Kirb your enthusiasm!


"Pink isn't a color. It's a lifestyle." - Chumbalaya
"...generalship should be informing list building." - Sir Biscuit
"I buy models with my excess money" - Valkyrie whilst a waitress leans over him

Monday, March 14, 2011

Our Stupid Community

Let's tell a story of 2 hobbies. Fair warning: it's long, but I hope enjoyable.

Before I really got into 40k, airsoft was my hobby of choice. Most every weekend, my buddies and I would head up to the mountains, play some, get dinner and hang out. Unlike most of my buddies, however, I took our hobby a step further. I started looking online, researching tactics, and figuring out the guns and mods that best suited my play style. After a year or so of posting on a forum, people noticed I put forth good opinions and I did my best to help the community. I became a mod, and suddenly found myself trying to manage over 20,000 people.

This was an excellent experience for me. The forum had an excellent staff, and I think I learned more about dealing with people and community building during this time than any other in my life. With their guidance, and my own efforts, I quickly became one of the favorite moderators. I eventually took my authority further, helped senior members write articles, and helped reorganize the forum structure.

Eventually, the owner of the forum went a kind of crazy, and the whole staff left amidst the falling out. I worked with several to establish a new forum, helped to give it a good start, and then gradually lost interest. I had left high school, I was working and going to college, and I just didn't have days to spend up in the mountains anymore.

40k fit my needs nicely. I had plenty of small pockets of time to paint, and though I didn't really make it to the FLGS that much, I still had plenty of games against new friends at home. (The glory that is FloorDK!) Of course, the first place I started looking for information was on forums.
I don't need to rip on the 40k community here. Suffice to say, the forums tend to be pretty bad. (Personally, I think BoLS forums is the best, certainly superior to the blog for the most part, but even then it's no great font of good info.) Eventually, I got into the 40k blogland. This, at least, seemed to be a good place to find info.

Well, kind of.

The two blogs I read were Bell of Lost Souls and Yes the Truth Hurts. Weirdly, I didn't know that they don't like each other until about 6 months of reading both. It just seemed to me so natural that they would get along, as their goals are the same: grow the hobby, and try to educate people so that they could play better. Turns out, they seemed pretty convinced this is not the case. (YTTH also has a problem with us, more on that in a bit. =()

Ultimately, as I understand it, they have ideological differences. The BoLS crowd thinks the YTTH crowd are a bunch of hypercompetitive jerks; the YTTH crowd thinks the BoLS collective are a bunch of soft-playing jerks who are trying to enforce their way. Jerks all around!

This kind of thing isn't really surprising: every single hobby has the same division, between the soft and those who view themselves as "hardcore". In airsoft, there were always the MILSIM guys who played "realistically", and the soft players who were just there to have fun. In airsoft, though, it was different. It wasn't the division I was used to, where hard players didn't look down at soft players at all, they just took it as an opportunity to teach, and in turn improve their own game.

In 40k, the division is much sharper, because the soft and hard players are both convinced in many cases that theirs is the right way to play 40k. Soft players don't get why hard players don't like the story and fluff games, and hard players don't understand why soft players aren't into stiff competition. The vocal proponents for both sides are, generally speaking, a bunch of assholes. That's certainly not helping to bring anyone together.

Now, the normal 40k player doesn't fall purely into either of these two camps. Your average player simply likes the game: they model, they enjoy the art and story, they like to win and figure out what is good. They're functionally competitive AND fluff players. The division in the community is more perceived than real, so why does it exist so readily online? Kirby note here: this is the primary reason I took up the BoLS position; to bridge the divide between the two camps. Far more of us are 'competitive hobbyists' than pure competitive or hobby based players. Thank Purg for the term btw. Now back to our scheduled Sir Biscuit post.

I think it's simply because we have given people camps to fall into. We're like someone who's die hard on their politics, only watching the news that confirms our existing viewpoint, and hating on the other. I also think that this is primarily the fault of the "competitive" player.

When I go to the experts of other games I play, and I ask if something bad is good, I get a response about exactly why with pros and cons. More often than not, if I ask the 40k "experts" their opinion on a certain unit, I get "x is fail" or "x is shit". If I'm lucky, maybe a line or two more. No wonder soft players don't respond very well to competitive advice. If I'm looking for advice on specific tactics, units, or load outs, I'm not sticking around to listen to anyone that laughs, insults, or swears at me.

Back when I was on the airsoft forum, the best article I had ever written was about sniping in airsoft. It's almost certainly the best advice I've ever given. It's been viewed thousands of times, and I've received well over a hundred messages about it. I've even had real-world snipers tell me I nailed it, and tons of people who told me I completely changed their game for the better.

