Handling Negativity: Local and Playtest Group Level
Hello and good tidings! The AlphonZeus is back again writing for Vision. This time, I’m writing a different mini-series on a metagame mentality: handling negativity. We have all encountered it at one point or another: a friendly local turned sour because of some shenanigans, a bad judge call during a regional tournament, or even just people who are going through personal strife outside the game that is affecting their mental psyche and bringing it into the game. There is always a better way to handle situations like this. So for this article, I will discuss not only my own opinions on handling negativity, but also notes from other players in the community on how they handle negativity.
To start things off, we go to the local level. This is where almost all players’ journeys begin in the world of trading card games. However, this is where many players’ journeys end due to either life circumstances changing, like moving out of state or starting a family. Unfortunately, there is a small, but notable reason some players’ journeys end, which are bad experiences with negativity. Some players will be able to handle it on an off day a few times, but there are just some times where the behavior continues on and on until even that player cannot enjoy the game anymore. It is an unfortunate and preventable circumstance that in its absence could prevent someone from dropping out of the game altogether. This negativity can set events in motion that can cause broken communities, strained friendships, and hostile competitions. So, what can we do about it?
My own personal experience in trading card games extends at least 10 years. My very first encounter with negativity was back when I was 13 years old. Back in 2003, there was a Wizards of the Coast store at my local mall. I was playing a bant phantom spirits deck and going up against one of the other players, and I felt like my cards were not working too well. My opponent was presenting some serious tempo with bigger creatures and my creatures kept getting smaller because even though they do not take combat damage and die like normal creatures, they remove +1/+1 counters (think force markers in CFV terms) from themselves. I felt like I wanted to just bang my head in frustration. However, as I looked at my opponent across from me, he did not make any emotion, he did not react to any of my head shaking, he just turned his cards sideways and answered my threats. After the game was over, I felt kind of bad because I still put up a fight, but I had to remedy this somehow. So, I extended my hand for a handshake and he accepted. It was after that match that I realized that it was better to walk away from that match with dignity, than to act salty or refuse to extend a handshake.
Fast forward to my days playing Cardfight!! Vanguard in Spring 2012. Of course, we all know that there is a certain level of RNGeezus (“R-N-G-zus”) to this game unlike most other trading card games. This term is based off of RNG or Random Number Generator, which signifies virtually unlimited different factors when choosing an option that you could unlock a potentially limitless number of results. Usually, all trading card games share a baseline of common features under RNGeezus that we must keep track of. They are: 1. The Matchup. 2. The Opening Hand. 3. Top Decking. To explain each one in turn, the matchup under RNGeezus will be a random set of possible opponents to face. First, at the local level, you may have an idea of what each entrant is playing because unless that entrant just built a new deck or is borrowing one, you can likely identify good and bad matchups. That does not mean you automatically win a good matchup and lose a bad matchup respectively, but you have an idea of the hill you have to climb to win that round. Second, you can maximize the number of cards in a playset you can run in order to see that card more often in your opening hand and subsequent draws. However, that does not always work. There were games that I was not able to see a single Super Dimensional Robo, Dailiner all game, whether in my hand or damage. I ran him at four too, so having games where he does not show up at all is farfetched, but not unrealistic. Third, you can have an opponent set up for lethal damage the next turn, but your opponent ends up drawing the exact card needed to get out of a fishy situation. This switch in tempo sought to not only halt your momentum, but give the opponent needed to close out the game with a win.
Now, why would I mention these three concepts and the dreaded term RNGeezus? This is because there are many confrontations with negativity that use the above-mentioned reasons for the negativity in the first place. It is easy enough to blame bad luck for the reason why you lost. This is a practical reason, as luck can allow you or your opponent to steal the game. Your opponent may not feel so receptive to this stolen win or loss, but this is a great test to review your sportsmanship. I personally would keep silent as I would let the game play out the way it did. There are some moments where I was the one ahead and my opponent complained about the way is going on their side. However, I would just take it in stride and not commit mistakes. It does not work all the time as somehow the opponent got back into the game with solid top decks and chance plays to push for damage. In most cases, the opponent would be more prone to mistakes because of the thought that they cannot come back from being this far behind. After the game, I would still offer the handshake and say “good game” out of sportsmanship. In most cases, they would take the handshake. On rare occasions, they refuse, scoop up and gets away from the situation. Just let it go and focus on what you can do better in your next matchup.
There are players in the community that focus on the improvement aspect of dealing with negative situations like the one above. For example, Josh Stallworth of Cardfight Empire turns a negative experience into an experience that you can improve upon.
