KublaCon Tournaments you have never heard of, Part 1


KublaCon is a gaming convention in Burlingame, CA, and an easy stop for me when it comes to looking for gaming events.  It doesn’t focus on any one genre, which means that you will find something for everyone in the massive atrium of the Hyatt Hotel near SFO.  This year I dragged two new people who both had a blast, learning new games and playing old games with new people.  If you have ever dreamt of shouting “KUBLA!” at the top of your lungs to hear a chorus of voices reply, “CON!” then this might be the con for you. Continue reading

No, I’m Not Going to Pay to Be Your Beta Tester

I buy games.

I have five hundred and sixty two games on Steam for an account that is about three years old, and I’m looking forward to the coming Spring Sale and using this money burning a hole in my pocket. I have somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 Playstation 2 games, fifty or so Wii games, and about a hundred games each for N-64 and Dreamcast from my console era. Though I vastly prefer PC and the cloud these days, I could probably dig up two or three hundred games on disk if I went spelunking through storage boxes (and the casualties of various moves were magically restored).  I have the disposable income of a Gen Xer approaching middle age, and I like games. I know full well that if I added up the retail price I spent on all these games, I would be looking at several years’ salary.

I don’t say this to brag. I’m not trying to prove my gaming street cred. I also don’t say it to establish some “#sorrynotsorry” faux patheticness. (“Look what a looser I am spending so much on the hobby I love! It’s so unlike those other inexpensive hobbies like skydiving and ballroom dancing.”) I say it to establish one simple fact:

I buy games.

So don’t tell me I’m not your audience. I am. I buy your DLC without a gumtoothed complaint that in the old days “a game was a game was a game.” Before a certain tiny human came along, I had time to enjoy Gametap and spend money to indulge my gaming nostalgia. I keep subscriptions active for MMORPG’s I don’t get to play more than an hour or two a month. Hell, I’ll even spend the price of a latte every couple of days on your Freemium game if it’s currently holding my interest. If you’re on the up and up, I’m basically one of the people putting your kids through college.

But you have not kept it on the up and up.

There’s a particularly odious trend exploding in the video games industry right now, and when you’re scratching your heads wondering what went so very, very wrong when your sales tank, and no one will by games until they’re a year old and the bugs are shaken out, I hope you look back and take into account that you basically turned conning your customers into a business model.

Quit fucking releasing games that aren’t done.

It’s bad enough that we get bullshit like the Assassin’s Creed Unity launch, which was so bad it’s being compared to E.T. for Atari–arguably the worst video game EVER.

But perhaps your worst move is to attempt to charge your customers for doing your beta testing instead of hiring a proper team or at LEAST giving your customers a free game to do your work for you. Making players fork over money so they can fill out bug reports to an increasingly irritated and overworked dev team. Forcing your players to do the grunt work of interacting with a team that’s getting more and more frustrated and demanding more and more detail in how to trigger bugs because they see each one as a personal affront.

This little shit goblin of a move goes by the charming euphemism “Early Access” but like “pre-enjoyed vehicles”and “depopulating areas” this use of delightful sobriquets is no more than sticking a still steaming turd into a box with a bow. Frankly, you are being “economical with the truth.”

And I’m going to say this last part as someone who often hits “publish” a little too soon when I’m blogging and ends up going back and fixing typos and grammar errors. When I actually care about something, I want it to go out to the world looking good. Have some fucking pride in what you’re putting your name on. The video game industry is insanely competitive and most studios are one flop away from bankruptcy. A company that has no artistic integrity and no pride in its final product will get chewed up and spat out by being penny wise and pound foolish.

I’m telling you this as someone who buys games. As someone who will not buy your game when I hear it had glitches or you did an “early release” to get your customers to do your Q.A. work for you (and pay to do so). As someone who will then avoid your future releases and be dubious about your company from then on (unless glowing reviews flow like water from a pitcher in a Middle Earth elven kingdom scene). As someone who got the message loud and clear that a few dollars at the front end means more to you than giving your customers a good experience. As someone who increasingly waits on new releases (even though $60.00 is not too much if I love a game) because of exactly this shit.

