (ROC) came out, I started to go to those and even hosted one of my own. Again, some of the best players from around the world sat across the table from me and gave me a smile and a nice handshake. I won some, I lost some, but the game only got better. When I lost, I tried to be graceful and my opponents were friendly. When I won, I received the same courtesy and I always left tournaments with a smile and a sense of fun.
Eventually I made my way to Dragon*Con for the ROC Championship. The first day of the event was an absolute blast! I lost to Joshua Ernest (probably the nicest person I have ever met) in the final round of the ROC held that day and ended up coming in third. Even though I didn’t win, I made great friends. The second day was even better; I met people like Pat Yapjoco, Keenan Notae, and Matt Devine (all people who know the game in and out and can play better than almost anyone I know). Some of the funniest times I can remember happened sitting around a Hibachi table, all with the people I used to think were out to short their way to the top.
Later on in the day, Matt Devine and I had the unfortunate luck to be held up at gunpoint hours before we were supposed to play in the championship. They took everything… even Matt’s clix (that they probably had no idea what to do with). When the community heard about it, they came to life. I was expecting to get no sympathy from these people competing to win their share of the $15,000, but instead, they paid for our meals, helped us find the clix we needed that were lost, gave us cards and dice and tokens and markers and maps, and everything we needed. Majestix even offered to let us all stay in their room. I couldn’t believe I had judged these gamers so poorly in the past, and I became very thankful that I had these new friends in my life.
Whatever I had heard on the ‘Realms about the “evil meta-gamers” was dead wrong, and whatever was told to me about “not having fun at high level events” was even more wrong. If I had stayed in the bubble of fearing ROC’s and Regionals, I would never have the privilege to know these people, nor would I have had the fun of great competition. I’m glad I made the change. I’m glad I stopped judging people’s intentions from behind a message board, and started letting myself have a good time at great tournaments. I realized that being “one of those meta-guys” would be a huge compliment.
If there is one piece of advice I can give, it is to not limit yourself to local events. Don’t be afraid to try your dice at a ROC table or take a trip to a big event. Big events are the place where you meet new people, get new ideas, and have tons of fun. Don’t ever let anyone tell you differently.