Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A to Z: Just For Fun

Just for fun, I want to talk a bit about non-competitive gaming: Just-For-Fun Gaming.

I've been having fun with miniatures war gaming for.. yikes, over twenty years.  It's a hobby, so if it wasn't fun I don't suppose I'd have kept up with it all this time.  But just because it is fun doesn't mean that it is always approached with fun as the goal itself. Since I sometimes spend as much as 10-12 hours in the studio painting and converting, I listen to a lot of podcasts.  Maybe because it gives something to focus a conversation on, but I suspect it is more because it is the focus for a lot of gamer, a lot of times the discussions are about competitive play.  I suppose since games tend to have a winner and a loser, it shouldn't be surprising that some can approach it in a highly competitive attitude.

I started miniatures wargaming first with Warhammer, first in a just for fun way and later got more involved in tournaments.  I often did quite well, which made me want to do as well the next time, to 'not slip', which added more pressure, and so on.  After a while I pretty much burnt out on it.  Some game systems were so competitive in nature that it was far more stressful than relaxing fun.  I still go to an occasional tournament, and I don't mind winning to be sure, but I find I enjoy it much more when playing 'Just for fun'.

Listening to HeelanHammer, I can relate to the co-host Wayne. Every time he describes his favorite tournament 'Whoops' it makes me want to build an army and buy a plane ticket!

My favorite type of gaming is now casual play.  Trying to win of course, but it's a secondary goal.  That's an important distinction.  I've heard some criticize non-competitive players as either lying: because they want to win, which means they are competitive, or that it is pointless: if they aren't trying to win a game that has a winner & loser then why are they playing?  But non-competitive doesn't mean a complete lack of caring if you win or lose, it is that the outcome is not the primary goal, it's a secondary goal.
The primary goal is that it is fun. With that secure, the secondary goal of trying to win can be attempted.
You don't need to take every competitive edge for dominating to have a fun game.
I find this frees up the players greatly: emotionally and mentally.  It is far more 'freeing' to game this way.

Benefits of the 'Just For Fun' primary goal: 

Play the Game, not the Meta-Game.
Meta-game is a term that gets thrown around a lot.  It is the art of competing before the game begins, usually in the arms race of army construction.  Some are so competitive they take the most proven 'net-armies' instead of creating their own concepts, or take units they don't really like, they only like their effectiveness.

If competition isn't your primary goal, it allows you to play the army or force you want to, not just what is the most beneficial to winning. Want to command an all goblin force? Do it!  Want to make an army of all light cavalry? Go for it.  Maybe take the worst commander you can, some spoiled lordling with connections to the king... why not? See what you can make of it.

Become immersed in the game world. 
It also allows the player to play the game the way their army would fight it.  Let's face it, wargames are often simulations with loop holes and illogical aspects to them.  Exploiting such rules because it is competitively sound isn't much fun when it creates impossible or ridiculous events in the game.  Your Big Bad Demon is going to cower behind a building for two hours..because what? You'd lose the game if it got shot? But in the events the game is supposed to represent, what is he waiting for? After some time a ref will come out of the woods to blow a whistle and decide who won? No, he's got a war to fight... fight it or go home!

When the focus isn't on competitive play, then it can be fine to have an unequal playing field.  Maybe the game will favor one player more than another? So what?  It can be a fun game! Trying to win when the odds are stacked against you can be a challenge that is fun, and with the right frame of mind it won't matter so much if the underdog does lose.

Can we escape the competitive nature? 
Our culture is a highly competitive one, but maybe I just don't get it. I've never really been very competitive.
I can get swept up in it sometimes, but I don't like it. It often just feels sour.
I just don't have the car-salesman gene. I'm not cut throat.
I enjoy trying to outwit an opponent, but I like to create a story first, and do it within that story.

Imagine if authors exploited rules to win their battles:
 Gandalf and others meet with Elrond to discuss the fate of the ring.  
It is decided: Sauron has his nine riders... what a fool! Screw that!  He's only taken ground troops?
We're going to crush that noob! O.K., Frodo, you've got the ring.  We're going to opt to take first turn, use a scouting march move.. Gwaihir, you take Frodo in your talons, fly to the crack of doom and Frodo drops the ring.
     Psst.. Gwaihir, if Frodo doesn't drop the ring, then just drop him in...
Yeah really! He's only worth 4 victory points and this is for the win, so you drop his hairy footedness into that volcano if you have to, we can afford it. .. Alright, here we go!
Yeah... I don't think that would have been very fun.  But it sure would have been competitive!

