Monday, August 23, 2010

a word in your ear or how I learned to stop worrying and love the blog

Several years back White Dwarf ran a series of articles called "A Word in Your Ear." This was a sort of editorial section was supposed to lend "select" hobbyists the opportunity to espouse on some element of the hobby. Of course this lacked all elements of journalistic integrity.* The topics that I recall from this column included rules lawyers (written by a real-life lawyer, and it included some very horrible legal analogies), hating on new hobbyists (it's bad!) and my absolute favorite, the online community. I tried to dig up the WD issue with the latter article, but unfortunately after moving twice in the past 3 years I liquidated part of my WD back catalog and I don't have this issue anymore, so I can't present an accurate citation. So much for journalistic integrity.

This article in question was published sometime around the release of the 4th ed. Tyranid Codex. The crux of the author's point was that the online community was doing a huge disservice to the hobby by its constant gripping about the state of the rules or the quality of new releases, etc, etc. His example on point was the then recent slew of bitching and moaning about the then upcoming re-sculpted Genestealers and how some folks said they looked liked monkeys or something lame. I'm 90% positive he was referring to a thread on Dakka.

I understand why is was written. It was a propaganda piece directed against those GW saw as abusing the good name of its products. That's their MO, nothing new. But what struck a real nerve and infuriated me was that they had the gall to print the article in the American WD. As in the America where we have the 1st Amendment. This Constitutional guarantee allows you to wear a jacket with the words "Fuck the Draft" printed on it inside a state courthouse without getting arrested for disturbing the peace. Cohen v. California, 403 U.S. 15 (1971). Granted, there are exceptions to this protection and it applies to government suppression of speech, so this WD article is not technically suppressing 1st Amendment related activities.

However, the article very much embodied the spirit of suppression. After working for GW's retail outfit and getting fired and then having them fined for the method in which they fired me, I know what control freaks they are with their product. Remember when GW had their own online forum? Their Think-Pol mod's used to lurk like the troll in Three Billy Goats Gruff waiting to tear down any tread or post with anything the least bit critical of the company (I imagine they were rather busy during the annual June price hikes). Imagine if another company adopted such PR tactics. I think even BP would know better than to say something along the lines of "people who are criticizing our product or business operations are complete assholes," and I mean in an outright fashion, yes I've heard their radio commercials.

So what's the point of all this rambling? Well, this popped up on the interwebs:

The House of Paincakes

Since that old "Word in Your Ear" was published the online community and the bloggosphere has expanded beyond the influence of a poorly written and insulting magazine article. And now we have this new network, some of whose member's blogs would make Jervis Johnson hang his head in shame. GW is still obviously trying to respond to the community and keep a tight grasp on how their games are played. Just look at their statements regarding how they disregard the viability and spirit of truly competitive play, its even in the new 8th edition WFB book. I'm glad to see this network, hell I'm kinda giddy. The hobby community is really not very large, and GW has no business suppressing it, even if some folks need a well-deserved snowmobiling.

*I know a lot about journalistic integrity. In college I wrote a few articles for Long Beach State's independent paper, the Union, about the utter absurdity of the spring 2005 student government elections. They also let me publish a series of comic strips about a dead cat named Stinky, but that's another story.


  1. Hands down the best House of Paincakes announcement article yet. I am humbled good sir.

  2. Good timing on your part too, actually. I'd been kicking this idea around for awhile (I held off since I can't find the exact WD issue) and then 'Cakes shows up, so I wrote it. You're more than welcome to re-post it and whore it out to promote Paincakes.

  3. GW is just telling you that trying to play their their rules competitively is like trying to literally build a house out of dung. You can do it but it really is not a great idea.

  4. While I do agree with you that GW's rule systems and the rate at which they update individual armies at a snail's pace do not really lend their game systems to competitive play as compared to other systems (case in point, the new fantasy terrain rules), I don't agree with them shunning the idea entirely and shutting down people being able to discuss the idea or enjoying playing that way should they so choose to.

    In fact, I can recall an old WD battle report from the tail end of 5th ed. WFB (possible early 1999) were the point was to display some really nasty armies (Wood Elves and Lizards).

    Hey, in some parts of the world you gotta live in a mud hit since there ain't anything else to build with.

  5. Wow, without competitive play GW would die out as a business. I currently own three armies and I wouldn't own two of them if I weren't competitive.

  6. @Alex - they also ran a competition to find the meanest army it was possible to create under 5th edition. I think the winner had something like ten level 1 Goblin Shamans on Cockatrices, three level 1 Skaven Warlocks on Cockatrices, a Necromancer Lord who was a one-man magic phase and... actually I forget what else there was. 25% Allies percentage. What a laugh.

  7. GW does suffer from control-freaking. Some years ago their lawyers ran around threatening anyone who criticised their products orbusiness strategy online.
    However, I agree with them that wargames do not lend themselves to 'competitive play' - for want of a better word. Now chess.......

  8. @Tyler - exactly, its a small hobby and shunning part of it is only gonna lead to people leaving it.

    @Von - I remember that announcement, but I never saw the winning army. Didn't they have Alessio Calvatore put together some nasty Lizardmen army for it too? Also reminds me of the laundry list of restrictions on 5th ed. GT armies, no greater demons, no unridden monsters, no 100 pt magic items, etc.

    @John - a bit oblivious to that 1st Amendment thing we have in the States, aren't they!

  9. I wonder if you've heard about New Line and GW's agreement about promoting LOTR independently?

    Good article btw, but I want to see Stinky the cat.

  10. @Stormy - I worked at a GW store during LOTR's height when the second film came out, but I'd have to ask what you're specifically referring to. I know there were tons of restrictions as to the promotion of that game (like no commingling mini's).

    As to Stinky, I'm not sure if I even still have copies of those anymore, they might be buried in my garage somewhere. Bit of trivia for you, Steve Martin actually wrote for that same newspaper.