Releasing undone games won’t just lose you one gamer’s wallet love. There’s a reason E.T. was cited as causing an INDUSTRY WIDE CRASH. It’s like anti-branding. You’re dragging your reputation through the mud and making your customers that much more gunshy–not just about your games but all games in general. It’s a few dollars up front that costs you in the long run.

I buy games.

But if you keep releasing games that aren’t done, I won’t be buying yours.

Chris Brecheen is a writer and English Professor and gamer. In addition to the time he spends on the Ace of Geeks, he runs a daily blog about writing called, shockingly, Writing About Writing.

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Watch a Man Speedrun Ocarina of Time…Blindfolded

I hope you all kept up with this year’s Awesome Games Done Quick. The week-long, 24 hour event brings speedrunners from around the world together to accomplish things that no one’s ever done before, for your entertainment and for charity. This year, they raised 1.3 million dollars for the Prevent Cancer Foundation.

Last night, the second to last stream was one of the most impressive I’ve ever seen. A runner known as Runnerguy2489 spent an hour and a half running the masterpiece known as The Ocarina of Time…blindfolded. It’s insane to watch – Runnerguy knows where he is pretty much at all times, just based on the games music and sound fx, and his own muscle memory. He pulls off tricks that would make most speedrunners tremble, and does it without his eyes. Hit the jump to watch the full run, and be amazed yourself.

The Best Everything of 2014

This is it, folks. The last day of 2014. A day when we sit back and reflect on all of the awesome things we saw and did this year. We hope it was as awesome for you as it was for us, and thanks for tuning in each and every day to the Ace of Geeks. We couldn’t be doing this without you, and we appreciate every since one of you guys. Next year, look for brand new content, new shows, more articles, and more coverage of conventions around the world. But for now, let’s look back and reflect on the best of this year. Here, by popular vote, are our staff’s picks for the best of 2014:

Guardians of the Galaxy
As if anyone was surprised by this choice. The number one grossing movie in America is also our number one pick for the best movie this year. James Gunn took the film that everyone was convinced would be Marvel’s first big failure, and instead turned out an space opera adventure filled with heart and soul. He made you care about a talking raccoon, and weep for a walking tree. Stellar performances by a breakout cast including Chris Pratt, Dave Bautista and Zoe Saldana made us believe in a world that included the floating head of a Celestial and a Infinity Gem. With this film, Marvel proved they could make a blockbuster as nerdy as they wanted, and still have a massive hit.
Close Runners Up: Big Hero 6, How to Train Your Dragon 2
Other Staff Favorites: The Lego Movie, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Raid 2, Gone Girl, Maleficent
Our favorite series about Chicago’s own private eye/wizard came back strong this year, with a heist story that’s not to be missed. Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden is (as always) in over his head as the new Winter Knight, and Queen Mab forces him to join with one of his worst enemies to steal from a god. What follows is a roaringly fun story with tons of twists and turns, and one or two final surprises that will have fans of the series jumping out of their seats for joy. If you haven’t checked out this series yet, now’s the right time to go grab a copy of the first book and read them all.
If there was an award for “most improved”, Agents of Shield would win that, too. After a tepid first season, struggling to find filler material, Agents of Shield finally hit its stride with the release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and the destruction of the very organization that’s in the show’s title. The formerly unbearable Grant Ward turned evil in a spectacular fashion, and the team developed tons of new problems that turned them from cookie cutter characters into a real, breathing group of human beings. This season has been non-stop full of blows to each of the characters, while tying in yet another super-nerdy part of the Marvel Universe. If you gave up on Shield, go catch up. It finally feels like a Whedon show.
Close Runners Up: Game of Thrones, Sleepy Hollow, Flash, Selfie
Other Staff Favorites: Person of Interest, The Librarians
I promised myself I wouldn’t cry. Because this is an Avatar show, I of course failed. Korra went out in one of the best finales in cartoon history this year, building their characters and giving each of them one final moment of utter badassery. We never knew we’d miss this show as much as we already do, but we spend every day wishing there’d be just one more season. Bryan Konietzko and Dante Demartino, we tip our hats to you, thank you for the eight wonderful seasons of the best cartoon storytelling we could ask for. We cannot wait to see what you do next.
Close Runner Ups: Star Wars Rebels, Sword Art Online 2, Over the Garden Wall
Other Staff Favorites: Young Justice (ok, it’s old, but it hit Netflix this year), Bojack Horseman, Hajime no Ippo: Fighting, Bee and Puppycat

