Saturday, May 7, 2011

Is Fair the New Good?

One of the major changes to the WFB environment since the advent of 8th edition is the inclusion of units with a huge number of models. This may be driven by the horde rules and how they have influenced the meta-game. The thing I ponder regarding this change is whether or not it has impacted the quality of the armies being fielded. Another way to put it, “Is average the new good?”

I don’t claim to be anything but an average painter, but I do put my heart into my work. When someone gives me a complement, I take it seriously and am very thankful for it. On the same token, when someone criticizes my work, I tend to listen with filters. The thing is either way, I normally get a fair judgment once I account for all of the feedback. I think the same is true when reviewing the feedback given to others regarding their work.

When it comes to feedback that others receive, this is where I am noticing a trend in opinions. It seems to me that folks are being more generous with the complements than they were a couple of years ago. Pieces that are table-top in quality, and labeled as such by the artist, are garnering a lot of positive feedback. While I have nothing against positive feedback, as painting a single model can be a labor of love, I do wonder if this pattern is the result of a larger underlying current.

If we look at the last couple years, the market has enjoyed an explosion of new painting products that have allowed the typical painter to achieve table-top standards in a shorter time and with less effort. Wonderful products like GW washes and Army Painter’s line of dips and spray paints can make the choir of painting that much more bearable. The results from these products can be nice, but rarely would I consider them outstanding or breathtaking. Based on this thought, I am lead to wonder if it is something else that is causing this uptick in positivity.

Maybe the "average is good" trend is the result of the community realizing on some level that the size of the game has gotten to the point that we need to embrace shortcuts if we are to meet the typical painting demands of the hobby while satisfying our own collective ADD. Spending a lot of time on a single model doesn’t seem so bad when you only need 16 of them to play a game. Spending the same amount when you know that you need 100+ more of them can be a chilling reality that freezes the life from a hobbyist’s motivation.

In conclusion, we should embrace the trends in positive feedback that are happening. They help to inspire all of us as we strive to meet our personal goals within the hobby. While we may not all be equals with a brush, we all are companions on the journeys that we take with them. So continue to celebrate this journey and share your feedback with whoever inspires you to continue on the path. For no matter whether it is the destination in the form of a finished model, or the journey itself in the way of various painting techniques, we all like to know what we are doing right at the end of the day.


  1. Excellent commentary, you are dead on. I also think that many tourneys are focusing more on the battle points a la 'Ard Boys which reduces the role that painting plays and the painting standard suffers for it.

    However, I think tournament play aside we can all encourage players to get their armies painted in the shops. With all the new products (Devlan Mud) there is really no reason that everyone can't have a decent tabletop army!

  2. I don't follow painting trends much, but I think that I'm quite likely to give more positive feedback to tabletop quality work than really outstanding artistic work.

    I think it's for two main reasons: besides a boring 'that's really nice' I may not be able to think of much to say about the top-quality work. And while 'that looks really nice' is encouraging to someone who's painting to tabletop standard, I would guess that it means less to a real artist.

    The other reason is that being someone who aspires to paint to (only) tabletop standard myself, I'm more impressed by something that inspires me in a practical way, or that speaks to me personally. I know I'll never win a Golden Daemon, and I'm not interested enough to put the time in to become an expert painter, so the top quality stuff, however nice it is, remains something outside of my 'real life'. Good tabletop quality stuff however, is something that anyone _can_ hope to achieve, and it's certainly something I can hope to achieve. So when I see good tabletop paint jobs that perhaps inspire me to paint something the same way, or just get on with painting my army to the same standard, I'm in a way, more impressed.

  3. Interesting read and my only comment is "I'm not sure". I do think the 'average joe' painters make up the bulk of the hobby. Many of them are either silent or don't post pics but this is the trend I see changing. More & more 'average joes' are posting their armies.

    I think all of us realize what an investment of time painting an army is whether it is painted to table top standard or to god-like virtues.

    I try to follow 2 rules, in general, when posting about others works. If I can't say anything positive or constructive then I just won't say anything. (*and yes, I've learned this the hard way)

    I will say I've often seen constructive criticism not well received, even when well intended.

    People always think I'm some amazing painter, I don't personally think that I'm there yet. But I do always tell them that if I can do it, then anyone can do it. Something I whole heartedly believe.

    In general, I feel like WFB has taken on a more positive tone overall on the internet. Sure there is lots of negativity out there still but I feel more positive about what I read overall. I'm also trying to practice positivity on the internet as a rule of thumb. And again - If I can do it, then anyone can.


  4. I fully agree with Domus re: only saying something positive or constructive, and about trying to make the internet as positive a place as possible.

    There's so much negativity out there it's quite depressing. Which does I suppose mean that people do really appreciate praise. Which makes giving praise (or constructive criticism) even more of a good thing.

  5. Great discussion. I think it is also important to consider the quantity of work in addition to the quality. I hold in high regard someone that paints a horde army to even tabletop standard, it's quite an undertaking. Also, I love when folks come up with a way to do something smarter (ie faster).

  6. I find myself typically only giving positive feedback that is not really based so much on the level of quality, but how much it aligns with what I am doing.

    @Retroalias - I admit one of the things I am envious of is folks that can do large numbers of models in a short time and get them to come out looking good. I am a tiny detail type person, so even a single 4 point model can take me days to paint (8-10 hours).

    @Angelic - Personally, I tend to avoid giving constructive feedback. The internet is such a sensitive place, so I tend to avoid commenting on other people's stuff unless I am friends with them and they are making it clear that they are open to feedback. Even then, I don;t know much so my opinions are little more than just that.

    @Domus - I think a lot of times people post not looking for constructive critism or suggestions, but to receive acknowledgement for what they have accomplished. It can be very difficult to tell at times which someone is looking for unless they clearly state their intention.

    I think it depends on the site when it comes to tone. When the recent Storm of Magic was announced, the community on some sites were negative at best. In general, it seems like the race/army specific forums tend to be more positive than the ones built around a location or more general in content.