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Mephisto

The Burden of Being Awesome, The Zen of Being Average

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At the beginning of the week I stumbled upon a New York Times opinion piece from September called, "In Praise of Mediocrity" written by Tim Wu (sauce: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/29/opinion/sunday/in-praise-of-mediocrity.html). This article is NOT about Age of Sigmar or even War Gaming in general so I don't expect anyone to read it but the strapline is, "The pursuit of excellence has infiltrated and corrupted the world of leisure." It's a premise that hits close to home for me as I often associate success with my hobbies, whether streaming, writing, or gaming, with the worthiness of that hobby. Simply, I MUST be good at the thing and receive validation to know that the thing I just wasted my precious time on was the best possible use of my time.

"Success with hobbies." It''s a foolish, paradoxical notion but one that I can't help but notice as a factor for me. In Age of Sigmar we actually see it in a multitude of ways. Paint scores are a part of tournaments often as soft scores, sometimes as a separate award or competition. They nudge the "hobby" toward excellence. Even casuals are sneered at for bringing their gray tides to battle at the LGS. Maybe not by me or you, dear reader, but certainly by the AOS community at large.

This is where I say that "it's me, not Age of Sigmar." It's also where I need to say that I'm not WAC or a complete must-win, must-win tryhard. Just that through all my struggles with my own personal demons, I only pursue hobbies that "I'm good at" or can become good at. The problem comes in with validation. How does one truly measure if they've achieved excellence in what should be a leisure activity? Isn't that you have a hobby good enough? You shouldn't have to be good if it makes you feel good, right?

I have a few short stories published on digital platforms, if those don't get enough thumbs up, did I waste my time? Should I be discouraged by all the rejection letters that have piled up for the rest of my writing over the... decade? What if my paint score holds me back from placing top ten at a tournament, should I go back to Magic the Gathering where how cool my card sleeves are doesn't affect the outcome?

Age of Sigmar straddles an interesting place in my life. It's sort of the playground where all the voices in my head can come together and hang out. My creative vices are tapped, my competitive side comes out, my love of GMing interrupts occasionally, and then there's the simple enjoyment of a community.  Still, 'it's a hobby.' GW sells it as a hobby. Models their business of it as a hobby. Hobby's by nature should be leisure activities... and yet they have the audacity to give me win conditions. A cheap way to validate if I'm good at my free time. Time is precious. I apologize if I've wasted yours with my pontification but now we get to my question(s) and reason for writing:

How do you balance the hobby that we play? How do you keep the burden of excellence from creeping in? Do you strive to be great or are you just happy to spend your time doing something you enjoy free from the expectations of self or others? 

I think being happy with mediocrity and grateful for the simple zen of a leisure activity are great things to aspire to and I envy people that keep their personal vanity out of their hobbies unlike me.

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Everyone has hobbies for different reasons.

There are people that play sports for hobbies.  They still have a goal of winning and trying to win the competition trophy at the end.

There are people that competitively play other games for hobbies.  Same rules apply.

There are people that play games or sports for leisure and don't care who wins.  Different rules apply.  

The problem arises when you tell me that how I'm  doing my hobby is somehow wrong.  If people want to play to relax and not care who wins, thats entirely on them and I dont say a word otherwise to them.  On the flipside if people want to play to compete and prove that they are the best, thats entirely on them and you shouldn't say a word otherwise.

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Even GW knows not everyone can be great at everything, in their Beginner primer magazine to AoS that comes with the knight incantor model (and I assume also 40k) they already listed several buckets of people. Some collect, some game, some paint, some are just in it for the story.

Some people literally make cardboard cutouts of warhammer minis (paper craft), some people will convert the ever living heck out of parts to make a fantasy Cathay army and be highlighted in a White Dwarf. Heck at a GW store they told me a story of a guy who buys Imperial Knights, builds them, paints them, and then just sells it off. He apparently enjoys building and painting them, but no interest in keeping them in his house.

 

Even non art related things are like this. For example, I like Fighting Games especially things like Marvel vs Capcom. Am I good? Heck no, I can barely consistently do a Shoryuken move (a zig zag Z movement with the control stick). Do I actually want to practice to be good? Well to me for my free time and enjoyment...no. I enjoy smashing Easy mode computers! And I accept that.

