Editorial: What is Powergaming?

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Hi guys, hope everyone’s had a good new year so far!  For my first article of 2011, I think I’ll talk about a hot potato topic that’s been bouncing around for a while now.  The topic will be about the definition of powergaming, or one of its many undefined and misused terms.


I’ve recently been called a “munchkin” by a gamer friend of mine and I had no idea what it meant.  I might be an old school minis player, but I never got involved in RPG games so it was only right that I had no idea.  After looking up the definition of munchkin on wikipedia, I quickly consulted the gaming group to establish some definitions.

The 5 Families of PowerPlayers
First, let’s run through FIVE words that relate to the same thing.  These are:  Munchkin, Powergaming, WAAC, Min-maxing and Competitive.  I personally consider myself a competitive and min-maxing, but I wouldn’t consider myself a powergamer nor would I consider myself a munchkin.  Before I go any further, let me define what these terms mean.  Now I know that many people have different definitions of the same thing, but these are the definitions that I commonly know them:
Munchkin – This term is typically used in RPG games.  It’s pretty much a player that’s trying to bend the rules and environment around him so he gains an advantage.  They will often bend written rules, make up their own rules, purposely misinterpret rules, or just outright cheat.  It doesn’t matter what the situation is, he’s willing to do anything and everything to make the game benefit him without consideration of others.
WAAC – This stands for “Win At All Costs”.  Like the munchkin in RPG, this term is seen more in minis game but essentially mean the same thing.  In addition to changing armies to the new hot thing just to get more wins, but they’ll measure their rulebooks and place them on the table to get an advantage.  Win at all costs suggests exactly what its name implies:  Do anything in your power to win, even if it means bending rules or occasionally cheating.
Powergaming – I think many players consider this the same thing as WAAC.  I personally don’t see it that way.  A powergamer is a gamer that incorporates our last two definitions (min-maxing and competitive) into the same word.  Not only do they have the need to compete and to succeed, they also know how to min-max and tweak their lists to run at optimal levels.  What sets them above the min-maxer or the competitive player?  I believe it’s attitude and ego.  No one likes an arrogant min-maxing, competitive player and that’s why they’re often labeled as powergamers.   They attend tournaments, refine their strategy and strive to become the best in front of everybody.  The WAAC player might do this, but the powergamer does not bend the rules to his favor.  He will play within the boundaries of the game and adhere to the rules of his club.  This is my definition.  There are many like it, but this one is mine. 🙂
Min-maxing – This simply means that the player builds his list to the fullest potential.  He cuts anything he doesn’t need, maximizes on his strengths and minimizes anything that’ll make it weaker.  He understands the strengths and weaknesses of his army, his opponents’ armies and playtests frequently to make sure his theories coincides with reality.  This type of player won’t take things like Chaos Dreadnoughts or play Orks because he wants certainty in his army and likes to optimize his chance to succeed.  What makes this player different than a powergamer is the lack of competitive drive.  There is definitely attributes of a refined player, but there’s no mandatory drive to win.
Competitive – Simply put, you have the need to succeed; to win; to achieve victory.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen competitive players try hard and fail.  This can happen but this is normally a mental or physical setback that makes it happen.  I’ve played many esports games at very high levels and I’ve seen many players succeed and fail in the same way as athletes.  Competitive players are the players that win games with refined lists because they studied the game and analyzed their opponents.  In short, they know how to win.  When they do lose, they analyze why they lost and how to improve their game and become better.  If you care when you lose games and try to fix your army after, you fit under this list.  Everyone that plays the game has some sort of competitiveness one degree or another.
Power Players in the Balance
So which one is the worst attribute?  For me, it’s anything that goes outside the boundaries and rule set of the game.  Anything else goes.  Things like bad sportsmanship, bending existing rules or cheating is just intolerable for me.  I can’t care less if you’re a powergaming tournament-class player; in fact, I welcome the competition.  Cheating on the other hand? No way!  I once played a guy that measured his forearm so he could pre-measure with it on the table.  I called him out for it and needless to say, I was furious.  There’s some forms of decency that’s expected of all players and this kind of behavior is just unacceptable.  Winning just doesn’t cost that much.
What about you guys?  Which category do you guys fall under?  Back in my youth, I was a raging powergamer in all forms of the word.  I would attend tournaments, beat faces, develop an ego and wait for the next occasion to do it again.  These days, I’m nowhere close to that.  Time has tempered the fire of youth and I can see myself under the min-maxing and competitive categories.  I still have that constant need to succeed and refine my armies, but I don’t have the ego-trip I use to get for going out there and winning tournaments.  I still attend a tournament every now and then, but if I don’t place first, I honestly couldn’t care less.  Don’t get me wrong, I still analyze, blog, and write down every mistake I make so I can do better next time, but the energy to destroy hobbies and crush souls just isn’t there anymore.  Check out my competitive gaming blog for more details.
That’s all I got this time.  Please feel free to comment on my use of definitions as well.  I know there are at least a hundred variations out there so you might as well get typin’.

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