The Crow: Curare is an amazing and triumphant return from series creator James O’Barr, and represents so much about what we loved about the original comic. The story, loosely based on a true Detroit murder case, follows retired police officer Joe Stalk. After years of obsessing over an unsolved murder of an unidentifiable little girl, his life is ruined. His wife left him, he lives off his meager pension and tries to drown his obsession with alcohol. But when the spirit of the little girl finally catches up with him, accompanied by The Crow, they endeavor to solve her murder together to get the closure they both so desperately need.

O’barr, true to his form, makes you feel the pain of his protagonists, while the art work and color pallet of Antoine Dode, though cartoony, bring an extreme sense of unease and sorrow with every frame. An excellent work if you are a fan of the series or not.

Other Staff Favorites: Loki: Agent of Asgard, Vattu, Original Sin, TMNT: City Fall, Rat Queens, Earth 2: World’s End, Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Rift, Tooth and Claw
After the disappointment to many fans of Super Smash Bros. Brawl, anticipation was high for a return to form in the newest Super Smash Bros. game. And boy did Sakurai and co. deliver. One of the best rosters in years, and the best mechanics since Melee make for a game that’s a ton of fun at parties and at tournaments. The joy of having Link beat up Samus, or using anyone to beat up that damned Dog from Duck Hunt never gets old. The game’s suffering from a little over-use of Diddy Kong right now, but we’re confident players will find a way to defeat the banana throwing pest and find a whole new character to call broken.
Closer Runner Up: Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor
Other Staff Favorites: Dragon Age: Inquisition, Transistor, Five Nights at Freddie’s, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, Dark Souls 2, Persona Q, Monument Valley, Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Kingdom Hearts 2.5 HD Remix
Allright, we know, King of Tokyo came out in 2012. But board games are a little different than movies and TV – sometimes, you discover them at just the right time. And nothing has dominated our play sessions like this game right here. On the surface, it’s a simple, Yahtzee style game of press your luck dice rolling. But the addition of wonderfully designed Kaiju characters battling for control of the city of Tokyo really draws everyone in, and the consequences of each turn of the dice make what would be a simple party game a real nailbiter. The sequel, King of New York, is out now and we can’t wait to try it.
Other Staff Favorites: Betrayal at the House on the Hill, Tokaido, Sentinels of the Multiverse, Slash
It’s been the year of Dungeons and Dragons. We admit, we were a little concerned by the first beta tests of the game over the last few years – the game seemed like it was throwing out too many of the lessons learned by modern gaming to please the hardcore Pathfinder set. But when the final edition was in our hands, all of that was gone. In it’s place was a game that magically managed to balance the crunchiness of 3.5, the fun of battles in 4th, and the roleplaying innovations of modern games like Fate. While it doesn’t get all of it perfect, it’s the best version of D&D we’ve played in a long, long time. And even more importantly, the book took the time to make sure everyone felt included, with sections on gender inclusiveness and art that heavily featured minority characters. Bravo, Wizards.
Other Staff Favorites: Robotech RPG Tactics, Magic: the Gathering 2014
So that’s our list for the year. What about you folks – what were your favorite things or 2014, and what did you think we missed? Sound off in the comments.
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Telltale Games and Mojang Announce Minecraft: Story Mode

Earlier this morning, Mojang released a pretty funny little interactive web app called “Info Quest II.” Those who played through it were rewarded with a special announcement: Mojang and Telltale Games (The Walking Dead, Tales from the Borderlands, Wolf Among Us) are partnering up to make a Telltale-style adventure game set inside the Minecraft universe.

Telltale is well known for playing well in other people’s properties (see all of the games I listed above), although their games recently have been very…adult in nature. It seems like they’d be a poor fit for a Minecraft game, until you take into account their point and click adventures from years ago. Anyone who’s played the new Sam and Max games or their Strongbad game can see they’ll have no trouble adapting to the more family friendly Minecraft. And the game should still be very funny. The only real question is how they’ll find a story in a world that is designed to be a blank canvas.