 

So basically it boils down to the elementary school lesson of "don't let other people's opinion of you drag you down."

 

HOWEVER I must also caution it can be very tempting to confuse contentment with laziness. If I never bother to remember what Chronomatic Cogs do or if I place a soda can as a Beast's Herdstone, it can be difficult to know where the line between "I don't really have the time investment" vs "I don't give 2 cents".

Edited by kenshin620
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23 minutes ago, Mephisto said:

How do you balance the hobby that we play? How do you keep the burden of excellence from creeping in? Do you strive to be great or are you just happy to spend your time doing something you enjoy free from the expectations of self or others? 

 At one point in my life, I've realized it really is all about the journey. If I focus on something, the more it'll dominate over me in a curious and subtle way. I've come to understand my somewhat conflicting nature and what got me into Fantasy genre all those years ago. An entertaining story. I hope to experience them in a variety of ways before it's my time to leave this world. 

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I agree that there is a certain Zen epiphany that comes with realising that it doesn't matter whether you are good at something or not.

I'm partially sighted and have coordination problems, two factors which tend to make it harder than it would normally be to do arty stuff. When you first discover you are bad at painting it can be tempting to say "I'm bad at it, I can see I'm not going to get better, so whats the point". That was absolutely my approach to sport. However with art, I somehow came to the conclusion that I didn't mind that I wasn't any good. I stuck with it despite the disadvantages, because despite everything I still enjoy it.

The result is that after a lot of constant, consistent practice I'm actually not that bad any more.

When it comes to computer aided art the only thing holding me back at this point is time and patience.  For analogue painting (like our beloved minis!) there seem to be hard limits to what I can do, which rule out using some techniques, and getting the very best results. I'm never going to win any golden demons, but I can produce models which I am proud of, and at the end of the day that's all that really matters.

Luckily I enjoy painting enough that that can be all that matters, not whether I measure up to some external metric.

In the past I've let not being good at playing the game (due in part to the same disabilities) put me off from trying to get better. However I ultimately recognised that it was just the same issue, and that if I didn't mind how good or bad I was, and just did it to tell an interesting story, and have a bit of fun, it was much more relaxing. This attitude does make me less inclined to play in competitive environments, or to do pickup games though. I do need to play against people who are on the same wavelength as me.

Ironically its one reason I really enjoy GMing. The point is to lose with style and create a fun experience for everyone else! I can do that with aplomb!

 

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The primary goal of any person playing a game should not be to win; it is to be invited back to play again. 

That's not to say that winning doesn't matter, but it's not the highest goal.

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That article has been making the rounds in various wargaming groups in our community and I along with other serious long time gamers have thought the same thing -this should be required reading for lots of modern gamers.   

Excessive pursuit of the win over the pleasure of the experience can bring people to some very unhealthy places.  Not least of which where a hobby isn't about relaxation and fun anymore for themselves or unfortunately for the people they play against.  That's on each of us to be conscious of in ourselves, but also to recognize our approach effects the people across the table from us.   Miniature gaming isn't solitaire where table flipping or cheating just effects you.   

 

I had a similar thought reading the following (though much more specialized about a specific issue and also less  accessible for the average reader article)  the cliffs note of the part I thought applied to wargaming was the 'win'  (particularly with higher stakes attached) can be pretty addictive and can drive out thoughts of the long term delayed benefits of gaming (long term friendships, expanding social, artistic, and intellectual skills.)   here's the text though:

https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMra1602872?query=featured_home

"Addictive behaviors are proposed to begin as impulsive bids for highly motivating rewards, consolidated through operant conditioning, but to end up as automatic (Pavlovian) responses that bypass intention, augmented by a loss of inhibitory control and a capacity for choice. This observation is consistent with models of “delay discounting,” which propose that immediate payoffs are inflated in their perceived value, whereas longer-term rewards are “discounted” (devalued)"

 

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This is what holds me back from painting most of the time. 

I don’t want to mess up my centerpieces and I’m new and not very good. 

