I will straight up be the first person to admit that I'm getting older. Sure, wisdom (usually) comes with age, but wisdom -- more to the point, experience -- is a double-edged sword. When you know what's come before, you tend to have a good idea of what's going to come next... but, as this month's Perspective will convey, that's not always a good thing.
Something you don't know about me: I have family down south by way of the Carolinas. In my youth (when I was just a Little Dynamek), the family would pack up the car & trek it on down the road for a few hours to visit my relatives. During one such trip, I heard a saying from one of my southern uncles to one of my northern aunts. It honestly didn't resonate all that much back then, but as I got older, I heard it more frequently. The more I heard it/the more experience I gained in my life, the more & more it made sense:
"Don't let money raise your kids."
I know that won't register with some of you out there because, well, you might be too young to appreciate its message, but take my word for it... this one of those 'pearls of wisdom' you hear people talk about all the time. If it doesn't click right away, allow me to explain. The message's core is to advise you that, even though you might want to shower your child with all the luxuries & whatnot you might not have had yourself growing up, DO NOT let that desire to tirelessly nurture/provide for them or the abundance you may have at your disposal to do so replace YOU in their lives. Having stuff is no substitute for having a relationship. Burying someone under a proverbial mountain of the material will only serve to damage their growth in the long run. As somebody that's been an uncle since he was 5 & a great-uncle since he was 20, as well as veteran of the NY Child Care System, I can personally attest to the veracity of that adage.
So what the fresh hell does any of this have to do with the FGC? Frankly, it should be obvious. Now before I go off on this mild tangent, I want to reiterate something very important... something I've said about a thousand times before & will more than likely say a thousand times more: I am in awe of how far the FGC has come over a relatively short period of time. Nothing warms my heart more than seeing Our Shared Passion reach the heights that is has in my lifetime. That being said, I would be betraying your trust if didn't admit to having some concerns about our future and/or the steps being taken to reach it. This is where what my uncle said to my aunt way back when comes into play.
As someone who has put up prize money & covered various FGC-related expenses out of his own pocket in the past (and will probably do so again in the future), I perfectly understand the value of a good pot bonus. Personally, I've never viewed it as a method of incentivizing anyone's involvement with an event. The idea of looking at it as dangling a carrot in front of a donkey seems disrespectful to community. For as long as I've been that guy slapping his money down on the barrel, it has always been about rewarding a community's dedication to their game. If they consistently (repeat: consistently) come out & support what you do, there really shouldn't be any apprehension to rewarding that loyalty from time to time. It builds an unflappable rapport between you & them and it promotes leveling up within the talent pool. That's never a bad thing...
Except when it totally is. There's a fine line between rewarding someone's commitment and outright bribing them to stay/get involved. I've been witness to both instances and the latter is either downright depressing at worst or blatantly transparent at best. What's sad is that, depending on the occasion, the blame can fall either party: either the community or the coordinator/organizer. Even worse, there are some instances where the fault lies with the company. I've seen events that catch the shaft because the respective community felt slighted over the most trivial things. Look, common sense dictates that you literally cannot have EVERY game at an event. As such, there are going to be times when your game of choice isn't on the menu. That doesn't mean anyone should boycott or slander said event. If it's not your cup of tea, don't attend & go on with your life. There is no need to rally against it because you claim disrespect. Doing so just makes everyone look bad.
On the other hand, if you're the one running the show, know your limits & your audience. Like I said earlier, use pot bonuses to reward dedication. Don't just throw money at an event & hope for the best. If you do, one of two things will happen: you'll either foster an atmosphere of greed by making it all about the money -OR- you're going to run headfirst into soul crushing disappointment the hot second you realize that what you thought was popularity ended up being nothing more than a flash in the pan because the price was right. Doesn't matter how long you've been at it, either. Once people start focusing only on them greenbacks, you're bound to derail yourself trying to keep up appearances. It doesn't end well for anyone involved because all you've done is fed into the worst indulgence of the community & they've shown their hand for being overtly materialistic. A lose-lose situation, plain & simple.
Finally, and this is where my main concern stems from, when companies start throwing money at the situation, I get nervous. It's one thing to support the community that has sprung up around your game, but it is something altogether different to try & supplement your responsibility to that community by drying their eyes with dollar signs. This can become treacherous because buying into that makes it easier to be bought off later. That's why I become very hesitant when I see Capcom & NRS (both partners with Marvel & DC and now subsidies of Disney & Warner Bros., respectively on both levels) start getting awfully cavalier with the prize money. At that point, you just have thousands & thousands more donkeys trying to sink their teeth into (what they think is) a bigger carrot. That's where you reach state lotto levels of disillusionment. Sure, the truly talented cream of the crop players will rise to the occasion thanks to any ludicrous number of variables working out in their favor... but, not unlike professional athletes, we're talking 1% of the 1% here. Keep that in mind.
I can imagine that some of you are reading this & thinking that I'm just some uppity, pretentious purist regarding gaming that cowers in the face of change. While a healthy portion of that group probably won't believe me, rest assured that that's only partially true: I am a purist when it comes to gaming. No, I'm not hung up on retro graphics or only play indie games. I'm a purist in the sense that I believe gaming should be a method of relaxation, recreation & escapism and an opportunity for fellowship among all of our communities while basking in the radiance of Our Shared Passion. As soon as we hand over the reins of such intangibles to the perfunctory highest bidder, I fear that's the moment we begin to lose ourselves & that idea just genuinely troubles me. But, hey, what do I know?
Until next time... keep fighting the good fight, my friends.