Before I played miniatures wargaming, back in junior high and early high school I played D&D.  I loved that game.  An on-going story, developing your character, mysteries to solve: fun stuff! An interesting insight into our competitive culture, though I'd been playing for a couple years, and had explained the game to my dad, whenever I was gone for a day, playing the game, he'd often still ask "who won?" It just made no sense to him that a game could not have a winner or be a competition between the players.

Competition is encouraged in this culture, but it doesn't have to spoil the fun.  Enjoy a competition, but allow yourself to step back, play just for fun for your primary goal and see if you don't have a lot more fun.
This has been an A-Z Challenge post. 
For the month of April there will be an update for each letter within the theme of: Things that influence and inspire me, or the converse: things which I find distressing or make me want to rail at the world.
Some of these will pertain to the miniatures hobby, but many will venture off to atypical territory for the duration of the challenge, then it will be back to normal with mostly minis and an occasional blithering.
You can find out more about the A-Z challenge my clicking the logo at the top left of the page. 


Michael Awdry said...

For me it has to be about fun; I started painting and collecting to relax and unwind; something completely different from work. Admittedly I like to win, but that would involve getting enough troops together to form an army and I seem doomed to be distracted by the slightest thing - but still having fun! Love the Frodo analogy at the end; brilliant, but sadly all too familiar today.

Mr. Lee said...

Ha! Am just putting up my bat reps from my last tournament, and I whole heartily agree with your comments. Fun first, winning second. You can see in tomorrows post that I take this to heart a bit too far..

BTW.. totally agree.. Drop Frodo into Mount Doom, and call it a day.. must easier solution.. ( now where is that rolling eyes emoticon? )

Paul of the Man Cave said...

I couldn't agree more, and I'm sure you'd be hard pressed to find a gamer who why do so many of us get lost in the heat of the moment?

This is one of the serious challenges I have with teaching the Lad to play- its about the fun of playing, winning should be a welcome bonus. Nonetheless its difficult to remember that when your second Bloodbowl player just got killed in as many turns and you really want this win to keep you in the top half of the league ladder etc.

So I suppose that we are all competitive after a sort. I too was listening to a podcast recently that was talking about players who have different objectives to focus upon. In this case it was a Bloodbowl podcast (Both Down maybe) and they were talking about players who go for the most competed passes in a season, or most fouls or something like that. It then gives an aim not necessarily tied to Victory, so its not always a zero sum equation. A different way of looking at it, and focusing on the fun of playing.

bouncergriim said...

I had a blast at my last Blood Bowl tournie, I went with what I thought would be a competitive team (lizardmen) and ended up with the wooden spoon. But it was probably some of the most fun I had, not caring about winning, but trying to score with the Kroxigor and have skinks attempt mindblowing long bombs.

Next tournie I am taking ogres to really just play for fun. 6 ogres no rerolls, pure chaos and snot bombs.

Anne said...

You are a very serious painter and you are extremely talented. But you've also got a tremendous sense of humor. So I'm not at all surprised that you have the ability to play for fun. And although you are intelligent, you've not become stuffy, grown up, or boring.

Keep your steam up for the rest of the A-Z challenge!! But don't be too fastidious (I know it doesn't make sense, but that's my f-word for you today).

S. L. Hennessy said...

Somehow this makes me think of War Games (the 1983 movie) and Ender's Game, but I guess that isn't the "casual" gaming you're talking about haha. Great post!

Anne said...

Wait a minute the letter of the day is J. Jumping Jehoseafat! Look at you go on this A-Z challenge. I wouldn't have been able to sleep tonight if I hadn't corrected that.

Ty Carter said...

So many great ideas and points here. Wonderful blog and thank you for sharing

Laughing Ferret said...

Michael: But just think, with the collection you have going, what a fun army that is going to be if you can cobble it together under one? :)

Mr.Lee: been enjoying your reports! Don't think anyone taking an all-goblin army to a tournament could be there with anything but fun as their primary goal!

Paul: I think that'sa good way to channel off the competitive streak, trying to do the most crowd surfs, most fouls, get every player on the team a skill up, stuff like that. It's a good idea.

Bouncer: Lizards can be really fun when not focused on playing it safe to win. I love skinks, so very fast- playing them really risky is great fun, dodges, go for its, blitz with them- they can be great! I have an Ogre team planned too :)

Anne: Happy to have those compliments :) I don't think I've ever been accused of being stuffy.. or grown up for that matter ;)

SL: No, can't imagine those are too casual ;) Speaking of, did you hear that a movie is being made for Ender's Game?

Thanks Ty!

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