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The Most Unimportant Article
[01/03/2006] [Randall]

Last year was probably the worst for e-Samurai since its inception. My own role in the badness cannot be understated; a dozen articles went missing when my former employer let me go, and the burnout that kicked in during the second half of 2005 doesn't change the fact that I wasn't exactly jumping with excitement to take care of e-Samurai during the first half. We moved to our own domain, a good thing that nevertheless probably cost us a lot of readers. A lot went wrong, and that was my fault. It is surprising that we still have an Electric Samurai. But a lot also went well. I went away, but all of you did not, and the e-Samurai is nothing without its forum users and regular readers. So maybe it wasn't such a bad year. And maybe it wasn't so surprising that this website endured. How could anything fail with the support you have shown? When other Amtgard internet projects have a bad year, they die. With e-Samurai, this has not been the case. It is a strange feeling to be so proud to be so insignificant to the success of something I made - but it's a feeling I like.

This, then, is the most unimportant article in e-Samurai's history. That's because it isn't about anything in particular. The code that manages articles was always more like a blog than a news magazine, and it's no coincidence that this is a bloggy update. Phywren was speaking to me about e-Samurai, and he recommended that the front page be redesigned to actually be a blog. His comments also reminded me that it was my original intention to post a regular column whether there was anything compelling to discuss or not. Amtgard, in and of itself, is interesting. It doesn't need to be gussied up in self-important prose - as fun as that is - to be worth talking about. Therefore, this bloggy update.

A few things have been in my mind lately, mostly because of what's happened at Dragonspine's local park. We've had a few events all occur at the same time that had the effect of driving down our attendance. The regulars from last reign all stopped playing, all for different reasons. This left a park that was something like two-thirds young kids and one-third older members. We still ditched and had battlegames, but something was missing from the usual daily events. At first, it was hard to tell what that was. We were going through the motions of regular Amtgard. People played classes and killed people and ditched and backstabbed. People went up levels. People declared for offices. Then it hit me - where was the arguing and fighting? Where were the people throwing childish tantrums? Was it possible that everyone was enjoying themselves? And why was the attendance of young members slowly increasing?

I tend to believe that Amtgarders can be proud and a bit bad-tempered by nature, but the events in my home park make me wonder. With the removal of almost an entire generation of our ruling class, we were left with nothing but a few leaders and a couple dozen newbies with an average age of sixteen. This is almost as close to an Amtgard state of nature you can get without traveling to Cloud's Edge. And everyone was having fun and asking for more fun. And newbies were joining the kingdom. And the one time that I didn't enjoy my day at the park, it turned out it was my own fault.

That's an interesting thought to have. We're all used to relying on other people to make Amtgard fun for us. We rely on people not to be nasty so we don't get upset. We rely on people to run good games so we have fun. We rely on people to take our shots so we don't swing harder. As it turns out, it doesn't have to be that way. In fact, we'll never have fun if it's that way - there's too many sluffers, too many glory hounds hungry for a second belt, too many powergamers who haven't graduated from playing half-orc warlords with straight eighteens for us to rely on other people to have a good time. At best, they'll just give us a headache. At worst, they'll get knighted.

And it seems its the old crowd, not the newbies, who foul things up. The newbies still have fun throwing swords at each other. The old crowd doesn't even really enjoy yelling at them for it. Of course, y'all don't need me writing an article to know all this. You folks figured out you don't need to rely on me - or anyone - to have an e-Samurai. You've even become pretty tolerent of the forum newbies who throw metaphorical swords at each other.

This makes me wonder what we lose that changes us. At what point are we no longer that kid who loves to throw spellballs at people? What happened that made us stop being the guy who makes up his own spell incantations or writes up his own monsters? In a game where we dress up in skirts and swing foam bats at each other, what causes us to grow up and stop having fun? Is it getting elected? Is it getting into a fight over 'politics'? Is it losing? Is it getting sluffed out of a tournament or hit really hard because someone thinks you're cheating? Is it not getting knighted? And can any of us be objective enough to admit that sometimes, the thing that makes people grow up and learn to hate Amtgard is one of us? We've all heard stories about people sitting around saying that they don't play Amtgard because of so-and-so, but it's awfully sobering to consider that we might be the reason for someone who quit. Even worse, we might not even know what it was we did. That means our bad behavior is just the way we are. And who are we? Not the newbies, that's for sure. Nobody ever hears of someone quitting Amtgard because of a guy who isn't even second level.

Amtgard is fun and it's a great game. The people who understand that the best are often the folks who take it the least seriously. There's no good reason why the older generation - the kings, knights, and veterans who can't play live-action e-Knight anymore because of their years put in - can't stay newbies. Folks can grow old in Amtgard and, indeed, they need to do so for the club to acquire competent leaders. But that doesn't mean we have to grow up.

I guess this wasn't so bloggy and was more article than post. But that's not really important. This is - let's go to the park this weekend and do something fun. We can do that if we really want to, no matter what anybody else says or does. So go throw swords at each other and laugh, and tell your champion I said hello.

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