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

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Nonconformity for Nonconformity's Sake

"Don't listen to The Man, my conspiracy theory is much more plausible!"

The internet always attracts its share of weirdos, nutjobs, and crazies. We like to think our own circles are immune, but sooner or later we're confronted with the truth: that those very same googly-eyed madmen as just as much a part of what we do as anyone else's particular hobby.

In 40K this manifests in a variety of ways, but the most common is the Angry Noncomformist Rebel; this is the guy who will tell you black is white, up is down, and Legion of the Damned are awesome just because that's the opposite of what everyone else says.

Of course, these people always have their ostensible reasons for what they believe, and indeed they may actually believe their own reasons, but it seems strange to think that these same people end up staunch defenders of every single poor idea and unit out of mere coincidence. It would be a pretty tremendous miracle indeed for them to be the only one to discover the One True Secret about how to use every single mediocre unit and army build, all of which fly directly in the face of conventional wisdom, and yet be unable to articulate why they are right.

The inability to defend their opinions is a key factor here- lots of people make extraordinary claims about one thing or another; indeed, 3++ itself is no different in this. It's no secret that Kirby or I (not to mention the other authors) hold some views that diverge from what the 40K population at large tend to believe. The difference is that we have written tens of thousands of words of what I like to think is coherent arguments for why we hold these positions- when I say a unit sucks, I am prepared to discuss why I think it sucks. When the contrarian nonconformist defends his unit or build of choice, it essentially boils down to two phrases: "It works for me," or "You just don't understand how to use it."

Now of course no one needs to make any kind of defense of the units they want to use in their army- it is, after all, their army and the decisions they make are entirely their own to choose. However, when one begins advocating other people to follow particular courses of action, one enters into the realm of public discussion, where one is expected to be able to present arguments supporting a point. If all of your arguments demonstrate fallacies of logic- ad hominem, appeal to authority, appeal to ignorance, etc- that is a very good sign that you don't have any actual support for your claims and thus your beliefs can be summarily dismissed. You may indeed be entirely right, but until you can SHOW you are right, the rest of us don't have the time to waste catering to your whimsical little plan.

The appeal of the nonconformist isn't hard to understand; in the context of the game, not all units are created equal. Certainly we wish this weren't so, but the sad truth is that codex balance is not perfect or even reasonably approximated to perfect, which means at the end of the day some options are simply better than others. Now, there's no shame about choosing a suboptimal unit for other reasons, but lying about how good a unit is... well, that's another matter entirely. The nonconformist endruns this little dilemma by rejecting very nearly everything that is known about a unit, an army, or the game, depending on how large a gap of untruth they must leap over to reach the conclusion they want- and make no mistake, they are indeed starting with a conclusion they want to reach ("Reserve Tyranids are an excellent army," or "Bolters are efficient firepower") and rationalizing their way back from there.

So is this just an angry rant about Those People and why you should hate them? No, not really; it's more of a warning. Lots of people on the internet want you to believe things, each for their own reasons. Some of them want attention, some of them want to help you, and some of them want money. More often than not, you can pick out the good from the bad by analyzing their arguments and looking at what they're saying. If someone is saying things that make sense, are logically consistent, and fit with other information you have gathered, chances are they aren't pulling one over on you- all the more so if they are also responding to their opponent's arguments in a civil and reasonable matter.

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