We know only one thing for sure. It won’t involve Steve.

Poor Steve.


Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Review

Gamers who play first person shooters are always looking for the next big thing. That game changer, that alters how shooters are made. Bay Area company Sledgehammer Games may just have that in their brand new installment of Call of Duty. Why is it special though? Is this reviewer just perpetuating internet hype, or is there something to this latest installment of the storied Activision Franchise. Based on my time with the game, I can say that Sledgehammer Games has the pedigree of a great design company, as well as the wisdom to innovate and borrow from other games to make the one of the best first person shooters out on the market.
Sledgehammer Games’ Roots
 Sledgehammer games was started by Glen Schofield and Michael Condrey. They are veteran developers who left Electronic Arts developer Visceral Games, after starting the Dead Space franchise, to start their own company. Their first work as a new company was to co-develop Modern Warfare 3 with Infinity Ward. If anyone reading this has played those games, then you will know that those are some solid bona fides. If you’ve been living under a rock and never played either Dead Space or Modern Warfare 3, I suggest you start educating yourself. They were both seriously great games. Either way, Sledgehammer’s owners made a killer and down right deviously scary horror/shooter for EA and their new company cut its teeth on a previous Call of Duty game. They were ready to develop this one on their own.
Multiplayer; its what really matters right?
Since Valve launched Counter Strike, multiplayer has become the driving force of shooters.  Since then, new games have to evolve to survive. Whether it was increasing the number of players on a map, adding vehicles, or a slew of other options multiplayer can be what makes or breaks a game. We saw that with Mass Effect 3, who’s multiplayer mode felt like an almost complete part of the game. It was a survival mode instead of team deathmatch; admittedly it tied into the story portion of the game to drive players towards it. Previous COD titles have had varying structures of multiplayer design. Whether it’s adding on new modes or adding new options for custom classes; Activision’s developers have always tried to add new things.
Instead of going for something new, Sledgehammer borrowed from aspects from a variety of titles and perfected them. Players who played Call of Duty Black Ops II will enjoy a return to a familiar mechanic: the fully customizable load out system pioneered by Treyarch. Here players can alter their guns through attachments, equip exo suit abilities, change perks, alter their killstreaks, and add Wild Card perks. Unlike Ghosts and Black Ops I, there is no money or coin system that earns new guns or attachment faster, so players will have to be patient and level up to get new guns. New to the game are Exo abilities. Exo abilities are specific perks that have a battery life. Once activated the battery drains and does not recharge. The Exo abilities allow you to do very Crisis-like things, like run faster, or cloak.
Another borrowed mechanic that is “new” to COD is the Supply Drop. This is not like the killstreak reward, but rather a post match reward that unlocks new rare items. Those familiar with Mass Effect 3 multiplayer will remember either spending hard cash or grinding out in game currency to purchase supply drops for new guns, buffs, or new playable characters. In Advanced Warfare players earn them by leveling up or by completing challenges. They contain random items that vary from a free in game reward like a supply drop, different cosmetic clothing or armors, to rare varieties of base weapons earned in the game by leveling up. The values are denoted by colors: Enlisted (green), Professional (blue), and Elite (orange). Slegdehammer has also reintroduced the competitive ranked modes from Black Ops, for those players who either play professionally or want a greater challenge than offered in public matches. There is a survival mode that plays similar to Halo ODST’s Firefight mode, but allows players to choose between 3 Exo frames ( light, heavy, or specialist) each with its own available weapons, as well as benefits and drawbacks. Finally, Zombie mode will also return to the game at an undisclosed time as DLC.
Story: It’s Important, and in this case, worthwhile!
