It’s been a hard week. I get home on Friday after a week of catching up with work that someone else was supposed to do while I was away looking after my mum. I get a glass, pour myself too many fingers of whisky (yeh, it’s Friday, but it’s early), switch on the telly, and go to YouTube. This is February; it’s the month in which the DBNI takes place, and I’m going to watch the Diplomacy Broadcast Network’s Deadline.
If you haven’t seen it, you should look it up. Some episodes are stronger than others, as with everything, but it’s definitely worth watching. February 2023’s episode is, in my humble opinion, one of the best.
OK, so I’m mentioned. My post on the Leviathan alliance was brought up with the intro: “Mal Arky has resurfaced.” I don’t know if David Hood, Deadline’s host, knows why I was away but I think he’s just too much of a gentleman to not say it. “Resurfaced”, though, is just about perfect; there were times when I thought I wouldn’t. And it’s good to be noticed, I have to say!
But there were two brilliant sections to Feb 23’s episode. The first was an interview with Doug Kent, the publisher of the flagship publication in the Hobby, Diplomacy World. Again, if you aren’t reading it, what are you reading? Shakespeare? Fool.
Interview with Doug Kent
I don’t agree with Doug on a key aspect of my wing of the Hobby, which is the lack of ‘community’. I can see where Doug’s coming from. When the Hobby started it was principally face-to-face; players went around to different events, met up fairly regularly, and got to know each other. Even with Postal Diplomacy, or Play-By-Mail if you prefer, it tended to be about community because many of the players who played FTF were active in the Postal Hobby scene.
I did get to understand more about Doug’s take on this, though, through the interview. What he sees is online communities as being separate entities. He isn’t saying that the communities at Playdip and webDip aren’t communities; he’s saying that they’re insular communities. And I think he’s right in that, although I would also say that, more recently, there’s more cross-community mixing.
Markus Zijlstra, known as Captain Meme on both platforms (and possibly Backstabbr too, for all I know!), needs to take a lot of credit for this. I guess he’d say ‘his’ site was webDip. But he’s the main driving force behind the Online Diplomacy Championship. If you don’t know (and you really should because I’ve written a couple of posts about it) this is a tournament played every two years (-ish) and hosted alternately by webDip and Playdip.
I was supposed to be organising ODC IV in 2022. I started it, got it going (sort of) for the first round of games, and then the stroke hit and took me away. Markus and another angel, Jensen, picked up after me and drove it on.
Markus was recognised this year as the person who’d done most to act as an ambassador for the Dip Hobby in 2022 in the Diplomacy Briefing awards, just as he should have been. Not necessarily for the work he has done in the development of Cicero, the ‘AI’ that won the Markus’ Blitz tournament, in my opinion, but because he’s done a lot to bridge the gap between webDip and Playdip factions.
Doug’s right, though; that gap is sometimes almost too big to cross. When organising ODC IV on Playdip (which is ‘my’ site) I came across comments such as: “I hate the Playdip interface” and “I hate the map.” OK, well, fair enough; off you go.
This is what Doug’s driving at, I think, or part of it: all online players have their favourite places to play and we become used to those places. I found it hard to get used to webDip’s convoy order, for instance, where you order a convoy to, not a convoy from. And I hated webDip’s map (I also had a swipe at the new map design they use due to its pastel hues… but I actually kinda like it… may I rot in the Eastern Med for saying so). And there’s an order on Backstabbr that I get wrong that I shouldn’t be possible to get wrong. But, while I’ll happily say that I don’t like these things, I can put up with them and, frankly, I should be able to adapt to them. If not, that’s my problem, not the platforms’.
In contrast, when I first joined Playdip, I found the interface easy and instinctive. And the current Playdip map is by far the best looking one out there. (Sorry about that, David.)
I still say Doug is missing something, though, in his criticism of the modern Hobby’s lack of community. He hates the use of usernames, for instance, and the anonymity they bring. If you don’t know a person’s name, how can you know them? To me, that’s just rubbish… although I get the point that usernames are an indication of the distance between players in the online game. Do you ever take enough time on site, on the forum communities that are such a key part – for many – of the online game, to become a part of the site, to be in that community?
For a lot of online players the answer is, sadly, no. And that is a shame. The websites are a tool to be used to play the game and, well, that’s it. But not for everyone. And is that really any different to the people who played a game in this zine, then that one, then another one when remote play was through the PBM wing of the Hobby? Or the person that played in the odd FTF tournament but never really hung around for the drinks afterwards? Not really.
You’ll always find people for whom the community aspect is at least as important as the game playing. That’s as true in one wing of the Hobby as any other. I can see the community on webDip and Playdip. I can see the differences between the two communities too, sometimes the animosity, but I also think that you could lift a player who is truly part of webDip’s community because it is a community, and transport them into Playdip’s and they’d be just as ‘at home’ (and vice versa, by the way).
Here’s the thing, though: despite the aspects that Doug and I would disagree on, the interview between these two Diplominati of our great Hobby was great. Perhaps less so if you haven’t got into the history of the Hobby that the two have lived through, but I’d challenge anyone to not have been made to think about things in this section of the episode.
The final section of the broadcast was new. Called “Two Way Draw” I thought, hoped, that it would be a discussion on this horror of the game. It wasn’t… but it was enjoyable anyway.
I’m used to this section of the show being a longer discussion on a topic. With the Feb 23 episode this has changed and has become a series of short head-to-head debates about a number of issues. I’m not sure whether this is sustainable – are there that many topics in the Hobby? Possibly… I tend to focus on the issues that matter to me. We’ll see. This section may not be a permanent change; we’ll see.
Anyway, David Hood was joined by Jordan Connors, Playdip’s own Conq. There were a number of topics. One of the guys would give their opinion, then the other would counter. There would be a little back and forth, and then they’d move on. Short, sharp debates; the Diplomacy Briefing of Dip debates.
I found myself agreeing with one of them on some subjects, the other on others. Which is good. It must mean my opinions are pretty well-balanced overall and *cough*, by extension, that I must be right in what I think *cough*. But you all knew that already, I know.
I was surprised that Jason argued that Draw-Based Scoring was not a good reflection of the play in favour of SC count and by his dismissal of the Rulebook as an outdated document in some respects (based on David’s assertion that DBS is founded on the rule that you win, you draw, or you lose, for example).
I’m not sure that the stances the two took were completely consistent with their own opinions all the time but it made for an interesting watch. And it was all the more intriguing as it had David as the representative of the FTF hobby, while Jason stood for the online hobby.
Anyway, enough of this – go watch it.
There’s one thing I’ll say about this episode. When it was over I thought I had to write a post about it. Why? It was, for me, that good. The “Two Way Draw” segment was refreshing, although I think I wouldn’t like to see it replace the meatier discussions they’ve had in the past. And it’s always good to listen to the thoughts of people who have become Diplominati. Made me realise that I’d like to do more opinion pieces myself.