Collectible Card Games.
Since around 1994 they have been a staple part of my entertainment. From Magic: The Gathering and Rage, through Babylon 5 and into Raw Deal, I have collected, played and more importantly organised CCG events for around 10 years now. Thats a long time.
And now I feel that my love affair may be coming to an end. Well, possibly. It could well be that my patience with certain aspects of the hobby has ran out. I don't know.
I started playing Magic. Like most people did at the time when they were getting into CCGs. I attended my first tournament and did ... OK. That was cool. A few more under my belt and I was doing ... OK. Hmm.. And then the organiser left Uni and the void needed to be filled - and I volunteered.
I had a good time running those MtG tournaments. We were small and unsanctioned, but we always managed to have a laugh, dish out decent prizes, cover costs and develop our games. I even won one or two, but never consistently. I remember the day that I stopped wanting to run MtG tournaments - it was the 'North East Championship', a local thing. We did 6 rounds - two Type 1, two Type 2 and two 'Extended' format. It was a lot of fun but at the end of the day not one person in the room said 'Thank you' to me for organising it.
That annoyed me no end. So I stopped and handed the baton onto someone else and let them organise it. My interest in Magic had waned anyway in the light of the new CCG on the block - Babylon 5. B5 was my fave TV series, so it was natural for me to play. It was multiplayer, which was well cool and it was a good game. However, to have tournaments you needed a Ranger. So I volunteered. Eventually I got in contact with other Rangers and we made our own UK 'group' - Black Omega. We had a website (published by me) and a print newsletter (published by me). We ran big tournaments and had printed t-shirts. We became recognised by the parent company and began distributing prize support for the UK, then Ireland and then the Eastern hemisphere of the World. By this time I was Head Ranger in Black Omega. It was fun. It was hard work!
And then the game folded due to WB removing all B5 licences. Dead as a dodo
But the new kid was on the block again...the Raw Deal CCG, based on the (then) WWF product. Great quick brutal card game. We had a manager - and it wasn't me. Indeed, I famously quoted that I would never get involved with the running of this game.
To cut a long story short, that was 4 years ago and this is currently what I do:
(a) I am the UK Commissioner. That means that I appoint new managers, send out Prize Support (which started as a few cards, but now entails cards and posters and DVDs). I organise large tournaments around the country and process rankings to be sent over to the states.
(b) I am Lead Playtester. I get the cards very very early and have to read through them and test them and make sure that they are not 'broken'
(c) I run a UK web forum called Squared Circle which acts as the hub for the UK RD community. It used to be a much bigger website, but that withered on the vine when I became..
(d) The Webmaster of the Official Raw Deal website. And yes, that is potentially as much work as it sounds.
(e) I'm the manager for Newcastle - allowing me to run tournaments of my own in the pub
Played Neil - so much for keeping yourself distant from the organisation of the game!
Now I'm not going to say that this is without it's benefits. As UK Commissioner and Webmaster and Playtester I receive a substantial amount of free product from the parent company. That means that I have not had to buy a card for some years now and I even manage to dole a load out to my friends as well. I get a bonus each year of a working holiday to Wrestlemania, to cover the world championships live on the web. Thats so cool it hurts! I have made a metric TON of new friends in the UK and around the globe and was even honoured by them and awarded the 'UK Raw Deal Personality of the Decade' award recently. No that....thats cool!
So why on Earth would I want to stop doing this?
Thats a very good question - lets take them one by one
(a) Like every commissioner before me, I have come to the conclusion that the job really isn't worth the hassle. Its a large volunteer management and servicing task which takes up a disproprotionate amount of time to the benefits it delivers. It also takes up space in the house and balancing the various financial commitments can be a nightmare. Additionally (and this may just be a personality trait here) it is very much a balls-on-the-line job. Every national PPV event has to be better than the last, or something is very wrong. Its a level of .... unnecessary stress ... that just isnt needed in my life. I guess you also need to be enthusiastic about the game and about building the game and I don't think I am anymore. Don't get me wrong, I love Raw Deal and think that it is a great pastime, but I have been wounded along the way too much for me to be truly passionate about it as I was.
(b) For a number of reasons, my position as a playtester is more a product of me being the webmaster and head judge for the UK rather than for my testing prowess or dedication. There are others that are far better placed to do this job than I am and really, it's only pride and curiosity that keep me here, which is a bad thing.
(c) This could actually be one of the big reasons. I have grown very very very tired of a number of the UK RD community and their attitude to the game. This attitude problem is something that absolutely fascinates me and I will no doubt talk about in the future but needless to say, it revolves around the adage that if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all. The sheer volume of harsh and unfoundned criticism that explodes on my site and others at each and every announcement or posting by a Comic Images employee or games designer is quite frankly beyond the pale. The vocal minority have created a strange bizarro world where everything is deceit and lies, nothing is as it seems and every decision being made is in some way designed to screw everyone over and improve the lot of CI by destroying the game. The business sense doesn't follow there does it? Not a problem because like the Kings New Clothes, all they need to do is keep saying it and it becomes 'fact'. An experiment in subjective reality writ large upon the internet. I'm very very bored with it. Tired and bored.
(d) You fulfil the clients wishes and that makes the project right yeah? When I took over the site and ever since, the #1 wish that Comic Images have expressed is that the site be updated regularly and punctually. They specifically did not want a flashy scipt driven site - they wanted something simple and full. So thats what I have delivered. And the site has remained reasonably stable for three years now. I have not, however, and I now know ways to do things that could really enhance the site. However...and this is the real shame. I cannot be arsed. It takes a pretty huge amount of time to do that and it's a process of concentration that I just don't seem to be able to muster anymore. Too many other distractions it would seem. Now this is MY critique, not theres. They have never asked for the site to be made better (expect for The Bloody Database of Doom) - but if you undertake to do a job, you should do it to the best of your abilities, right? I don't think I can do that anymore and I don't think it's fair on the company to be landed with a lame duck site when they could have something that is really top notch.
(e) Hardly anyone can be arsed to play anymore. Not because they don't want to - just because they find it easier to talk about WoW more!
Lots of compelling reasons to jack it all in yeah? So why haven't I done it?
Well, on one hand, I am not and have never been (in my eyes) a quitter. I should be able to do at least the website side of things better. I really should. But I don't. I really like the people I work with on the game. Some of them are a pain sometimes but most of them are superstars and indeed, my friends. I would miss them. A lot. It would be very strange to think that all I needed to do would be to send one letter and I would never ever see them again. Indeed, I could just remove the links from the sites, and I need never think about all of that stuff again. But I would.
My wish would be that after Christmas I could give them my notice and help get a new webmaster settled into his job and that my last act as Neil The Raw Deal Dude would be to cover the World Championships from Chicago.
I doubt that would happen. I mean, why would anyone want to extend that level of largesse to someone who has just left their company in the lurch.
I am undecided what to do with this. Every night I travel home determined to do something RD related and every night I find an excuse to do something else. I'm at a loss. I really am. I know in my heart of hearts that I still want to play sometimes but whether I can throw the rest away or whether my enthusiasm is truly salvage-able, I am foxed.