(Metagame Archive) Ask Not What Your Card Game Can Do For You . . .

By Ben Kalman

This is the first in a series of articles on how to be a part of the Vs. community, and how to improve that community and make it work for you. You’ve bought the cards and you want to play the game—keeping it alive and healthy is a good way to ensure that you haven’t wasted your time and money. A big part of ensuring the health and vibrancy of the game is to do your part to keep the community as alive and robust as the game is. Without the community, and by extension, the players, there is no game.

It’s very easy to put the onus onto the company—to say “Hey—the community, the players—that’s not my problem! It’s up to Upper Deck to make sure that the game is healthy!” This is a fallacy; players have the same responsibility as consumers to help keep the product they love afloat—whether that’s signing a petition to keep your favorite television show on the air or telling all of your friends about this great chocolate bar you just discovered, it is the work of the buyer that keeps the business in business.

So here are ten simple ways to do your bit to help keep Vs. a strong and healthy member of the TCG brotherhood.

1) Find a local game store (LGS)

The LGS is the bread and butter of the gaming community. Some readers may be familiar with an article I wrote a while back, entitled “A Call To Arms,” calling out for Vs. players to support their LGS. This is important, as the LGS is the place that not only provides a lifeline between the player and the game, but also provides tournament support, hobby league membership, and, most importantly, a place for members of the Vs. community to gather to trade and play. So, the first step in cementing your position within the community is to find an LGS that suits your gaming needs and support that LGS. Convince it to support the games you love, and then put your money down to back up your convictions.

2) Get your friends involved

Welcome to the wonderful world of gaming circles! Once you’ve found a place to play (like your LGS), your next step is to convince all of your friends that Vs. is a wonderful game, and that they all want to spend their life-savings on it! This shouldn’t be too hard, as the game tends to sell itself, and it is a necessary step to take to ensure that you get the maximum enjoyment out of your cards. Cards may look pretty sitting in a binder, but they’ll do nothing but gather dust within their plastic sleeves if you have no one to play with.

Once you have a gaming circle—or have convinced your gaming club to make the switch to Vs.—then you have provided the Vs. community with new members (you can call yourself a Vs. missionary!), and you have provided yourself with a (hopefully) stable playing environment, made up of friends who can help you test decks, prepare for tourneys, and most importantly—play!

3) Join online communities

Local game stores and gaming circles may provide a lifeline between the player and the game, but they are only a small part of a much larger, global community. There are a handful of online communities that provide the player with a means to get in touch with—and befriend—fellow players from all over the world. I can’t tell you how many great people I’ve met on the various online forums.

The fact that you’re reading this article puts your foot in the door, but the forums are where you can let your own voice be heard—where you can take part in discussions, get inside information, enter Vs. contests, and even interact with the game designers and the rest of the Upper Deck Vs. team. These online communities are also where you can ask questions and voice concerns about the game—and where you’ll find like minds to vent to or rejoice with.

4) Email UDE with feedback

Which brings me to the next step you can take—emailing Upper Deck with feedback. The Upper Deck team is made up of friendly, open-minded individuals that welcome all suggestions and concerns. They are a team of people who are truly interested in what the players have to say, and want to make sure that their public are as satisfied as can be with their product. They will listen to what you have to say, and they will address your concerns. Just go to ude.com and fire off that email—remember that nothing can be done about your concerns regarding the game if you don’t voice them to begin with . . .

5) Start your own website/fansite

Every online community starts somewhere. Now, most of the online forums have well over 600 members—some number in the thousands! So take your ideas and concerns—the ones you’ve been talking about on the forums and message boards, the ones you’ve been emailing to Upper Deck—and use them as the foundation of your own site. If you have the know, reserve a domain and create your own site. If you don’t have the know (or the cash), start up a free site and use software to create your site (or better yet, get someone from those online communities to help you). If you can’t bring the community to you, take yourself to the community!

6) Write articles

This one sounds harder than it is. All it takes to write articles is the will to do so. There are many places out there where you can post them, even in special “journal” and “article” sections on the various websites—and there are a few sites with writing contests where you can win some green for your writing.

