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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Why Comp Sucks: Inspiration Strikes

Today while doing my grocery shopping, I was struck quite unexpectedly with an image that got me to thinking about comp in gaming tournaments.  Somehow I've managed to run this blog since last winter and never really go off on one of the things that infuriates me most in the hobby.  Maybe others have beaten this dead horse into glue already, but I think I found a way to articulate what bothers me about comp: not that it drastically alters a game system, but that it is entirely counter-productive.  Now, I will preface this by saying that I do not intend to step on any toes culturally or offend anyone.  I know that sounds fucked up coming from me, but you'll see why in a minute. 

There I was driving though the parking lot when I happened to see a pair of Muslim women in full Burkhas walking with a little girl in plain clothes*.  This got me to thinking.  I was struck by the image of the girl's decidedly free garb in contrast to the restrictions of the women's.  Why could she show her face, arms, and legs while the women couldn't?  Well she wasn't old enough to have any secondary sex characteristics, that's why.  One of the main purposes of the Burkha  is to hide those, creating an air of modesty for a woman (or man, it turns out) to display in public.  There is text somewhere in the Q'ran that essentially mandates this de-sexualizing.  You'll have to excuse my ignorance in not being able to cite anything specific, but I'm not currently practicing any religion.

Now I've heard many people speak both for and against being forced to wear Burkhas, and was at one point in the past surprised to find myself in agreement with a pro-Burkha individual.  She explained that the garment is in fact feminist in nature, as it doesn't necessarily suggest that a woman's body is evil and must be hidden, but pre-supposes that a man will be blinded by lust and looks.  This is, then, a punishment or deterent for men, not women.  Taking appearance out of the equation then has a calming effect on society at large.  Cats and Dogs getting along and all that rot, right. 

Please bear with me, this analogy will soon be over and will make a point.  Meanwhile back to the women at the grocery store.  After getting a good (non-creeper) look at the women I was struck by how strangely alluring they were.  How is is that a piece of clothing designed to put a damper on sexuality could arouse my curiosity?  To explain that, one needs only look at human nature:  if given a set of rules, man will exploit them to their fullest to bleed out any advantage possible.  The women's Burkhas were the style that covers everything but eyes and hands.  Thinking back, it was actually the women's eyes that I found attractive- hell, downright sexy if I'm being honest. Now it was not a fluke that this was so; the women clearly wanted to create this type of reaction with their heavy eye make-up. 

So here we have an instance of a rule being enforced and somebody working within the rule set to break the game.  The purpose of the Burkha is to create modesty.  Showing the eyes (in some designs) is allowed.  Knowing this, a woman can draw attention to this feature artificially, thus being immodest while still playing by the rules.  That's counter-productivity at it's finest.

That my friends is why I think comp is stupid.  Ignore for a moment that comp rules sets are often based on personal bias, knee-jerk reactions, and just plain bad logic and just assume that a comped system was invoked to combat a particular perceived rules issue.  This was done with the best intentions, trying to fix a game or prevent something silly from being exploited.  The truth of the matter, though, is that the comp system will undoubtedly have parameters that can and will be exploited by the more savvy players.  It is in our nature to push the limits of any rules and somebody will eventually figure out how to maximize effectiveness within the rules. 

Picture a snake eating its tail and you get the idea.  A comped event is created to prevent rules abuse thus creating additional and different rules that can be abused.  If you don't believe me look at all of the playtesting going on around the net right now for the upcoming, heavily-comped Da Boyz tournament.  Still don't think people are trying to push that comped rules set to the limits?

*perhaps there is a word for this that I'm missing, but what I mean to say is that she was in jeans and a t-shirt:  a not-Burkha.


Loquacious said...

Dethtron, I think I sort of touched on this with my "On Shoes" post, but not completely. I'll get there some day.

Use what you got to get what you want. It works... in life and gaming.

Dave G _ Nplusplus said...

You guys finally got my juices going enough to throw up my own post containing my thoughts on house rules... So I'll link to it rather than reply to this thread.. and you're welcome to use it at the HoP.


Kirby said...

"Picture a snake eating its tail and you get the idea."

*pictures Wheel of Time logo*

Oh I get it, it's ironic! :P

Archnomad said...

Pretty much, it's why comp is stupid. Say you nerf every army's "power build" into the ground, but only half nerf one of the armies. That army becomes the new "top army". I know that's a very simple analogy but you get the point. It just changes the "tiers" or "metagame" as it were, and puts new lists in the seat of power.

Anonymous said...

Comp is like gun control. The people that want guns are still going to be able to get them regardless, and the normal people that might legitimately need them for defensive purposes can't.*

At the end of the day, jerks are still going to be jerks and exploit the rules. So basically, everything stays the same for the jerks and the normal people that are supposedly being protected by the rules get punished.

* - Note that I am neither for nor against gun control. It just happens to be an example that fits with the point I'm trying to make.

Dethtron said...

@anon: your analogy, while correct, is neither long nor convuluted enough. Please try again :)

Alex said...

"if given a set of rules, man will exploit them to their fullest to bleed out any advantage possible"

And such is the world of the personal injury lawyer. Brilliant article.

Thor said...

I think this is the best analogy for army comp yet.

Spaguatyrine said...

Completey agree! GW devised their own comp system in the rulebook. It's called a FORCE ORGANIZATION CHART. Why do people have to screw up what is already devised in the first place. I know, because they don't want their local players to get destroyed by players that come in from other gaming areas and get discouraged. Seriously!

SandWyrm said...

I did a couple of posts a while back that explored this same idea with a real-life tourney I went to as an example.


The Cliff-note version is that the comp became yet one more system for a competitive player to master, while the fluff bunnies it was supposed to protect just ignored it and took massive score hits to run bad (but nicely themed) lists.