Friday, March 25, 2011

Sportsmanship is actually fun

Okay, so I played Friday Night Magic tonight.  For anyone who doesn't know, Friday Night Magic is a weekly event held in game stores around the country (actually the world).  It is meant to be a casually competitive environment where everyone is welcome. 

I play at the Gopher, what I refer to as the friendliest game store in town.  It really is.  There's another game store across town, that has what could be argued to be a better selection (given the ability of GopherDave to special order just about anything, I'd say this is not so much of a point), but nobody, but nobody is a friendly to customers as the Gopher.  Probably a good indicator of this is the fact that when WinterWar rolls around every year, there is always a plethora of helpful volunteers, bringing everything from cargo vans to hand trucks to muscle to computer services (one year the store computer died a horrible death, but thanks to volunteers they were up and running before very many hours had past).

Anyway.  Back to FNM.  There are generally a couple of formats that you can play.  There's "constructed", where you bring your own deck, and there's "limited" where you get cards at the event to build a deck out of.  I generally choose "limited", because I don't want to spend hours and huge amounts of cash building a deck that will be obsolete within weeks or months.  Of "limited" formats, you can either play "draft", or "sealed deck".  In draft, you open a pack, select a card, and pass the rest of the pack around the table, while everyone else does the same.  You do this for three packs of Magic cards, and then build a deck with what you have chosen (or "drafted").  In sealed deck formats, you simply open several packs of cards and then build a deck from those packs.

I generally choose sealed deck format over draft, as I think of it as less competitive.  I have a bit of a problem with competition, as I tend to be over competitive.  (Or "hyper competitive", or "jerk").  I like the fact that your deck in sealed is based entirely on what you open, and you don't need to spend hours reading articles on what the best draft strategies are. 

Unfortunately, there was only "constructed" and "draft" available tonight.  So I played draft.  I didn't open or get passed any real "money cards" (cards that are worth more than $10.  Some cards currently in the format are worth up to or over $100.  But I generally don't have that kind of luck.)

So I ended up drafting black cards, and I made it a point to draft the pretty land whenever I didn't have an obvious card that I wanted to put in my deck.  As it turned out, I got 16 "pretty" land, one rare that's worth about $6-$10, and had exactly 4 cards left over when I built my deck.

But here's the important part of this post:

I won the first round, but lost the last two.  Back in my old competitive days, this would have been an exercise in frustration, as my cards weren't winning for me.  But tonight I really didn't worry about winning, and after each game, I tried my hardest to tell my opponent how well I thought he played (all three of my opponents really did play well, and I didn't see any obvious play errors).  And I did my best to compliment their decks.

And I found that as I was telling the guy across from me how good I thought he did (if he won) or how things just came together for me, and he didn't do anything really wrong (when he lost), that it made me feel good to say nice things to my opponent.  (Why do I think about that scene in "How the Grinch stole Christmas" when his heart is growing?) 

Vince Lombardi once said: "Show me a good loser, and I'll show you a loser."  Yeah, I used to think this too.  But there's more than one way to be a winner.  I recently saw this MadeForTV movie called School of Life.  It's set in a middle school, whose basketball team hasn't won a game in many years.  One teacher helps them overcome this losing streak.  How?  By cheering the other team when they make a great play.  By cheering their own team when they screw up.  By cheering either team either way.  Just because the score isn't what you'd like it to be doesn't mean that you can't be happy for the people who are doing well.  I tried that tonight, and as sappy as that seems, it was actually fun. 

Anyway.  After the tournament, I played a casual game with Rigar, and then played a round of Multiplayer Madness (that I asked one of the other players to pick one of my decks randomly for me to play).  And I had a fun time there too.  (I won, but that really wasn't important.  It was just fun to play).  And then I came back home.  I just really wanted to write all this down so I remember how much better it felt losing two rounds, and telling my opponent how well I thought he did, than it ever used to feel winning, but being a jerk about it. 

So, hey, I played Friday Night Magic, and I won!  Even though my match record might suggest otherwise.


  1. hey those Zendi lands make playing fun no matter HOW you do =)

    glad to know. thanks for sharing.

  2. I quit playing all competitve miniatures games years ago. I found myself becoming so competitive that I was not having any fun, and was actually making the game a bad experience for the person I was playing against.

    For the last couple of months I have been going to the Gopher on Monday nights to watch League play. All of the players were so helpful to each other I decided to try playing again.


  3. Tom,

    That's one of the reasons that I stopped playing miniatures games too. I actually got to a point in Confrontation where I polled other players to find out what the absolute worst army was (consensus was goblins), and started building armies out of them, figuring that if I played them, I'd be more likely to lose, and not ostracize people. Didn't really work, plus Confrontation died. .

    So when I get a hankering to paint, I'll paint something, but I'm avoiding the urge to play like the plague.