I recently moved back to the city I grew up in after 10 years out in the ‘real’ world. During my time away I lived in 3 other major cities in the US (Seattle/Tacoma, Washington D.C. and El Paso) and played in multiple other 'local gaming scenes' during my time away. I have seen all sorts of local ‘meta games’ and enjoyed some, disagreed with others and shook my head in disbelief at a few. Moving back ‘home’ after years away became very exciting while anticipating going back to the old local gaming store, where I learned to play, and getting back into the local scene.
My first chance at playing again came with an upcoming tournament that would be played at the 1,500 point level. I read all the rules and hurriedly completed painting some additional hardened veterans and pulled some flamers from an old conscript squad so I would meet the requirements of ‘What You See Is What You Get’ that were specified in the rules for the tournament. I printed out copies of my army list for all the other players so they could review my list when we played, as specified in the rules, and I printed up paper slips that listed squad numbers so I could mark my chimera’s appropriately with their contents.
I arrived at the store promptly at the specified registration time and looked around for the other participants. After about an hour of waiting a group of about 4 players arrived together, followed by another 3 players shortly thereafter. As they set down their shoe boxes full of unpainted mini’s I knew I was in for a long day. The organizer gave us the initial matchups and looked over at my dutifully painted army and snorted, ‘wow, haven’t seen a painted army in awhile’. My first opponent was a Tyranid player with a maxed out Nidzilla list that included two maxed out squads of troops to screen their forward movement. He handed me a piece of paper with some units scribbled onto it and promptly began pulling mini’s out of his shoe box and tossing them onto the table. During the act of ‘unpacking’ his army at least two of his warriors lost their arms upon impact with the playing surface and he simply picked up the arms and placed them back into the box – ‘WYSIWYG’ indeed.
Needless to say, the next 8 hours of what could only be classified as a civilized tournament if it were conducted in the Himalayan Mountains with a band of feral Yhetee, was the most painful gaming experience I have had to endure. I watched as mini’s were tossed haphazardly into shoe boxes, drinks were spilled onto other people’s armies and guys stopped for smoke breaks in the middle of rolling for assaults. My army was ground into bits by subsequent Nidzilla and Ork Nobz lists and I could’t play a third game because my opponent left in a huff after losing his first two games, the reaction from the organizer was, ‘well he always does that, maybe you can find a pickup game?’ All of this pales in comparison to the biggest insult of the day; my second opponent looked at my complete Tallarn army and asked, ‘You know you have to use GW mini’s, right?’
So what’s the point, is the point to win regardless of the cost – to win games without respect for the hobby? Clearly that particular gaming circle felt it was, their objective was to win the game – painting and modeling were not even a consideration. But it’s not really a hobby without the modeling is it? What about the painting, do you need to paint your mini’s for it to be a hobby? In my mind you do, in my mind you need to convert and paint and help others learn the game – as others did for me. For it to be a hobby it needs to be shared, improved and practiced as a whole, not as individual parts of gaming, painting and modeling. For it to be a hobby for me, it needs to include everything, even if you aren’t particularly any good at some individual portions you can still be a great hobbyist if you at least attempt them all.
After the awards and money were handed out at the end of the day one of the other players approached me with his email address. He said that he could tell I didn’t really fit in with this group of players, ‘what with your fully painted army and all’, he told me about another group of players who gathered at another hobby store in town. He said their group is a bit more mature, their armies have actual cases and their style is a bit more laid back. I will check them out next weekend; hopefully there will be a silver lining for what was ultimately a horrible reintroduction to my old gaming scene.