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Cardfight!! Vanguard and the toxic players

Since May of last year. a reboot of the Trading Card Game anime Cardfight!! Vanguard has been airing, following the events of the manga which, while having the same characters as the anime, the events, story, and focus are vastly different. The original series, especially the first season,was more akin to a sports anime (with some subtle supernatural elements) and an overall lesson that the persons who get bullied must not become bullies themselves, the second one was closer to a gang fight story; but besides that, what this reboot has done in both its seasons is the analogy of the actual behaviors of the players that can actually ruin a game, the players and the environment of enjoyment one can get by playing them.

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Before continuing, I will tell that I´m not going to be ranting about things like “Gate-keeping,” “Toxic discourse,” “ceiling,” and such, for that I think there are a lot of other articles you can read and enjoy. This one will focus more on the other side, the side of the players whose fun might get in danger after being exposed to different behaviors both from outside and inside the group or game of which they are a part.

I say this because the objective of games, included the Trading Card Games (although board games, video games, and such can be included too) are meant to be entertaining, challenging, and ultimately fun; that by bringing a positive experience to the game, interpreted as enjoyment, this will hook the player and they will start playing the game and making a community around it. Having said that, the anime of Cardfight!! Vanguard has revealed three examples in the form of the villains that appears in the story.

In the first season, we get to know Aichi, who is a noob and the proxy for the series. He little by little gets better, and eventually the strides that he and his friends get some attention to certain gang (and the first example), The Foo Fighters (or Asteroids as translated in the west). They are, as foolish as it sounds, a gang centered on the Trading Card Game of Vanguard: they go into any card store and by nasty methods impose their own law and order for the people at the store to make business or for the players to actually start playing the game. This instances, while exaggerated, are examples of when certain players force others to play competitively, even though the place and time when the game is being held is just a group of friends or acquaintances having a good time, just goofing around and have some matches. They come, impose their rule of always playing seriously, always competitively, always with the intent of winning and improving, and while the improvement can be done in any moment and place, the focus of certain reunions or places is not that. Another example is how someone might get by screaming “Sexism,” “Gate keeping,” “Toxic discourse,” and other forms of diatribe will force its way in a place, forcing that the game must be played with certain mindset, certain cards, certain words, making an effect that a place that should feel chill and relaxing now becomes one where one feels as if they are walking on eggshells. These two examples end up putting away the fun of the players who might think different, the player who just want to relax, enjoy, and have a good time starts getting frustrated, starts getting angry and maybe silently or with a bang, leaves either in search of another place or another form of enjoyment.

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Certainly when the competitive games or when the official shows of a game are held, certain decorum is to be expected in the form of the ways to play and the language used. This kind of events and the focus of their code of conducts are more on the sense of a “don´t be a dick, and don´t be a cheater”, not applied to the more local and niche communities in any given place whose focus is just to have fun and not so much to show certain image to the community.

Now, while these kinds of behavior from the Foo Fighters/Asteroids are actually damaging to a community, one can never doubt that the place where they come is a place of love to the game and a desire for the community to get better. The competitive player wants everyone to improve, maybe dreaming that this group of friends he has will one day make it big at the cost that the game might stop being fun; the other one wants to show that the group where they belong is an open one, to be reflected as a good place for the whole society, even though such rules ends up affecting the players of that group. The Foo Fighters/Asteroids wants the same, want the game to always be played competitively and to be shown as a serious sport, at its heart wants the best for the game they are part of. So while their drastic methods are extreme, the passion they feel can at the very least be understood. Such is not the case with what challenges the heroes find in the second season.

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In the second season of Vanguard, the group that Aichi has formed (a Cardfight club in his highschool), alongside his friends from the previous season find themselves in a desperate situation against not one, but two enemies of different nature, but equally bad for any environment of any community surrounded by any game or activity.