Writing articles is a very community-oriented activity. You’re sharing your views and insights with an audience, and promoting criticism and discussion on the topics you’ve written about. Nothing gets a discussion going like a well-written article, no matter the topic. If it’s new and presents an interesting argument, people will read it and will respond. Dialogue and communication are two of the most important aspects of any community, online or otherwise.

7) Enter tournaments

This is not meant to alienate the casual player who has no interest in tournaments; private gaming circles and clubs may be the highest step a player chooses to take in this regard. However, tournaments are a great way to get out and meet some of the other members of the Vs. community and to encounter other deck styles that you may not have seen—or even those that you have seen before but have never seen played by players who are really familiar with them. And there’s nothing quite like sitting down with ten to twenty people who are similarly obsessed with comics and Vs. and getting to say things like, “My Sabretooth stomps your Wolverine!” and, “FLEE BEFORE DOOM, PEON!!!”

Tournaments are a great way to test your game knowledge and game skills; you can put your ideas into practice and see how they hold out beyond your little gaming circle. A little competition always spices up a game—and hey, you could win some cool prizes and maybe even make it onto the Pro Circuit or have a deck named after you!

8) Become a TO/Judge/Demo Team Member

If your local game store doesn’t run tournaments or is having trouble finding people to help run them, then it’s time to take the mantle onto yourself and help out. Upper Deck has the certification program for this very reason—so that people within the community can help to promote the game and give others the opportunity to play it competitively. I quote someone who recently posted on an online forum that his love for the game supercedes his need to play it—which is why he’ll likely be judging at the GenCon PC rather than playing.

This doesn’t mean that everyone should run out and start judging and give up playing. What it does mean is that sometimes there is a need for well-versed TOs and judges in order to ensure that there are tournaments at all. It is more important to ensure that tournaments run smoothly and by the rules than to simply allow people to play the game. This way, everyone leaves satisfied that even if they performed poorly, they did so due to a skills match and not to cheating or poor judging.

Upper Deck provides you with everything you need to organize and run tournaments, and judges are rewarded for their time and effort, so you won’t be “losing out” by volunteering your time. You’ll be enabling others to enjoy the game, you’ll be showing off your rules knowledge, and best of all, you won’t be walking away empty-handed.

Finally, a great way you can help to build up the Vs. community at the grass-roots level is to become a demo-team member. UDE provides you with the tools, and you can go out and ensnare new Vs. players by showing them the game and how fantastic it is. The best way to do this is to connect with your LGS and select an afternoon or evening that is convenient to both of you, set up shop at the shop, and demo the game directly onsite, where they conveniently sell starters (and boosters) for the newly addicted Vs. player!

9) Treat people with courtesy and respect (Do unto others . . .)

I saved this one until now, because it is not only one of the most important aspects of the community, but also one that is pertinent to every other step. In any community, from the lowest peon player to the highest rules guru/designer, the members of that community expect to be treated with respect and to be addressed politely—and should return the same. When asking or answering questions, responding to articles, calling for judges or making a judgment call, demoing the game, or interacting with other community members, you should at all times be pleasant and polite and treat people with the same respect you should justifiably demand for yourself.

This does not mean that you have to accept everything with a stupid grin and nod and smile whenever anyone says/posts anything. You don’t have to agree with everything, like everything, or be 100 percent positive about everything. You simply should put forth any and all opinions, arguments, feedback—or simple dialogue—in a friendly, constructive manner. The game gurus have learned this. They regularly visit the forums and lists, answer questions and concerns, ask for feedback, and welcome all criticism—and they always respond politely and with respect, no matter who they are responding to.

I cannot emphasize how important this is, because everybody wants to be listened to and to know that their comments, concerns, and questions do not go unheard. The simple truth is that people will listen to you if you approach them with courtesy and respect, but people will only respond negatively (if they respond at all!) if you approach them with condescension, anger, or flames. We are all a part of this community, and must treat each other as such.

10) Play the game!

The most important part of being a part of the community is simply to play! Without you, the player, there is no community and no game, so get out there and play—and have some fun doing it!

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