Hello everyone, Geoff “iNcontroL” Robinson here discussing for your reading pleasure the streamed etiquette incident that went down at the LVO and how we can benefit from this moment in time.
Two of the best players you can experience playing Warhammer40k squared off in an advanced round of the 2018 LVO. These players are Alexander Fennel and Tony Grippando. For the purpose of this article, if you could do me the solid: when you see either name please make the sign of the cross and mutter “long may he reign” when we refer to Alex and can you squint and grit your teeth (not too hard) and mutter “please don’t say that name” when you read Tony. It will set the theme nicely.
This match was streamed. This is an important part of this because we aren’t selling out stadiums (YET) but we do have the awesome luxury of being viewers on a stream due to the fantastic dedication to make that possible by the FLG crew. Fortunately/Unfortunately this also means we have over a thousand people ready to bare witness to how we play and what is going on. It can also add stress and can make an already difficult situation, even more so. I say this not as an excuse but rather as a way to set the table for what is to come.
The match featured Alex (long may he reign) playing Space Wolves (mostly) and Tony playing Aeldareeeeeeee (Eldar). Both players had recently been selected by Sean Nayden (Team USA’s Captain) to be members of Team USA to go off to a foreign land and underperform at the ETC. A huge honor in Warhammer 40,000 and of course something we all take very seriously. Aside from tha Alex and Tony have competed, practiced and socialized as they are both top players in a community that while growing is still very small.
Tony’s deployment/first turn took something along the lines of 1 hour. This is incredibly inefficient and when the total game is supposed to be 2.5 hours can also become a problem. Whether that factored in or not I do not know as I have not asked Alex (long may he reign) directly but speeding up the remainder of the game is expected. When the time came for Alex (long may he reign) to take his turn he began by deploying one of his Assassins. This is something you would need to do “at the end of the movement phase.” This isn’t nothing by the way. Sometimes where we want to drop those deep strikers is in a place occupied by normally deployed units OR how far something advances and thus can then synergize with the unit arriving from reserves can also benefit from knowing exactly where something like an Assassin would be. Bottom line: Alex moved improperly and he knew it. Alex doesn’t contest this and freely admitted it on the stream. Tony Super-Helpful-Here-Let-Me-Measure-That-For-You Grippando was NOT WRONG in enforcing a order of operations mistake on Alex. But, but… butttttttttttttttttt — it was wrong to do it. The worst part? We all know it. Nobody on the stream, at the event or wearing the skin of Tony or Alex for one second thought it was OK. I will get to that later though.
Alex having not moved his entire army, an army of which is made up mostly of assault units called it then and there only moments later deciding to play it out. The game however was mostly over and we didn’t get to see two top tier players duke it out but rather one player exemplifying class and another (unfortunately) embodying what many would call the worst side of Warhammer 40,000 competitive play.
The game would result in Tony winning only to then face Nick Nanovati who would “Tony him” and jump his overall ITC score by ONE POINT to win $4,000, tons of prizes AND the title of ITC and LVO 40k champion.. WOAH. If people wanted justice.. well, they got it. But lets break down this event and talk about how we can all walk away from this better people.
Tony by the way, is not a bad guy. In fact, he is super nice. Am I saying this because he could crush my head like a pineapple with his rippling muscles and strangely perfectly angled jaw? Nope. In my time I was pretty buff too.. but we can talk about my body at a later date and preferably after I’ve been exercising for awhile. Tony is a top tier player who had a helluva year. His ATC team won for like, the 4th time? Which is amazing. He was at the top of the ITC which considering it has 7,000+ people involved is incredible AND he was in the top 8 at the LVO. But beyond that I’ve been around Tony and whether you want to believe it or not I am here to tell you he is a nice guy. Perhaps more relevant though is that he LOVES Warhammer 40,000 and competes at the highest level. That could be the excuse we make here for him. Surrounded by his peers at the final tourney of the circuit he was a few wins away from realizing his goals/dreams and nothing was going to stop him. Tony is also a young guy and in my experience in THESE moments specifically you can sometimes act out of character to help get that final push across the line.
