Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Five ways to be a good loser

Apparently, I struck a cord with my last post on how sportsmanship is a key element to growing the hobby, your local community, and the community at large. So, I figure this may be something I can speak to in a series of articles on sportsmanship. 

That leads me to a new thought: how to lose well.  You always hear the adage, "It's not whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game."  Really, not trying to be too much of a cop out, here, but I think there is some truth to this.  Tactical games provide tons of useful data to a player even if they lose.  We can garner information on tactics, army list deficiencies, deployment schemes, etc.  The bottom line is that winning isn't the only way to grow as a player.  And let's face it, learning to lose well helps you to not be a jerk when you do lose.  The hobby could use fewer of those. 

So, how does one lose well? 

1) As mentioned above, take it as a learning opportunity.  If you lose, obliterated and tabled or losing by a hair, take away as much as you can from the game.  Ask your opponent if you can see his army list to take notes.  When I play a game on Vassal or IRL, I routinely save my opponents' lists before the game starts so that I can go back over it later.  What units did you have a hard time with?  What units did you easily deal with?  How can you alter your overall strategy or list to cover your weaknesses in the future against a similar army?

If you know you are going into a tough game ahead of time, perhaps if you set up a game with a buddy you know is hard to beat, take photos.  I have a friend who brings a camera to every WFB tournament he goes to and in between turns, he stands on a chair and shoots an overhead pic of the game.  On Vassal I do a screen capture after every turn.  Looking at the step by step progression of the game can give a lot of insight into what went wrong for you. 

Think about your army list.  If you want to be competitive, you have to address parts of your army that don't work in general and according to your personal playstyle.  Do any units stick out as not living up to their potential?  Was it due to poor tactics or poor performance on the unit's part? Address those.  Trim the fat.

2) Shake hands before and after the game.  I always wish my opponents a good game at the beginning and thank them for the game at the end, regardless of the winner.  Being able to "snap out" of the gamer mentality helps to aleviate tension that could arise during a game.  It isn't extraordinary for tension to arise in a hard fought, tactical game.  Just try to aleviate it as quickly as possible.  Remember, it's okay to be bummed that you didn't win, but you shouldn't hold it personally against your opponent.

3) Watch your language!  I sound like my mother here, but seriously, cursing your dice or getting mad at your models for not performing (seriously??) doesn't improve things.  Whining about GW's rules mechanics doesn't help either.  There is no need to create tension and get grumpy over a game of toy soldiers, though admittedly when you are in a tournament that you have paid (sometimes a good deal) to attend*, there is more riding on the line, especially if you happen to get off to a good start.  Nonetheless, the dice are fickle, life is tough, get over it.  Be an adult (or at least a more mature kid).

4) Along with #3, assume the duck mentality.  Even when thing have you off balance and you are paddling furiously underwater, maintain a calm demeanor.  This also helps out tactically.  Many players are confounded by a calm gamer when they fail to throw their opponent off balance psychologically.  Regardless, stay calm.  This will help you make better decisions in game, and will help you to not have a stress induced headache after the game is over.

5) Be a nice guy.  Seriously, joke about bad luck.  Try to add in appropriate comments that alleviate your opponents' stresses and hopefully, win or lose, everyone comes out having enjoyed the game.  My best games have been against people that develop a fun, carefree banter with you. Ultimately, you come out feeling like a winner regardless as to whether you won or lost the match  because you enjoyed yourself.  This is the overall goal Warhamer, in my humble opinion.  It is, after all, a game.

*Again, I understand that it is harder to keep it casual in a competitive environment, but the players that master this are masters of the competitive event.  To obtain a balance between competitive play and laidback demeanor should be the goal of any player.  That said, I understand that it is easier to have a good time, win or lose, in a casual game rather than in a competitive tourney game, but then again, if you can't handle it, maybe you should consider whether or not tournaments are a good use of your time and energy.

Ultimately, 40k is a game between two people.  Though things are happening on the board, it is an interplay between those two people and hopefully, if we strive to create a fun experience (and you can do this and still be competitive) for both sides, winning and losing will impact us less and create a better overall experience.

So readers, is there anything I left out?  What does it take to be a good loser?

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