Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Beer and Pretzels is bad? Who says??

I just happened across a post regarding the lack of sportsmanship in 40K these days and one of the posters opened up with the whole bashing "beer and pretzels" gamers and that to me is the epitome of what is wrong with gaming today. Lately I've been encountering the term "beer and pretzels" being used in a pejorative way more and more frequently and it is disturbing to me in the extreme.

To me I've always used the term to just mean casual fun. Its more of a good thing than a bad thing by far. But lately I see elitists tossing the term around like somehow they are not beer and pretzel gamers and I guess by virtue, superior.

HUH??? What??? Seriously??

My first reaction to this is, wow, we have alot of people living in some very fantastical mental places if they are thinking like that. Unless your a professional, and I mean just a handful of people ... maybe a few hundred globally (as far as tabletop goes, I'm not talking about video game designers, but even then that would expand this figure into the low thousands probably) of professional game designers ... you are beer and pretzels. I suppose store owners could be considered non-beer and pretzel gamers ... lol. You might be a tool, store troll, but guess what ... YOU ARE STILL ... beer and pretzels. Your not a professional. Oh you've won a trophy?? Even perhaps won a GT or something and been in white dwarf?? So?? Who gives two shits, seriously get a grip on reality already.

Gaming is, has been and hopefully always will be ... about ... fun. Simply idling away some leisure time with some sort of diverting passtime. Sports, despite the advent of "professional leagues" is in this same camp. Certainly you might have "pros" who fully earn a living doing something. There are some guys playing collectible card games, some video game players, who purportedly earn their entire living, again apparently a few of them even into the deep six figure range. Those guys could well make the argument that they are not casual gamers.

Anyone else though is by definition an amateur, and to me amateur = beer and pretzels. Calling ones self "elite," proclaiming superiority to all other gamers is well and good, being serious about gaming to the point of having a stick up ones arse ... ok ... but that doesn't make one better or non-amateur and those people are still beer and pretzel gamers. They might unfortunately lack the happy fun attitude about gaming, but they aren't non-amateur ... they are still casual gamers, even if they are obsessive about it they don't derive their livings from gaming.

Again tabletop gaming is under a huge assault right now, the barbarians are at the gates, ready to sack the capital. Video games are killing the tabletop star and have been for 15+ years. Tabletop gaming will never die so long as passionate people who enjoy spending their disposable incomes and portions of their leisure time pursuing it, but there is no need to hasten the decline by being tools and trolls.

The lifeblood of tabletop gaming for anyone who wants new games/products and new fun, interesting people to play the games with is the casual "beer and pretzels" player. Yet that player is all of us, the magic of gaming that pulled us in initially whether it was via D&D or Warhammer 40K or Magic the Gathering, Pokemon, whatever ... that magic and wonder is still there. As a father I'm seeing it again in the eyes of my children. I'm transported back to those wonderful days in the summer of 1984 when I was trading bubblegum baseball cards, fishing down in the river and idling away the hours with Red Box D&D. The wonder and excitement that gaming can provide for young people is still there. The wonder and excitement it can provide for us adults is there as well. But when people take games too seriously, when they become too competitive, they begin to kill that off. They change the equation. To me if one wants that kind of experience, playing golf, playing poker for cash stakes, video gaming also presents a far superior option for those who want competitive gaming. Hell just being a sports fan provides a far better white knuckle competitive kinda rush than can tabletop gaming, even at the "competitive" level.

Tabletop games to me really have little value for that. Ya ya ... I know about the competitive side .. back in the day I attended several GTs and big RTTs for 40K. I've played in a few CCG tournaments, board game tournaments, etc. and they were a little interesting and I don't begrudge people who enjoy that, who enjoy some competition mixed in with tabletop gaming. I actually applaud it. But it needs to know its place.

People who partake in it need to understand that their individual preference will never define tabletop gaming, it will never be mostly about competition. It can't be. The companies producing the minis, even collectible cards, have to be more mindful of what the "beer and pretzels" folks are doing than what the tourney folks are doing. Otherwise the bulk of their customers simply lose interest and go elsewhere ... because ... most people are just casual gamers looking for a diverting activity to engage in occasionally with friends and family. That is how its always been and how it always will be with tabletop gaming.

I am beer and pretzels, I'm proud of it and when I stop being beer and pretzels game guy its time for me to find another hobby ... anyone who thinks casual fun is bad for tabletop gaming needs to be tarred and feathered and ridden out of town on a rail ... LITERALLY.


Alexander Man said...

Well spoken! Hail beer and pretzels!!!

Cawshis Clay said...

I think there is some value to the competitive folks that take gaming far to seriously to be beer and pretzeling with folks like you and me.

Without them, the rules wouldn't get tighter and more respectable. Chess is considered a respectable game because it has clear rules to play and a million strategies. WH40k isn't anywhere near that category (and never will be), but the serious folks push for it...and with that push comes some legitamacy.

I get that. I appreciate it. At the same time, I'm still going to offer beer and pretzels cause really 40k is an excuse to get my friends together and play with our awesome toys. We argue some rules, but that's part of the fun anyways.

I can't broke the divisive casual vs serious gamer nonsense that has permeated all levels of the hobby (from video games to yugioh). There is MORE than enough room for all types of the elitist hate is really only effective at keeping away new players.