Excuses or not the etiquette and “code of conduct” we Warhammer 40,000 players hold ourselves to IS important. It’s unofficial (in most competitions) but it’s unversally known. Had Alex’s movement been anything but him trying to speed up the game what Tony said/did wouldn’t be looked down on. We all make mistakes. But to help him measure out a move you were then going to point out signifies the end of his phase.. knowing this was clearly not what he intended is the kind of Warhammer 40,000 WE DON’T WANT TO WIN BY. We’ve all met “that guy” and if you haven’t? There is someone who is reluctant to attend a tourney because of the stereotype of “that guy.” Now, in my experience this kind of thing is rare and most people would never do what Tony did.. especially to a teammate, friend and in the final rounds of the biggest Warhammer 40,000 tourney _ever_. If you are interested in a big debate on how this is incorrect or “#TonywasFramed” please take it elsewhere. I am not stating my own personal opinion I am sharing with you the incredibly established sentiment that is universally known on matters such as these. What should Tony have done? I’m fond of saying things like “Hey Alex, you have to do this at the end of the phase. Remember that please! I don’t want to give you more mulligans” or “hey man they come in at the end” etc etc. With a player like Alex you are only saying that once and he is realizing that you are going to be tight on order of operations and he will act accordingly. This is the part where a lot of people feign ignorance and start saying “WHERE DO WE DRAW THE LINE? If a dude gets killed in overwatch do we let him TAKE IT BACK?” No, no you silly, silly internet troll. That is again where we reference the unfortunately unofficial “code of conduct” in Warhammer 40,000 which can loosely be described as “do I want to win that way?” or “is what I am doing making my opponent feel icky?” — for some this is too nebulous and they will be frustrated that it isn’t written in a tome or carried around on a leatherbound book and chain from a 30 foot tall robot judicator but we aren’t there yet.
Besides.. it isn’t like we don’t have role models on how to act at a Warhammer40k tourney…
Having already broken down the incident I will simply talk about his reaction. Alex could have flipped out, he could have stormed off or.. being half British he could have removed his white satin glove, slapped tony and then tossed his “piping” hot tea in the face of the foe.
But Alex didn’t do those things.
Alex instead thought about it, realized he was technically in the wrong, assessed that he was strategically behind and probably couldn’t win (he was right) and said “good game.” He then thought better of it and declared he wanted to put on a show for the stream (immediately thought of others). They played it out with Tony almost never mentioning the incident and while crippled and behind Alex put up a fight and gave the stream viewers something to watch. Had he quit and walked away the FLG stream which organized front-page coverage for this event would have had a 2.5 hour block of nothing and lost viewers. The viewers would have ONLY the incident to watch and nothing more.
If that hasn’t made you happy yet, wait, there is more. Watching this particular game was the co-founder of Riot Games. Heard of them? They make a little game called League of Legends. Marc Merill was so moved by the show of sportsmanship that Alex displayed he tweeted saying he wanted to donate a $5,000 sportsmanship award in honor of the class act that is Alex. Upon hearing this Alex began to go to work on forwarding 100% of this $5,000 donation to a children’s hospital fund which has at this stage morphed into Alex’s employers also pledging to match the donation to the Children’s Hospital! Literally, the high-ground you thought Alex was perched on was merely an illusion…he’s like 6 levels higher and we can all only hope to aspire to that level of class.
The Teachable Moment
Winning is important and getting those accolades might not mean that much to all of you but to the top tier competitors in our little world of Warhammer 40,000 it IS very important. What Tony did to some might not be that big of a deal and to others is the worst offense…either way the take-away-thing for us here is that you don’t want to win that way. Be gracious, friendly and jovial. Be stoic, serious and tight. Both are fine. But bridging those play styles needs to be a gentleman. A class act or a role model. If you are doing something that calls into question those things and you are fighting for a title…maybe think about that? We’ve had people win major tourneys but when the path to get there is marred with drama or shadiness we don’t even talk about the win. That moment is tarnished. Alex took the loss and made it into a win. He is inspiring the best part of Warhammer 40,000 which is being a damn good general AND A BETTER HUMAN. As someone who…is known to be a bit snarky and maybe even a pinch mean from time to time I too can learn from Alex. I want to be that kind of opponent. The one where people respect the list, fear the general and look forward to the honor of squaring off with them knowing that if they win they outsmarted / played him and didn’t fall victim to Alex getting rules wrong in his favor, playing “gotcha” hammer or going back on his word.
We are lucky to have players like Tony with his great skill and tremendous ability. We are just SUPER lucky to have players like Alex who can show us how to conduct ourselves and turn a potentially stinker moment into one of the greatest shows of sportsmanship to ever grace Warhammer 40,000.
Editor: with Tony’s permission, I (Reecius) wanted to add in this bit of a private conversation between he and I as I think it is important to remember that we’re all human, we all get caught up and make choices that we may regret later but that there is always room for forgiveness. As a matched play community, let’s use this as an opportunity to continue to play our best and be our best, too.
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