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The second season shows us the beings known as PSYqualya Zombies and the character of Kouji Ibuki. For the former, first I will quickly explain what “PSYqualya” is — more or less, it is the combination of the heart of the cards that Yugi Mutou has and his ability to mess with the mind of hisrival. Therefore, it lets you connect with the creatures on your deck and hear them, giving you a full hindsight from the battle, knowing which creature has big morals and who doesn´t, which card will come and which not, and letting the rival gets messed in theirhead, at the cost that the user might get screwed in their head due to the nature of interacting with beings from another plane of existence. With that explained, the PSYqualya Zombie, is a person who by artificial methods has been forced to get the PSYqualya ability, since this skill does not come naturally. The mind of the user gets filled with thoughts of wanting to fight any opponent, especially strong ones, defeating them and spread the PSYqualya ability like a zombie invasion movie. It is a sickness that can be cured by defeating the user, deleting the PSYqualya and its desire to keep spreading such way of thinking.

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This PSYqualya Zombie thing, their desire to defeat opponents and keep fighting is one that resembles the kind of player whose sole purpose to play is to win. This player doesn´t care about the fun, enjoyment, strategy, or anything that a game might have; their only purpose is to win, win, and win, losing is not permitted, is not fun or engaging. If they say they want to fight someone strong it is only to defeat them and add a star to their score of wins, feeling better than the others, more intelligent, they are a bad winner and even a worse loser, playing not because they love the game, not because it’s fun to play; no, what it wants its just to win, so if a defeat knocks its door, it won´t be taking it nicely, and if the losses keeps coming it might throw a tantrum borne out of its frustrations that the desire to be the victor has not been satisfied. Winning equals fun and losing equals frustrations. Now while very individualistic, if someone like the “PSYqualya Zombie” appears and one starts losing against someone who is a bad winner who humiliates their opponents, it will bring to the victim a desire for revenge, to defeat the one who laughed at him. This will inevitably center the victim like someone whose only purpose is to win, too; the defeat is just a signal of weakness and a reminiscence of the original player who mocked him. Therefore, winning is fun and losing is frustration, acting in the same way and spreading such way, like a zombie invasion.

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The second one is the character of Kouji Ibuki. Kouji Ibuki (voiced by Mamoru Miyano) is a character that yells and always says that he hates this Trading Card Game, yet still keeps playing it. He has a revenge to enact and has the weird ability to “delete” the person he fought with, understanding that “deleting” is cutting the ties with Vanguard, makes the person no longer interested with the game, the world, and its fights. While the true intentions of Ibuki are a mystery, there is something certain: the player that loses to him will not be a player anymore.

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Kouji Ibuki resembles the player who, like him, keeps telling how a game is bad, how its unbalanced, how its sexist, how is not open enough, how the game its biased towards certain play styles, how he keeps saying the game sucks but keeps playing. While talking about such points is always welcome and can make true change, the repetitiveness of it gets tiresome and the words preached do not reach the ears that must hear them, it only reaches the people who do not care, nor can do anything to change such situations. It becomes toxic, a poison that brings boredom and headaches, makes a game that before brought enjoyment, excitement and fun, a chore to play, a feeling of slog every time one dares to think of grabbing the deck/controller/board. It sucks the fun out of the game and makes one search for another venue of enjoyment. It makes an active user an inactive one. Still, this player shows (and even Kouji is evidenced by this fact) the hypocrisy of their words, since if the game is not fun then… why keep playing? Why keep being part of a community of which they do not approve? What makes them attached to it? It might be a remembrance of the past, it might be just that they’re used to it, maybe it is just a child making a tantrum with the hopes that its cries will make their parents come and cater to them? Whatever the case, the crusade it has, as said before, does not meet the ears that needs to be heard and only kills the community.

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All these examples, if one is or was part of a community centered on a hobby, most likely has appeared in any way or form, maybe even someone encapsulates more than one way of behavior. Nevertheless, the reboot of Cardfight!! Vanguard is one that while showing us an engaging story, it is also a testament of how certain ways of thinking can damage a brand, can suck the fun out of any game, but also, it shows us with Aichi and his friends how a player must be, how a destroyed community can be rebuild, and how one can make one where there was none at first. And it is just simply by the sole desire to have fun, and the desire that others start having fun with you while playing the game.

Cardfight!! Vanguard can be seen every Saturday morning in both the official youtube channel and Crunchyroll.

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Props to MamaLuigi for checking and editing my ramblings!

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