For the competitive player who enjoys first person shooters, story mode is an afterthought. In the case of Advanced Warfare, Sledgehammer added a gimmick that may just drive players to play through their story to earn a competitive edge against their friends and opponents.
Before the gimmick, let it be said the narrative for Advanced Warfare brings new emotional currents to the well known COD story. There is a formula to COD stories: Exposition, Act One, Conflict/Betrayal, Act Two, Climax, Resolution, and finally a cut scene set up for next game. I won’t be revealing the story in this article, but play the campaign, its worth it for the story alone. I will say that what the writers at Sledgehammer Games injected emotional life into their shooter that is rarely seen outside of a role playing game. The writing team encourages, nay drives, players to emotionally connect not only with the character they are playing, but with the villain as well. The writers inject real emotions to each glimpse of joy, frustration, or sorrow that occurs in the game.
The gimmick added by the game developers is tied into the Exo Suit upgrade systems. Throughout the campaign, players are encouraged to complete challenges: getting a certain number of kills per level, headshots, grenade kills, and the ever present “collect the intel.” As each level of the challenge is completed, an upgrade point for the Exo Suit is earned. Players can upgrade their suits to get better passive better response from their suit. Upgrades range from increased reload speed, to threat detection, to sprint duration. There are 2 upgrade levels, with level one costing one point, and level two costing two points. As upgrade levels are maxed out, players will unlock multiplayer supply drops earning players a potential edge to online combat.
Design for the sake of art and brilliant mechanics
Call of Duty hasn’t always been the best looking game. Granted, the franchise has stayed abreast of industry standards but rarely can I say that the game was beautiful in the same way Skyrim or Mass Effect 3 were beautiful. That being said, the artists and creators at Sledgehammer Games have made a beautiful looking game. Game levels have depth of field, and beautiful texturing that grab the eye. The cut scenes are film quality with principal character faces and bodies are completely motion captured. The dialogue helps bring emotion to the campaign as well as creating a stage for Kevin Spacey to run wild with acting chops worthy of Calculon! Looking at this game is a feast for the eyes. One can tell that the developers took time and care making this game.
The game mechanics for this game feel like a return to Modern Warfare 3, with bits of Black Ops and other games tossed in. The speed of multiplayer is reminiscent of that game. Players are not being slaughtered left and right but now players need to think in new directions. The Exo suit allows players not only to boost jump but to dodge quickly on the ground as well as in mid air. Possibly borrowed from Titanfall, this dodge ability feels smoother and more practiced in its new home. Players now can reach new heights in their attempts to find sniper hideouts, as well as new avenues for escape to dodge incoming fire. Exo abilities grant players timed bonuses to make them tougher, faster, quiet, or nearly invisible. This grants each player with new avenues for strategy to deal death upon their opponents. These new tools breath fresh life into Call of Duty while retaining the core values that have made the IP great.
Play it all
When it comes down to it, this new addition to the Call of Duty family is a great game made by a company that cares about quality. They borrowed and adapted aspects and mechanics from previous games to bring new life to a multiplayer franchise that had started to feel stale, as seen in Call of Duty: Ghosts. The return of the ranked competitive playlists will surely make competitive gamers happy and content in an arena designed for professional tournaments. For myself however, what made this game great was the story. A story of a man tired of the failure of governments who takes a step too far. Like the Greek tragedies of old hubris brings the downfall of a man who reached to far, and the player is the deus ex machina that resolves the imbalance. A great cast led by Kevin Spacey dives into a story that touches our current problems and provides a cautionary tale of loss, sorrow, righteous anger, and ultimately the futility of attempting to end violence with violence. Sledgehammer Games has released a classic that has set a new benchmark for the Call of Duty franchise as well as shooters as a whole.

