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40K Op-ed: Big Cash Prizes are a Bad Idea

4 Minute Read
Feb 7 2018
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There’s plenty of reasons not to offer large cash prizes for competitive events and only a few good ones.

There’s a new trend in big 40K tourneys: offering up big cash prizes for the winner. It’s a terrible idea.

Look we all want to be winners – but we can’t be.  This game of ours is supposed to be about fun right? Before anyone gets on their 40K high horse – take a step back and say it with me.

“I play with toy soldiers”

“You play with toy soldiers”

“We all play with toy soldiers”

“…and there’s nothing wrong with that”

OK, with that bit out of the way: what exactly are you really trying to get out of your hobby – especially if you think you might possibly be one of the top players in your part of the country?

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Do you want to be remembered as a top player by the community?

Do you want the respect of your peers?

Or are you just in it for the cash?

Because if you really care about the first two of those, the big events can deal with that in some very cool ways like this:

When you win the Stanley Cup, you are engraved upon it, forever part of the sport. Then you get a plaque for you to keep forever.  

When you win at the Olympics, you get medals, forever marking you as one of the elite for the rest of your life and they can be displayed anywhere you wish.

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Either of these gets players what most really crave – recognition for their skill, and becoming part of something larger than themselves that lives long after the event in question.  It would be amazing to see big tabletop events putting their money into making some truly unique versions of these and building up their own proud traditions.

Cash is Dangerous

Big cash prizes however are fraught with danger.  First and foremost – what’s the point? Once it’s spent there is nothing tying the cash to community and hobby. Heck, even a ton of minis would be better. More importantly – competitive 40K is already having sportsmanship issues.  Do we really want the seductive lure of a big cash prize to lure in the WAAC behavior that will surely flock to it like moths to a flame? When I hear players talking about playing with the goal of taking home a pile of money I worry that the game for some has become merely a vehicle for something darker.

Now sure Magic the Gathering has big prizes, but only under the very tightly controlled control of the manufaturer’s sanctioned events.  Players, rules, judges, and pretty everything at the big MTG events are locked down and everything is closely controlled.

Now compare that environment to what event the biggest handful of 40K events have in turn of structure.

  • Do all attendees sign lengthy codes of conduct, governing acceptable behavior with unwavering penalties for violating them, up to and including lifetime bans?
  • Are judges formally trained, tested and vetted?
  • Are event organizers formally trained, tested and vetted?
  • Are finals games recorded and vigorously judged to ensure legal play at all times?
  • Is all software and other data services used at the event formally tested?
  • Is the event and prize bonded and insured?
  • Are there any mechanisms for “unwinding” or clawing back cash prizes for unacceptable behavior uncovered after the fact?
  • Is the entire event backed by a large trusted organization that is above reproach in the public’s eye?
  • Are prizes fully documented and reported to the government?

These are the types of things that large cash prizes demand to ensure there isn’t even the faintest whiff of anything underhanded taking place.  People already freak out at run of the mill unsportsmanlike behavior. Now think of the damage that can be inflicted by large cash prizes handled inappropriately, and how that could tarnish the reputations of large events if something went wrong.

In short I think that one day maybe some events may have the process in place to offer large cash prizes, but I don’t think the 40K scene is there yet. Until that day comes – play for the love, respect of the community, and hopefully some amazing trophies you can look back on for years. But let’s leave the money out of it.

~Do you think large cash prizes belong on 40K?

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