I painted one Blood Warrior and my edgehighlights..... weren’t only on the edges to say the least.

my lines are a bit shaky and don’t stay straight and clean. So I don’t paint Khorne. 

For some reason I’m good at Orcs though, and kind of Space Marines. 

I don’t want to make my 130$ SKARBRAND, 110$ Bloodthirster, 85$ Arkhan, Mannfred or Neferata or my vampire lord on zombie dragon ugly though so I just don’t touch them. 

Im kind of a perfectionist and I’m really hard on myself when it comes to art. If it doesn’t come out exactly like it was in my head I get frustrated and stall for awhile. 

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7 hours ago, Dead Scribe said:

Everyone has hobbies for different reasons.

There are people that play sports for hobbies.  They still have a goal of winning and trying to win the competition trophy at the end.

There are people that competitively play other games for hobbies.  Same rules apply.

There are people that play games or sports for leisure and don't care who wins.  Different rules apply.  

The problem arises when you tell me that how I'm  doing my hobby is somehow wrong.  If people want to play to relax and not care who wins, thats entirely on them and I dont say a word otherwise to them.  On the flipside if people want to play to compete and prove that they are the best, thats entirely on them and you shouldn't say a word otherwise.

     The problem here is that quite often you do find competitive players telling a casual player he is doing it wrong. If a player only wants to win, let him. He can go have fun at that other table in the store... away from me. I like to win, I always try to win when I play, but the end goal of the game is to have fun playing. I also play sports for hobbies and this applies there as well (and generally speaking, If the guys who are so hyper competitive when playing a game of flag football where half as good as they thought they were they would be in the NFL).

     I’ve seen new players heckled for playing with “ugly grey plastic” at a local store, and I’m willing to wager that most others on the forums have witnessed something similar as well. My cousin, who is my primary AoS opponent, refuses to play anywhere but home because of incidents like this happening to him. Personally, I don’t like elitist attitudes in anything, but especially in something that is supposed to be a leisure activity. That kind of attitude was one of the reasons I walked away from Warhammer games back in the 90’s. While I’m back into GW games now, if I detect a hint of elitism from someone I’m just done with them. I’ve quit spending my money at game stores in the past over these kinds of attitudes. 

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4 hours ago, Ravinsild said:

This is what holds me back from painting most of the time. 

I don’t want to mess up my centerpieces and I’m new and not very good. 

I painted one Blood Warrior and my edgehighlights..... weren’t only on the edges to say the least.

my lines are a bit shaky and don’t stay straight and clean. So I don’t paint Khorne. 

For some reason I’m good at Orcs though, and kind of Space Marines. 

I don’t want to make my 130$ SKARBRAND, 110$ Bloodthirster, 85$ Arkhan, Mannfred or Neferata or my vampire lord on zombie dragon ugly though so I just don’t touch them. 

Im kind of a perfectionist and I’m really hard on myself when it comes to art. If it doesn’t come out exactly like it was in my head I get frustrated and stall for awhile. 

Im currently painting up khorne and i have benign essential tremor so i am probably the worst person in the human race at edge highlighting, the trick i use is to be liberal with splattering blood on your guys. If it wasnt for blood for the blood god technical paint my army would look awful.

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I try to be as good as my spare time allows concerning painting.

I am trying not to make big mistakes when I am playing.

I try to have close, exhilarating games with my favorite Faction and Miniatures while I am playing.

I don‘t try to strife for excellence in this Hobby, I am trying to have fun and great looking miniatures - that‘s all The validation I need.

 

how I keep the burden at bay? Not playing with powergamers, organizing Tounaments with restrictions that limit powergaming since it destroys the hobby (for me and propably for many of us).

And if your need for validation strikes again just remember: It‘s a hobby, it‘s unimportant to the world and the world deems it as a waste of time. But it‘s important to you and as long as you like spending your time with it and as long as you have fun it can never be a waste of time.

Edited by JackStreicher
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20 minutes ago, JackStreicher said:

I try to be as good as my spare time allows concerning painting.

I am trying not to make big mistakes when I am playing.