On Cheating, Honor, and Competition

Mike posted about me the other day.  It went something like this:

Seth.  Hey Seth.  Seth.  Seth, hey Seth.  Seth.  Write something.  Hey Seth, hey, write something.  Write something, Seth.  Write it.  Write something.  Seth.  Thanks. (write something).

Or at least that’s what I got out of it.  Unfortunately, I didn’t really know what to write about.  The tournament scene for miniature wargaming is winding down in this area, and most of you tune in for those pictures.  I’d covered most of the cons that went on, and the few that I had been to did not have large scale competitions.  None of you had any good ideas, so I was sitting around until my friend Dan tossed this little gem into my lap:

“Hey, did you hear about the Feast of Blades tournament in Denver?”

Google Search.  Read read read.  ooooooOOOOOOOoooooohhhh.

Apparently the champion of the tournament was accused of cheating, and immediately disqualified himself.  The allegation came from another person, who had found one of his dice under the table and saw that the die was not fair.  The champion made a public statement where he apologizes for the mistake.  He chose to disqualify himself and bow out of the tournament, declining his prize, trophy, and recognition.  Words like “honorable” and “do the right thing” and “honest mistake” were used to describe the situation.  Huh.  Ok, we’ll come back to that later.

So the runner up gets it, right?  No?  Why not?

Well, it turns out that guy was also accused of cheating.  He had submitted an army list that was not legal under the rules for the tournament.  This list was initially permitted by the tournament staff, but then, much later, it was brought to his attention that it was not legal.  By “much later” we mean after he had already played 5 people and done quite well.  He claims that he was told by the judges to modify the list to bring it into compliance, and then continue.  After the tournament was finished, accusations were made and he offered to retro-actively bow out.  The tournament organizers replied with a statement about the importance of community, and how they do not support cheating.  Again, more on this later.

I should probably jump in with this disclaimer here: this is not a defense of the alleged cheaters.  I have no idea if these men intentionally broke the rules, or if they made mistakes, or if they were framed, or if there was a conspiracy, or if something else happened.  It was in Colorado, I wasn’t there, I didn’t talk to them, and honestly, I don’t care.  Hopefully neither do you.

So I’m thinking about this, but it’s not much of a story.  Then I remember something else that Dan brought me: Steve Sisk, a man I did interview, the winner of the Bay Area Open 2014, was also accused (informally) of cheating in one of his games.  There were no fallout from this that I know of, but a few posts went around the internet for a few weeks, and then it dropped.  I’m sure someone still talks about it, and that person should tell me how they feel in the comments because I care very deeply about their accusation of another player in a competition.

Ok, a little more to work with.  What else can I rope into this story?

I hear a few magic players talking about a cheating scandal running through the MTG pro circuit. Alex Bertoncini got his DCI number suspended for 3 years on October 24th, 2014.  The very same day, Wizards of the Coast published a statement addressing the community, reinforcing their commitment to integrity, expectation of sportsmanlike behavior, and general lip service to the action that they needed to take.  There are several allegations floating around regarding the ways in which Alex is accused of cheating.  You can believe them or not, again, not my concern.  In fact, the argument that comes later gets even juicier if you don’t.

Now that WotC knows what to look for, they have started hunting.  Trevor Humphries picked up a 4 year ban from the DCI.  You can find videos online that explain how shuffling and deck manipulation work and put the pieces together.  He won a competition that earned him thousands of dollars, and then his winnings were placed into holding during the investigation.  There was talk about sending it to charity or the runner up.  Whatever.  There was the entire internet theatre that went along with this, the pack of dogs that jumped on the scraps and chewed them up.  A lot of name calling, a lot of grand standing, a lot of absolutist rhetoric, and pretty soon it will be over, a funny story that people bring up when the subject of cheating comes round.  “Oh, hey, remember when….”

Magic is not alone in this trend.  Two years ago in the World Championships of League of Legends, Azubu Frost was fined $30,000 USD for cheating in a match.

Holy crap!  That’s a ton of money!  They got kicked out, right?  They got suspended and never came back to scene?

No.  No, Azubu Frost took home $120,000 in prize money after they received a ruling declaring them guilty for cheating.  That’s right, after deciding that the team had indeed broken the rules of the tournament, violated the code of ethics they had agreed to, and conducted themselves in an unsportsmanlike manner, they walked home with a six figure check that started with a “120” instead of a “150.”

Is this justice?  Is this fair?  Should we be declaring the end of gaming, and then new age of cut throat competitions where anything goes?  No.  Spoiler warning: It never was fair.  Let’s look at the idea of “Chivalry” and “Honor” in a historical context.  To quote Frank Trollman (a man with a rather unfortunate name and a very….. strong…. reputation) from his “Tome of Battle:”

“In olden days, the powerful had superior nutrition, superior training, superior equipment and came in really small numbers. So naturally of course, the rule was that you didn’t gang up on people or use poison. In modern days, bullets go through pretty much anything, but powerful people have more troops and helicopters, so the rule is that you don’t assassinate people in honorable combat.”

