Doomtown: Reloaded and the Tournament/Competitive Play Environment
I want to bring up something that I believe is worth discussing, as it pertains not only to Doomtown: Reloaded, but really any tactical card game or even any form of games. I think as a community, we may want to consider what “too much emphasis on competition” may actually mean and the inherent ramifications it has on games.
It may be surprising to hear this from the lead designer, but I think card games in general present a very “antiquated” version of having fun in the 21st century (and I’m speaking primarily about playing analog style – you know, in person). You spend hours building decks, looking over tournament results, and driving to your local game store BEFORE you even play a single game in many instances. Once at your game store, most people maybe can squeeze in 2 or 3 hours of playing, before repeating the whole process over again. As Calvin once said, “Having fun is a lot of work!” I don’t point this out to diminish the fun that people have in the process of all of this, but from a certain perspective, it’s kind of insane in a world where I can boot up a game of Overwatch and get a game going within 15 minutes. This is probably more relevant to the older crowd that has real world (boring) obligations like kids, jobs, partners…you know “grown-up stuff.”
The question I want to get at though, is what motivates people play weekly lifestyle games requiring a large commitments of time and money? While we all enjoy a game of Doomtown: Reloaded, I’ve noticed that a greater percentage of people’s time seems to be dedicated to “tournament style” play. I want to be specific here, I don’t just mean only playing in tournaments, but also in preparation of tournaments. It’s not uncommon for a play group’s activity to ebb and flow around tournaments, with the weeks leading up to big tournaments having high activity, and the weeks afterwards to have low activity. Part of this is natural. You just spent weeks (if not months) preparing and you may want to take a little breather! However, I worry if we are perhaps hitting a critical point with competitive play in general.
I’ve noticed a growing population of people seem to be playing games either solely for the game’scompetitive aspects or seem to be solely galvanized by competition. As to the cause of this, I don’t know, but I worry what the slanted emphasis on competitive play will do for a lot of games that aren’t as large as something like Magic, where the community is so large that you can always find casual players. That’s not to say people can’t find fun in tournament play, but I think we’d all be remiss to not acknowledge that part of the fun of tournament play is winning (and I’d argue that a lot of empirical research has shown that winning equals fun for a lot of people, or at the bare minimum, showing progress by continuing to perform better at tournaments).
With games that have smaller audiences, if we are all playing to win, it can be very difficult to be welcoming to newer players. If a new player is looking just to try things out and start out casually, but can’t do anything but play in tournament-focused environments, it will naturally be unwelcoming. In addition, I worry that the joy of just playing can be lost when we focus on winning all the time. As a man wiser than me once said about tournaments, “The objective is to win, the point is to have fun.”
Whether this is a problem or not is certainly up for debate, and I don’t want to influence anyone’s view beyond opening up a dialogue that will hopefully be constructive for all. In addition, I don’t want it to sound like competitive play itself is a problem, just perhaps maybe the way we present ourselves should focus more on the casual side a bit more. I do feel though that perhaps we should remember the fun of just simply playing (without a strict emphasis on rules) and perhaps think about how we can expand support to just casual play. It would be interesting to see if we could perhaps maybe have a couple more events that were less tournament oriented, and more events that said, “Come on down for a weekend of Doomtown: Reloaded! Meet some new people, play some games in a friendly and non-competitive environment!” And I think we can all agree that if David Lapp was hosting it, it would most likely be at a brewery! Speaking of which, I’ll turn the mic over to Sheriff Lapp who will share his views on the DT:R community and events both official and fan-based.
Community and Casual/Fan-based Doomtown: Reloaded Events
My previous Hellstromme Journal article focused on how a Community Manager balances competitive versus casual play. As we move forward as a company with our first tournament season this summer, I want follow up on Emre’s points and discuss how exactly how we can implement a more casual scene. We’ve seen several of this in the past few years, the first of my recollection being the Gomorra Gazette hosted after hours shindig at the GenCon release, then the Kansas City New Year’s Event. Sure, events are often presented as competitive, but when you see the community come out to dress up and gather for not just flipping cardboard, it makes you realize why you play the game.
