Relevance and the New “Normal”

This has been a post I’ve been thinking about for a while, mainly because thanks to Covid-19 I’ve really got nothing else to do but sit and think, or think while I’m at work. With my local store closed to the gaming community thanks to the gaming rooms being too small to implement effective distancing measures, there really isn’t much of an outlet, let alone socialising (not that I’d risk it right now). So I write and re-write blog entries, often deleting them because I figure a) what I want to say has already been said, b) what I want to say makes no real sense, or c) nobody wants to hear what I write about and I should just stop wasting people’s time.

This feeling hasn’t been helped for several reasons; the first one being, I’m a little fed up with standard-format competitive-focus X-Wing. When I started a league for local players, the intent was to ensure players got at least one game in per week with their fellows, and that the community stayed together even when we couldn’t be in the same location; it was meant to be fun, and social. That then got supplanted by the “Liberty Squadron Ban League” which is a lot bigger (i.e. Worldwide), and the social aspect went away – I’m playing players from all over, which is good, but if I just wanted a laugh with a friend I have to find extra time, which is difficult as I’m often working until 10pm most weeknights and weekend evenings aren’t free.

It’s not just me who seems to be struggling, however. When lockdowns first started occurring worldwide we saw a surge in TTS/Vassal events, but how many digital events of the same “200pt Extended 1 game per week” format can people stand before it gets old, especially since FFG reneged on their promise for points at the end of June? There have been a few alternate-format events, the Vagabond Open and the Ban League, for example, but 9 times out of 10 it’s the same thing over and over again; in some circles, the opinion is that the game has become stale. The longer the virus progresses I see more people dropping out or simply deciding not to sign up for new events, with the worst-affected being those who are working from home; why spend another two hours chained to your desk playing X-Wing when you could be doing something else away from the place you just spent eight hours working?

Jimmy regretted playing three games after work!

Second, it’s looking like all of the events I wanted to attend this autumn/winter are off. Last year I missed NoVA because of cost; the closeness of the date to my arrival in the United States pushed prices for hotels through the roof, so it wasn’t financially viable. I also missed Worlds due to cost (though as it turned out my USCIS Interview was that week so I wouldn’t have been able to go anyway), and while I attended PAX Unplugged, I came away wishing I’d only done the Main Event and not the Extended Qualifier on Day 2. 2020 was going to be the year I rectified all of the above, except NoVA is cancelled and while no official announcement has been made yet, I expect PAX will be as well given that no indoor gatherings of more than 25 people will be happening in Philadelphia until 2021 at the earliest. Likewise, Worlds has not been officially scrubbed yet, but realistically who will be willing to risk it even if it’s not? Even with a few stores locally opening for socially-distanced gaming, is it really worth it? You or your opponent might be asymptomatic and both feel OK, but you could get someone else sick, and how would you feel knowing you risked someone’s life just to get a game in in-person?

Ultimately, unless your country has eliminated the virus (looking at you New Zealand) the new “normal” for X-Wing means sitting at home clicking buttons. Anything else is too great a risk.

The third thing, and I understand the irony here, is this blog; it’s never been a hyper-popular blog in the way that superstars like Deathrain’s or PhilGC’s are, but it’s been a place I can write my thoughts and share them for the world to see for the last nine years. The issue is, I’ve always felt like I’m competing with the bigger blogs, or even the newer blogs that put out content every week (or every day at one point) – and this is a fight I know I cannot win. A prominent blogger (I will not say who) once said on their blog that “Nobody wants to read your battle reports” in reference to competing articles (admittedly this was a while ago when the UK Community Facebook group was trying to crack down on blog posts taking over the page), and then another blogger recently announced on Discord that they’d received over a million views on their blog, having been in progress since 2016.

Mine has fifty thousand. Ish. Since 2011.

Insert crisis of confidence here; the words “why do I even bother?” were actually uttered as I stared at the Discord text. I don’t deny that the blog in question has phenomenal content that is worth a look (I really enjoy the articles personally), but to be 20 times as popular as mine in half the time hurt more than a little bit. It is that realisation that prompted the writing of this blog; it was meant to be an outlet for a young man struggling with an (in 2011) undiagnosed mental health condition which then continued through diagnosis, trials and tribulations of college life and competitive X-Wing, emigrating to the United States, etc. It has never been about how many views I can get, although I do greatly appreciate the time my average of 100 people per post take to read my articles! More than that, I have received nothing but love and support when discussing my mental health challenges as they relate to the game; from being hesitant to go to the 2019 UK System Open, to the Anxiety Attack I had at a smaller event, to feeling like an Imposter in the community – for this, I will be eternally grateful.

However, it would be nice to be relevant, to be unique. To have thoughts and opinions that people thought mattered, or to have something that I do that other blogs do not. Aside from my short-lived “Behind the Statline” series which detailed the lore behind Canon or Legends pilots, I really had nothing that wasn’t already being done elsewhere on the internet (and I’m sure there’s a YouTube channel that does pilot/ship lore as well). I’ll probably focus on that while there’s no news, possibly a pilot per month with people voting for who they’d like to see next?

Or perhaps I can dedicate myself to being the best E-Wing pilot in the World?

So what is the overall point of this article? Because honestly, I’ve lost track and rambled on for over a eleven hundred words.

I think it’s this:

  1. Stay safe. X-Wing is a game about community, yes, and being away from the community sucks. TTS and Vassal are “fair” substitutes for the real thing, but we all know they live in the eternal shadow of the real thing.
    However, risking the collective health of the community isn’t worth the risk for in-person gaming. If we follow the rules, we stamp out the virus quicker. If we take chances and make each other sick, we risk prolonging the whole affair.
  2. You do you. If you enjoy a list, enjoy writing a blog, making YouTube videos, etc. DO NOT let anyone put you down. Accept constructive criticism and act upon it, but do not let anyone negatively influence your path. Own your content, be proud of it, and do not compare yourselves to the big names who have been at it longer than you. That way lies madness, and in today’s world we already have enough of that.
    Rather than competing with other content creators, why not suggest a collaboration? Perhaps play a game and report both sides like Dylan Jones and PhilGC did a few weeks back? But whatever you do, do it for you.
  3. Ultimately, both of the above boil down to one overall point: Be Good To Each Other. As a community we need to band together to ensure that we survive as individuals and as a group; support your local store, support bloggers and YouTube creators. When we’re able to play in person again worldwide, we’re going to need every one of them to get the hype train moving again!

I’m now nearly 1500 words in; if you got this far without wanting to punch me or thinking I’m being petty and emotional, congratulations! Hopefully we can all get together on the tabletop soon, and hopefully the new Phoenix Cell pack brings some awesome Rebel pilots to reinvigorate my love for my first faction!

We can only wait and see!

One thought on “Relevance and the New “Normal”

  1. Dude, I really enjoy your blog. It’s partly because you’re one of the few bloggers I’ve met in person (albeit briefly) have played a couple friendly (digital) games against, and have chatted with even a little about things outside of X wing… but beyond that I appreciate your unique perspective on the game, and life in general. Keep writing!!!

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