I mean, I don't join sports forums because the fans turn me off. I couldn't imagine what a nongamer sees when they casually glance at the sad hate on most game boards.

The Lord of Excess said...

I agree about the competitive side being a positive influence on gaming in many, many cases. I don't want to over state my point ... being serious about games isn't bad at all. Its the people who let it go to their heads or get too caught up in the competitive side and for whatever reason have to put the less serious folks down. The guys who are doing gaming at very high levels are are the ones who inspire us all, the guys who somehow manage to paint 1000 figs a year to a competition standard. The guys who do the full scale models of the siege of the imperial gates, etc. etc. that is the stuff that gets us all amped up about gaming. The old GW GTs were exciting for me because they were a mix of the really good players, painters/modelers and just the really enthusiastic/passionate players. That was wonderful. I really like the dedicated/passionate gamers and at times have considered myself one of them. But I think most of those guys really keep it in perspective and understand their place, yes on one hand they are elite within the ranks of gaming, but I've found most of those guys to be surprisingly humble, down to earth and all to willing to talk at length about how someone else can improve their game, their painting, etc. Those guys are really the lifeblood of these hobbies as much as the masses of very casual gamers are. It is that small but vocal percentage of self proclaimed elite gamers that I think are stirring up the divide and turning people on both sides off and doing us all a disservice. I agree though that there are many serious/dedicated/essentially "elite" gamers out there who are damn fine people and do nothing but good for the hobby. It is a sad day when those people are getting drowned out by the vocal minorities of jerks :( I really think a big part of this all has been the open forum that the internet has provided its made micro celebrities of some of the guys and dramatically magnified the impact they can have. In the beginning I think the good stuff was magnified, but over the past several years it seems like more and more of the negative has been bubbling to the surface, sadly.

I hate how I get negative myself on this blog at times ... I really don't mean to ... lol. I should change my blog name to the sad gamer :) Actually a new years resolution is to paint more minis this year and get that stuff up on the blog and focus more on just fun little skirmish mini gaming as well as some fun indie RPG type stuff. I'm slowly diverting my attention away from all the ills in tabletop gaming as with state, national and international politics and business I have no control over it so all I can do is follow my own course and do what I can to make my own gaming and life what I want it to be ... to hell with the howling wilderness that surrounds me :)

Spacejacker said...

I have always taken "beer and pretzels" to mean a game which has simple rules , usually heavily reliant on luck, as opposed to a more complex game requiring more chess-like strategy (note that I am not indicating that one is better than the other) But I'm with you on the gaming is just a fun pastime stance, and I'd never want to subject myself to competitive play with strangers.

The Lord of Excess said...

Indeed man, I think that even the term means different things to different people. Its the attitude more than anything though as you say. If games aren't fun ... why play ... has always been my motto. The particular thread I ran across was something to the effect of "well you can't know if your opponent is really having fun so why care" in a nutshell. It just shocked me, but I think what shocked me more was the large amount of support the guy got for that statement. I've heard things along those lines over an over the past few months and just wanted to sort of vent on the net .. lol. I'm glad to see that at least some people out there have the same take though. Thanks guys, you have helped renew my faith in humanity a bit :)

Mik said...

I don't want to see 'beer and pretzel' become a negative label. My take has always been it's a mindset. Me and my buddies could be sitting around for a six hour game session that has some of the toughest rules on the planet, but it's how /we play/ said game and conduct ourselves that defines the 'beer and pretzel' mindset.

This has changed quite a bit from what it meant originally as Spacejacker pointed out, a simple set of rules designed for laid back play. Now, for me, it's the laid back play, regardless of rules complexity.

Played in a number of 'serious' Warmachine and Hordes tournaments in my day. Didn't like it, nope, not for me. More power to those that dig that style though.

The Lord of Excess said...

I agree, I was the same way with 40K years back. I was lucky though then because we had a close knit group of about 20 mini game fanatics who sort of treated each other like a team. Among ourselves we generally were always beer and pretzels ... we'd help each other, point out "hey man you better not do that or I'm going to smash you, see those guys there, you forgot about them didn't you!" kinda stuff. But that was back in Las Vegas in the heyday of the Las Vegas Gamers Club. Those people all moved away (myself included) and I have never had a group quite like that since. Even in the competitive games at GTs, and RTTs ... I wasn't happy just playing a random person if I wasn't chatting with them about their paint scheme, what the did for a living, how they started playing 40K, etc. etc. even at a GT ... 3 wins under my belt ... a somewhat decent shot at winning something ... I'd be chatting away. I don't expect everyone to be like that, again I think competition has its place. It is the people who fail to understand though that what you guys have all rightly pointed out as the laid back, friendly attitude of beer and pretzels gaming. It is that which is the lifeblood of gaming. When that is lost entirely, in my opinion, tabletop gaming loses virtually all of its point. The future of tabletop gaming I think hinges upon beer and pretzels ... it is the one thing that video games really will never have, even the so called "social" MMOs ... there is no substitute for face to face gaming with real life friends and family. Because of that I am not fearful that tabletop is going to face extinction ... thanks to the beer and pretzels attitude I think we will all be happily gaming for the rest of our lives. Well one can hope anyway. Good comments guys and thank you, again it reaffirms my faith that there are like minded gamers out there ... we have hope!!