While we focus on GenCon because of its historical 50th Anniversary and our first major outing as a company and where we will host two competitive events, Nevertheless we emphasize coming together as a community not only at that conventions, but in game stores. To support the overall community, we are working on the presentation of print and play demo decks, learn to play videos, and the option for TOs and retailers to promote their events as leagues for ongoing play on a weekly or monthly basis. While the Epitaph Series are tournament events, we’ve decided to have the faction most represented win the story prize, therefore awarding participation, rather than individual winners. That my fellow Doomies, will be saved for our first summer event, the European Championship, as we can’t ignore the competitive players as well. Providing promos for league play is also a great way to award participants, rather than winners, and encourage just playing our beloved game for enjoyment.
It’s a difficult balance for sure. We are not without notice that many playgroups have diminished since the game’s initial reboot, while some efforts to get others going were unsuccessful. We understand it’s going to be a difficult task to reload Reloaded. But as dedicated fans, this is what we set out to do. While it’s my role to ensure we still have events, we want you to definitely try and shift the paradigm away from the competition, and more towards the camaraderie. You certainly don’t need us over at Pine Box to sanction any of these throwdowns. There’s plenty of ways to create custom participation pieces and encourage community meetups at your local stores, libraries, homes, etc.
If you can make it out to Indianapolis, Wednesday pre-convention festivities kick off at Kilroy’s late afternoon, as we Facebook Live a few casual games and hand out the alternate art Stone Legend card. This will follow with a Bicycle Multi-player event, along with some casual games, over at the Hyatt. Casual events continue with Doomtown Classic Friday evening, where you can come by and see the Gomorra of yesteryear, and concluding Saturday evening at the Hilton with Orange and Tsubasa’s Casual Call Out. We even happened to notice a team event hosted by a fan Thursday evening. We hope these events provide examples of ways to encourage casual play and help build our community. As we prepare to move the Doomtown setting beyond Gomorra, we hope our playerbase grows and follows us on this new journey.
Pine Box Entertainment’s Vision
Emre and David discussed aspects of card games we all feel are important, both what makes them special and what can be frustrating. We’ve primarily discussed this within the context of Doomtown: Reloaded, but in reality it permeates throughout our entire philosophy as a company.
Our vision moving forward is simple, but ambitious. We aim to develop games, not just Doomtown: Reloaded, that are fun both at the kitchen table and in the card hall. We as a company aim to foster community and friendships. We strive to bring you fun card gaming experiences that are not only balanced, but also challenge established paradigms that have held steadfast since the genre’s inception.
What does that mean?
Expect larger releases, less often. We want meta-games to settle and evolve at a pace that will keep players interested and allow them to keep up.
Expect rotations for competitive play. We aren’t the first and we won’t be the last. Large cardpools drive off new players and can create broken metas where negative play experiences (NPE) further alienate new or less competitive players. We are also aware that many players enjoy those metas – so expect multiple supported formats.
Expect cards specifically crafted for casual games. We love creative formats like Bicycle and Derringer – they encourage fun plays and interesting interactions. More importantly, they encourage community.
Expect “official” community events. We don’t aim to separate ourselves from our work – our work is our passion. If you run into us at a con, or a tournament – we may be busy but make sure to ask if we’re hitting a bar after the event, because we probably are and we’d love for you to join us. And we always have decks on us, and love to sit down for a friendly or two.
Pine Box Entertainment was founded around the love of a singular game, Doomtown: Reloaded. Our scope, quite unexpectedly, has expanded since then. We’ve got multiple projects in early development and we’re excited about them. Don’t expect Doomtown: Reloaded to go anywhere as long as we can make it happen. We’ve got two major tournaments, and multiple minor events coming soon as well. This ride is just starting, and we’re glad you’re with us.
With that we leave you with our latest spoiler for Doomtown: Reloaded. Enjoy.