Why not?  You have a bunch of people with power who want to stay in power, so they develop rules to reach their goals and punish people who cross them.  This isn’t new.  There have been cheaters forever.  As long as there have been people who put rules into place to control others and further their ends, there have been people who didn’t buy into their bullshit.  Take a look at the examples above:

Feast of Blades puts on a tournament in a convention style setting.  They charge admission.  I’m not going to pretend that I know what the goal of the organization, I’m not a mind reader.  But I will stake the validity of my article on the fact that it starts with a “P” and ends with a “rofit maximization.”  Cheaters get in the way of this.  If players find that cheaters are showing up and getting in their way, they stop showing up to tournaments.  Attendance drops, and the primary goal of the organization is not met.  They put anti-cheating rules into effect.  They ban (or suspend) people who are found to cheat.  But profit for the organizers is not the goal of the “cheater” at the tournament.  Her goal is to win.  She wants to get the prize, get the glory, the recognition, whatever.  In this context, why follow the rules?  You have a 1 in 100 shot to win.  Cheat, and you get a better margin, hedged against the chance that you get caught and DQ’d.

Hasbro (the company that owns Magic) is the same.  What do you think the goal of a multinational, for-profit corporation is?  What do you think the owners of this publicly traded company are interested in?  Exactly how committed to “fair play,” “sportsmanship,” and “integrity,” do you think this company is?  Enough to get as many players as possible in the door to hand over their cash as often as possible.  And that’s exactly the response that you saw.  An attempt at a quiet, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, sweeping under the rug of widespread cheating caught on camera.  This sort of scandal in the tournament circuit has the potential to drive an exodus of players from the game faster than you can say “Blackmetal Giant.”

Riot has some honesty about it (which, by the way, they didn’t have to be honest about this) when they say, “You’re going to be fined if you cheat.”  They know what the goal is here.  They want to keep attendance up, they want to make sure that the next World Championship is even bigger than the last one.  Viewers don’t really want to watch people cheat, not because they don’t think that they will do it, but because they don’t need to tune in for that.  I can go down to my local game store and watch people cheat at games.  It’s not worth watching the ads.  So Riot looks in the same direction as the players and tells them that they will have a harder time meeting their goals if they cheat.

Look at football, basketball, soccer, hockey, pretty much any sport that tells people to be extremely physical and then penalizes them when they are too physical.  Soccer has the added bonus of being one of the few sports where it is strategic to pretend like someone else cheated.

But at least Azubu Frost has some integrity about it, right?  It’s good that they took their penalty honorably and didn’t contest it, right?

Have you been fucking listening?  No, that’s the opposite of true.  That’s what we call wrong.  The guys with the big $120,000 check told them, “Hey apologize for trying to get this money from us and we will give this money to you.”  What the fuck do you think they would do?  If Riot thought that a video of them bad mouthing their opponent and complaining that they got off because they were white would bring in the crowds, that’s exactly what you would have seen the next day.  They know who pays the bills around here.

Alex Bertoncini didn’t need to apologize for what he did.  Apart for not doing anything wrong, Hasbro didn’t need him to publicly show up and make a show of “integrity” and “sportsmanship.”  They quietly pushed him out of the scene and went back to business as usual.  In the case of the Feast of Blades guys, they needed to make a show of how integrity-ridden their show is.  So they did the whole song and dance so everyone can clap themselves on the backs and say, “Wow, I feel like I’m playing in an integrity infested joint here.”  Plus, a witch hunt feels kinda good every now and then.

Don’t tell me that you wouldn’t do it.  Don’t tell me that you have never cut corners, skimped, bent a rule, misinterpreted it, or down right cheated to get what you want.  Everyone does.  You have your goals, someone else has their own goals, sometimes they conflict.  “If you aren’t cheating, you aren’t trying,” is the message here, but I mean it literally.  If you are not cheating to win, then winning isn’t your primary goal.  And that’s OK!  If you would rather have fun then win, that’s great.  Just don’t tell me that you aren’t bending the rules for that goal either.  Cuz then you are just lying to save face.

Which is kinda like cheating.


Seth Oakley is an educator and Returned Peace Corps Volunteer who lives in Daly City, CA. He loves costuming, analog gaming and role playing games. He got this job in a bar after making poor life choices and has to work through 90 more articles before Mike will give him his soul back. If you want Seth to cover an event in particular, leave a comment to let him know.

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