“Whether it is locals, or worlds, your focus should be on enjoying your event and trying the very best that YOU can. So focus on that instead of any negativity your opponent is trying to place on you. Good sportsmanship is ALWAYS a good counter to negativity. Tell it was a good game or thank them for playing you, wish them good luck on their games, and keep it moving. The only way negativity goes anywhere, is if you feed into it.”
Focusing on what you can improve on is better than dealing with what cannot be changed. Bad experiences exist for a reason, and just like Stallworth’s point, you should improve upon it. When you refuse to learn from the experience, you waste precious time to reflect and improve.
A huge helper in dealing with negativity is in the community that you roll with to tournaments. There are some that like to travel out solo and play in tournaments as their escape. However, over time, there are groups of friends that band together to overcome negativity or endure through it together. It truly is a nice base point to vent out frustrations and support teammates that are going through frustrations like yours.
Matt Perez of Vision knows what it’s like to have a community that shares in your pains and triumphs.
“There are a couple things I do, but if I had to pick one, it’s definitely having a strong group of friends to enjoy the game with. If you have a good group of people around you, nothing else matters. These are the people you will always see. These random people who temporarily ruin your mood or day will have nothing compared to the fun you have with your friends in vanguard and all events.”
He speaks the truth because he has traveled out to many large events, oftentimes with friends back in his hometown. Communities help foster teamwork and morale. Even having one other teammate beside you can help both of you prepare and deal with the competitive circuit.
There are also other times where some players are blatantly toxic and will refuse to adhere to your judge calls or even shuffle your deck for you before a match starts. This is the point where you should stand up for yourself and express your toleration has expired against people who seek to exploit it. In this case, we must learn how to put our foot down and defend against such abuse.
For example, Solemn Vanguard presents his take on staying positive, no matter if you are winning or losing:
“I think staying positive also depends on your goal when going to an event. If your singular goal is to have fun no matter the outcome, it's much easier since that's a personal state of mind thing. It's much harder to stay positive when your goal is to win and you lost a few times. I think it's also much easier to stay level-headed about things as you get better as a player. It's pretty easy to write off all your losses as [RNGeezus] if you're not experienced yet, since you don't necessarily realize when a loss was absolutely your own fault. So, I guess these things should get better with time? You will be able to see which losses were your own fault and which losses weren't.”
Staying positive becomes one of the most important qualities of any Cardfighter. If one gets to stay at a positive mindset throughout a tournament, you will be rewarded in the end. This reward may not come in tomorrow or the next day. But sometimes, you do not need a reward to pay for your efforts in shield other than a feel-good moment. What you can do is to take a deep breath if you have been on a losing streak lately. If you happen to be on a team for Team League, what you can do is foster morale among your teammates. You can be the moral, quiet, and relatable one that can help temper the groups’ hostility. Setting a positive example will help out not only your teammates, but foster a growing community in the right direction
As you can see, staying positive, emanating sportsmanship, and improving upon negative experiences all contribute to an elite player seeking to better the community they are part of. However, how does that set up when you are with your playtest family? I say this because there are times where those negativities will affect those that you have fostered close relationships with over the years.
For example, TraiDR has offered the following insight into one of his first negative experiences:
“My first negative experience was with my own friends. It is really dependent on the game state and the outcome of the game. If I completely sack them, I don't mention it at all. The reason is being in a situation like that, players tend to confine to other people and talk smack, I will agree that I am one of those people. Now if the game could have gone either way and it was a back and forth, I go as far as a handshake either way, win or lose, just because those are the games where either player didn't lose to triggers and it was complete skill playing around cards, starving resources, etc.”
Sometimes there are no places you can establish as your locals and you end up having meetups at friends’ houses. This is where negativity can slowly foster if it is not kept in check or brought up when practicing. You want to ensure that the player exhibiting the negative attitude is acknowledged, but also taught that it can damage morale. Finding that line between respect and teaching is hard to master. This will take time, but if you are able to put it behind you with a lesson learned, you advance forward that friendship to a new level of respect.
Handling negativity is a lifelong skill. It can translate over from many different fields, games, and professions. However, it can be approached in a uniform fashion, willing to help people learn and know that their friends are willing to hear them out and set them straight when they need it.
On that note, that is it for the negativity article at the base level with locals and playtest groups. I hope that you have enjoyed reading this article and will continue to support Vision. Please let me know if there is anything else regarding handling negativity that you'd like to see me cover. I look forward to your comments and send over good vibes towards building your community. Thank you for your time and attention, and take care!
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