It certainly wasn't successful because I came in saying "lol all you suckers play like crap", nor did I claim, "everyone has their own way." I took the time to explain, in full, why my way was the best way, and the problems with other strategies. I spent an enormous amount of time writing and editing the article (as I do with everything I write) to make sure that it was both coherent and friendly. Coherent and friendly are the best way to get people to listen to you, and I don't think I have to write a big article to explain why. This is why, I believe, BoLS is by far the biggest 40k site. Friendliness has universal appeal, so even though I think their articles are often lackluster (and even more often filler) they still have a massive reader base. (And to be clear, yes, BoLS does have some good authors. Thanks)

YTTH is very much the opposite, but also quite successful. I certainly couldn't tell you of anyone with a more "take-no-bullshit" attitude than Stelek. (Well, without getting into parody, anyway.) He does what the site advertises: the unmitigated truth as Stelek sees it. Despite many of the communities' misgivings, he provides incredibly valuable insight and his list building skills are second to none. His NOVA list last year, for instance, is a masterpiece and probably my favorite of all time. It's simply brilliant in its options and execution.

So here we have a problem; two sites, one which has mediocre content and a gigantic readerbase, and another that has awesome content but alienates a large portion of the community. I understand the feud between BoLS and YTTH and I don't blame Stelek for not seeking any kind of reconciliation in this case, but still, it would be to everyone's benefit if BoLS would run some articles by him, and if he could stop calling people stupid long enough to do it.

Now let's talk about YTTH and 3++. Before we do, I'd like to make something clear before you all misconstrue what I'm about to say as a direct attack on Stelek. That is not my intent, though if anyone wants to rip on me for this it's certainly their right to do so. I have been personally insulted by Stelek a half dozen times, but I'm not offended: I understand that's just his way. I enjoy his blog (hell, he even put up an article I wrote him once, GL finding it! ;D) and I grab list ideas from there all the time. And believe me, when I transition from talking about this topic that I am not longer talking about YTTH or trying to make ANY kind of jab.

For those of you who aren't in the know (or for some reason are reading this in... the future) for a long time one of the quotes at the top of the page was "3++ is like YTTH without the emo bitching". I wasn't here when the quote was put up, but I guess Stelek didn't like it. It stayed up there for a year 7 months before Kirby took it down and sent an apology letter.

Cue shitstorm.

I chatted with Kirby after that went up, and he was obviously upset. His letter was, for what it's worth, sincere. I advised him not to respond in any way, and I'm glad he didn't because there really wasn't anything he could say that would have made the situation anything but worse. That situation was done for: nothing would be salvaged here.

One thing really stood out to me though. Stelek asks why he should care about building bridges, as "...the online ‘community’, which I generally could give two shits about, because it’s one super moderated princess lollipop cakefest catering to the lowest common denominator of stupid."

This is what I'm trying to say: YTTH and "the online community" aren't two different competing camps. They're the same thing. Does anyone really believe that the people who run major events are somehow elected, or that they "seized" power somehow?

40k is the simplest kind of community: it's simply an enormous network of friends. Sometimes those friends like to throw events, because they like the hobby, and sometimes those events grow. So if anyone's wondering why you should build bridges? How about because that's the ONLY way to get any kind of true influence in the way events are run.

A year and a half ago no one in this community knew who I was. 12 months ago, people took notice of me on the BoLS forum. 8 months ago, I got onto a respectable blog. Just a few months back, and now I'm here, on 3++, one of the most successful 40k sites. It's not because I'm crazy or revolutionary in my ideas.

It's because I'm friendly. And coherent.

Even more telling, I ran an article about the Feast of Blades tournament a while back, and the things I really didn't like about it. An hour after it went up, I got an email from the organizer, asking me to talk. A few hours after that, we were talking, and I was asked to give input and help put together an even better event for next time, which will be in a con format in November. This is awesome and I've asked Maxx to post about it for weeks! I really think it highlights how discussing and constructively criticising events/army lists can help everyone.

All this from a criticism, because when I talked to the person in charge I used it as an opportunity to be heard and help instead of dismissing it as stupid or an idea from the other "camp". I don't have any doubt that at some point (thought it may be many years down the line) I'll be organizing a big event of my own, and when I do I'll have intelligent and influential friends to help me, because I bothered to build bridges. The same simple way it worked on that airsoft forum so long ago, and it works for the rest of life.

What does this have to do with you, the average reader? Well, the point is you can have more influence than you think. Again, 40k is a giant web of people that simply like to play, paint, and enjoy the story. We are all trying to be winners. Those that fall squarely and only in the camps of "fluff" or "competitive" are a microscopic minority.

I love to read the books.
I love to paint, and to become a better painter.
I love to win.
This makes me nothing more than average.

So, if you disagree, disagree with individuals, not groups. Stop assigning labels, and stop the "us vs them" attitude. If you find yourself being a jerk, take a step back and forget about it, if you find you can't express yourself well, keep trying until you can, and ask others for the grace of their help. It will be given. The players are, in a very real sense, not only the walls, floor and ceiling of this hobby, but also the architects. When you build up others, you build up yourself.


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