I try to have close, exhilarating games with my favorite Faction and Miniatures while I am playing.

I don‘t try to strife for excellence in this Hobby, I am trying to have fun and great looking miniatures - that‘s all The validation I need.

 

how I keep the burden at bay? Not playing with powergamers, organizing Tounaments with restrictions that limit powergaming since it destroys the hobby (for me and propably for many of us).

And if your need for validation strikes again just remember: It‘s a hobby, it‘s unimportant to the world and the world deems it as a waste of time. But it‘s important to you and as long as you like spending your time with it and as long as you have fun it can never be a waste of time.

I like your attitude all the way ! Only thing I would exclude is limitations at a Tournament. I mean, what to exclude and how to choose it ?

Tournament is the only place that being a powergamer has a place *except if I play witha  good friend of mine and we both want that of course*. You can just meet with the rest of the guys any day and play, no need to exclude anyone from such a nice event as a tournament !

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I'm not going to suggest that the first goal shouldn't be enjoyment, or that excessive persuit of winning to the detriment of social engagement is appropriate. However, for some people like myself being good at the game, winning the majority of games and always trying to get better is important. There is genuine satisfaction in pitting your wits against someone and coming out on top. I enjoy competition and I always have. 

I also think its better to paint and be "bad" than it is to not even try. Even if you aren't perfect, unless you have a significant disability, you will still see improvement. If you follow the vast array of painting guides that exist on the Internet these days you can always end up with models that look better painted than unpainted. Base colours, shade and a layer even without edge highlights or dry brushing or stippling or whatever other techniques can still lead to a model that looks great on the tabletop. If you find yourself going wrong then just take the time to fix it. I paint nearly every day and I'm still a long way off being a great painter, but I'm proud of all my models. Even big heroes are going to look better with a little paint than none at all. 

I think a lot of people who choose not to paint at all are ultimately just making excuses. Even if you can only manage an hour or two a week you can still make an effort. And most of us, even busy people, can find the knowledge to learn techniques. For example, I watch warhammer TV paint videos while on the commute or cooking. 

Here is a blood warrior from when I started aos in early 2017 and a few deepkin models from earlier this year. Far from genius, but I'm proud. 

P. S. I also have a coordination and memory disorder, so don't let your fears hold you back from trying. 

 

IMG_20180516_215252.jpg

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32 minutes ago, Seraphage said:

I like your attitude all the way ! Only thing I would exclude is limitations at a Tournament. I mean, what to exclude and how to choose it ?

Tournament is the only place that being a powergamer has a place *except if I play witha  good friend of mine and we both want that of course*. You can just meet with the rest of the guys any day and play, no need to exclude anyone from such a nice event as a tournament !

No named (unique) characters mostly covers it and the baning of netlists. (pushes the entire competetive part to a level where everyone has fun. Competetives are even more challenged due to the changed meta which forces them to think outside of the box and semi-competetives also have fun and stand a good chance if they play well)

 

?

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28 minutes ago, HollowHills said:

a few deepkin models from earlier this year

nice ochtar, looks good! I keep thinking of buying that model just to paint it

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29 minutes ago, JPjr said:

nice ochtar, looks good! I keep thinking of buying that model just to paint it

He's probably my favourite model in the range, just because he's a small guy with so many iconic details to the sculpt. He is utterly terrible in games and it makes me sad I can't play him. 

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That article the OP mentioned is really interesting, and yeah I think many points are correct.

Uncle Atom also made a video inspired by it, that's how I became aware of the article.

 

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I think the internet has helped the hobby tremendously but also means we're all exposed to the absolute best painters and players on a daily basis. That helps to have something to aspire to, but also means it's easy to fall into the trap of "my paint job/game play is nowhere near that good" and think you've therefore fallen short. 

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3 minutes ago, hughwyeth said:

I think the internet has helped the hobby tremendously but also means we're all exposed to the absolute best painters and players on a daily basis. That helps to have something to aspire to, but also means it's easy to fall into the trap of "my paint job/game play is nowhere near that good" and think you've therefore fallen short. 

