Bleck's Bitchin' "The Community"
Blake "Bleck?" Burns
Jan 23, 2018
I see this phrase passed around constantly. Used in every way under the sun with a different outlook on what it entails. Oftentimes used negatively. At this point, it's nothing short of a buzzword. Some amorphous boogeyman that'd like nothing better than for you to have a bad time. So what is "The Community"?
In short, "The Community" is nothing more than the group of people you choose to associate with.
If "The Community" you build around yourself have several very vocal and negative people in it, that will be the all that you hear. Day in and day out, it comes as no surprise that your outlook on the scene is also negative. The inverse is also true.
The issue lies in how people, as a whole, are much more inclined to focus on the negative than the positive. When we are happy and content, we're too busy staying happy and content. When we are not, well we just opened up a nice time slot that would have otherwise been occupied. Perfect time to fill with airing of grievances. In other words, happy players are too busy playing and unhappy players now have free time to share why they are unhappy.
So then how does one improve or fix "The Community"?
You can't really. If there are those who you include that are hellbent on being negative, you can cut them out of your life and will see stunning results. But this isn't a long term viable option. You can filter down the scene to only include the positive, but you'll end up with a sliver of people. And for some, that may be exactly what they want.
Instead, you need to become the change you want to see.
If you see "The Community" as something you don't like, become an example of what you want to see. Tired of seeing other players bring people down? Spend the time to bring players up. Telling that blaster that gave you a particularly hard time last set that they did great has a much better effect than complaining that blasters are cancer on twitter. Really wish that "top" teams/players did more of teams/players "below" them? Put in the effort to do that with teams/players "below" yourself.
Now, this is all flowery platitudes. No better than any others calling out for improvement in "The Community". The reality is that there is no right answer. But, I can assure you that doing nothing leaves "The Community" exactly as you see it now. Doing nothing is easy, doing something takes a lot of time and effort. It's hard work with little payoff and the aforementioned people dedicated to being negative will surely try to bring you down as well. I've personally seen many individuals get burnt out trying.
As for myself, I love "The Community". Sure there are plenty of jerks, tools, and asshats. But even then I see an overwhelmingly positive scene. I can't think of a single "top" player who is completely unwilling to help others. If you are able to reach out to a player and ask them a specific question about their playstyle or weapon, they will answer if they have the time. This is crazy common for said player that stream. Pop into their chat, get in their Discords, and talk with them. Be polite and courteous and you will have access to a sea of knowledge and experience.
Disclaimer: This doesn't mean that every player is an open book available 24/7. They are not the Wikipedia of Splatoon. Every player is a person no different from yourself. They have their own schedules and obligations. Some may prefer to not engage others and want to keep to themselves. I encourage everyone to reach out to anyone in this community, but to also respect boundaries.
What it means to be "new"
There are those that may shrug off what I say about "top" players, that it's different since I'm not from some nobody team or an unknown player. That I'm too involved to see this "divide" between the "top" and everyone else.
I was nobody once too. Three years ago, I played on a team that struggled to get out of groups stage (on the rare chance we did). Back then, it wasn't uncommon to do a Double Elimination tournament and lose the first two matches and be done for the day. Often, by playing teams much stronger than ours. And as much as all of those losses sucked, had we been content with complaining about it, we never would have gotten better. And so we did what I encourage every up and coming team to do, we talked with "top" teams. We became friendly, learned new insights into the game, and had scrim partners that'd pummel us into the ground. But from that, we got better. Eventually we didn't get beaten as badly. We started placing better in tournaments.
That said, this was a very masochistic approach to getting better. But there is a distinct difference in getting beaten by a faceless "top" team and being beaten by those who you were just laughing with two hours prior. Put another way, who's more likely to give you genuine advice? An acquaintance you barely know, or your best friends? Which advice do you think you'll be more likely to take to heart? As I said, this was a masochistic approach. We didn't seek out a top team, we just happened to be friends with them. On a more strategic level, what I do encourage teams to do is to find a team that is better than them. But just a bit. The perfect match would be finding a team that you can go 3-4 with or that each match is being won by a hair. But how does one find such mythical teams? Easy. Enter a mid-large tournament, even if you don't think you can place well. Find the results after it is done then find every team that has the same score. Talk to these teams. Play against these teams. Once you're comfortable with that, scrim the teams that have slightly better scores. Rinse and Repeat.
The power that new teams have is that they have the most in common with the majority of teams. If you feel like you can never make it out of groups stage, there are far more teams that feel the same than those who do not. Team A and Team B couldn't get out of groups because they had to beat Team Olive to do so? Then Team A and Team B should join forces and get stronger from each other.
The Power of Networking
This goes beyond Splatoon, gaming, or otherwise. Networking is a fundamental life skill and often a major key in finding satisfaction in your life. So what better place to practice than a community of Splatoon players?
As previously stated, this community is surprisingly open. The trick is that you often have to go to them. Going out of your way to talk to others builds relationships. It doesn't even have to be a specific reason. Just socializing with others often becomes the building blocks for something more down the way.
My first competitive team formed from friends in the same social circles. My second team from talking with other competitive players. When Spoon and I started BnS, it was literally just us. As weeks rolled by, we spoke with more players and organizers and our team grew. After 18 weeks, we grew big enough to start InkTV. In the last year since then, we've had many achievements. And all of them have been possible due to relationships that have been built since 2015.
This is a long, personal anecdote, and round about way of saying; Go talk to people. Get to know them, learn from them, and enjoy how rich this community can be. If you feel nervous and awkward about reaching out to someone, most people do too. It's super common. But suck it up and do it anyway. All too often I see new/inexperienced teams put better teams on a pedestal and treat them as untouchables. But in reality, these teams share far more in common with you than you think.
What it means to be a "top" player
I'll preface by saying that I've never considered myself a "top" player. Using the LUTI Standards of Measurements, I'd say that at my peak of competitive play I was a solid A Div player (Even if I can't get kills). But if nothing else, being in an organizer role I have interacted with all levels of players in this scene. And nothing grinds my gears more than seeing some post along the lines of:
"Top" players need to do ____.
The expectation that players who simply are better at the game owe anything to other players is absolutely absurd. Especially when what is being asked of them is not something that those who are asking are willing to do themselves.
That said, it would be great if "top" players were to take teams under their wings; to make more tutorials on their weapons or play style. And it'd be just as great if all of the mid-tier players did this too. Everyone should be held to the same standard. Just because someone is great at the game, doesn't mean that they are able to teach or create content even if they wanted to. Some have a knack for it, some do not. But the onus is not on the "top" players alone.
"Top" players do, however, have a vested interest in raising the next generation so to speak. Whether or not you feel like Splatoon will someday be officially eSports, it goes without question that the more the scene is nurtured, the better it will be. Teams and players with higher profiles will also be the ones with the greatest impact. The more the way is paved for newer teams to reach the top, the stronger the scene becomes.
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