Word. Without the Internet I would not paint Warhammer models. I am absolutely sure about that.
But I fall for that effect you mentioned quite often. I am a regular over at Lustria Online, and there are a bunch of guys active who are _SO_ much better than me painting the very same models I paint (Seraphon/Lizardmen, so that makes their results so well comparable to mine) that I want to get depressed and throw my brushes away. In fact it deterred me from posting my miniatures for quite some time because I just felt they weren't worthy to even be shown.

Now, I am still getting better, but I still will never reach that level. I have to settle for mediocrity. And that's OK. I just have to find out which part of mediocrity it is. :)

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13 minutes ago, Aginor said:

Word. Without the Internet I would not paint Warhammer models. I am absolutely sure about that.
But I fall for that effect you mentioned quite often. I am a regular over at Lustria Online, and there are a bunch of guys active who are _SO_ much better than me painting the very same models I paint (Seraphon/Lizardmen, so that makes their results so well comparable to mine) that I want to get depressed and throw my brushes away. In fact it deterred me from posting my miniatures for quite some time because I just felt they weren't worthy to even be shown.

Now, I am still getting better, but I still will never reach that level. I have to settle for mediocrity. And that's OK. I just have to find out which part of mediocrity it is. :)

Not being the best isn't the same as mediocrity. My partner got upset about her MA Degree because she only received a Merit (second highest) and missed out on a Distinction (the top) by one mark. She felt it proved she wasn't that intelligent.

Except just because there was a higher level some people achieved, it doesn't mean her own wasn't at a high level. How many people in the population have Merit MA Degrees from world class universities? How many in that particular field? How many in her specific area of research? The truth is that you can be at top end of something while still knowing there are people above you.

A professional football player who plays for a mid-level team is still a world class sportsman.

If you compare your modeling achievements to the best of the best you might come up short, but if you look at them objectively and on their own merits you can be good or even great rather than mediocre.

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16 minutes ago, HollowHills said:

Not being the best isn't the same as mediocrity. My partner got upset about her MA Degree because she only received a Merit (second highest) and missed out on a Distinction (the top) by one mark. She felt it proved she wasn't that intelligent.

Except just because there was a higher level some people achieved, it doesn't mean her own wasn't at a high level. How many people in the population have Merit MA Degrees from world class universities? How many in that particular field? How many in her specific area of research? The truth is that you can be at top end of something while still knowing there are people above you.

A professional football player who plays for a mid-level team is still a world class sportsman.

If you compare your modeling achievements to the best of the best you might come up short, but if you look at them objectively and on their own merits you can be good or even great rather than mediocre.

Sure, it isn't just about not belonging to the top. But the top guys show you how far from the top you might be.

Generally when I see other people's paint jobs these are the possible reactions:
1. Ok, this is a new guy. I should tell him a few things so he can get better
2. Ah, not bad, but I can do better I think.
3. That guy is approximately around my level. Most of the model looks like something I have painted. I see some stuff that I can do better, some stuff I do worse, probably some stuff that I could do if I painted more slowly, or just different artisitc decisions.
4. Wow. That guy is definitely better than me. I see the techniques he used and what he did, but he is more precise than me or used a technique I haven't mastered yet. But I might get there eventually with practice and/or taking more time for a model to improve quality.
5. WTF?? How is that even possible? I don't only see that he is way better than me, I cannot even tell what techniques were used to achieve that result. Magic!


If I had to count them then I would say that there are definitely more 4-5 guys than 1-3 guys around. Although the number of #5 guys is single digit. But the #4 guys are plenty. At least on the Internet.

It is also important to keep the Dunning-Kruger effect in mind. Many people who think they are average at something are probably way below average, but unable to assess themselves correctly. I try to judge models by as many measurable, objective criteria as possible, but I am aware that I probably still think I am better than I actually am.

I'd love to see the gaussian bell curve on painting quality over the wargaming population....

Edited by Aginor
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One important thing to assist in being healthy about your hobby is to avoid polarizing language like calling people who have differing motivations to play a game "WAC or a complete must-win, must-win tryhard".  

Being respectful and thoughtfal about yourself and your own choices/motivations involves being respectful about others and their choices/motivations.

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