So over the last couple of months I’ve become increasingly burned out on Netrunner. Don’t worry, this isn’t another rant about how Faust/IG/NEH/Whizzard/whatever is ruining the game. It’s more just that I’ve played this beautiful game and thought about it more or less non-stop for the last few years, even starting up a blog and trying to give new players a resource to know what’s happening in the meta.
Part of this is that I’ve been gravitating towards another activity that ticks the same boxes – intense mental activity, an ongoing metagame, seemingly impenetrable insider jargon and an incredibly friendly community. As anyone who’s even vaguely associated with me in real life will know, I’ve become completely obsessed with Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ).
So instead of a Netrunner article, this is going to be a Netrunner’s perspective about blowing off my local ANRPC qualifier to take part in my first BJJ tournament.
If you haven’t heard of it, BJJ is a grappling art, which means it’s basically a form of wrestling. The goal is to submit or ‘tap out’ your opponent, which typically involves putting on a choke or locking a limb to the point that the opponent gives up. It’s most famous because of its significance in mixed martial arts like the UFC, in which it’s the dominant martial art used for ground fighting (also known as the part where the guys stop punching each other and hug sweatily for a few minutes on the floor).
Surprisingly, there are a ton of similarities to Netrunner that got my head into it. I’ve been a big fitness and martial arts guy for quite some time, but this has some specific qualities that really drew me in. The first is the strategic aspect of it. Every position in BJJ has a branching flowchart of moves, counters and counter-counters leading to the next position. Being successful is a matter of executing your gameplan while mercilessly exploiting any weakness the opponent gives you. Abram Jopp of runthenet would probably be great at BJJ. A newer practitioner might need a gap of several inches to exploit, but give a veteran a centimeter or two and you’ll be done in no time at all. After a couple of months, I started thinking of Noise as a jiu-jitsu deck – work your way towards a position, then inexorably choke your opponent out.
The most welcoming parallel is the community aspect. Remember when you first turned up to your local Netrunner night and realised just how nice everyone is? Well as it turns out, BJJ has literally the friendliest community I’ve ever encountered, ever. You walk in and are instantly treated as a brother. After a couple of nights I realised that it’s actually for a similar reason: you will suck at first. Oh boy, will you suck. Think about when you played Netrunner against a stranger for the first time. You probably had a crappy deck, felt nervous and got utterly destroyed in the nicest way possible. BJJ is like that on steroids. You won’t know what to do with your hands, arms, legs or face and will find yourself turned upside down and inside out by someone half your size. All your instincts are wrong – and that’s ok, because every person who’s walked through that door has had exactly the same thing happen to them! The people around you are incredibly supportive because they’ve had the same period of complete annihilation that you have. Of course, in a combat sport like BJJ this feeling lasts for basically your whole career, even as you realise that now you’re the one stomping newbies and trying to help them out. It took almost a month before I was able to tap an opponent out in a live sparring session and I still only hit submissions in maybe 1 in 10 rolls.
Having gotten heavily into this sport, training 4 to 5 times a week for 1.5 – 3 hours a session, it was only natural that when my gym was holding a tournament for first-time competitors that I’d want to have a go. I drilled my game plan, watched a million YouTube videos and badgered a couple of friends into coming down for moral support. What could go wrong?
I won’t go into depth here, but safe to say that my tournament experience followed roughly the same pattern as my first Netrunner tournament, which is to say that I got utterly stomped on twice, drew once and managed to pull out a win in my final match. Matches are only 5 minutes long but feel like an hour and adrenaline pumps through you between rounds as you watch others compete and wait for the call to the mat. Both of the losses came from over-committing against a stronger, more experienced opponent and being punished for it – my first match ended in a textbook triangle choke within 45 seconds, as adrenaline blasted through me and I committed one of the cardinal newbie sins of putting one arm inside my opponent’s guard and one arm out.
Having suffered a couple of embarrassing defeats, I was extremely not looking forward to my final match and mostly wanted to go home. My teammates and friends who’d kindly come along for support convinced me to stay positive and stay in the fight, and I went into the last match more relaxed and ready to execute my plan. The win involved a fair bit of scrambling around, climbing onto my opponent’s back and finally locking the choke on in literally the last five seconds of the match, after which I felt like the most kick-ass human being on the face of the earth!
The reason I write this isn’t just because BJJ is great and I would (and indeed do) recommend it to everyone. It’s also to let you guys know why I’ve been putting out less content lately. I’m not out of Netrunner, but I’m playing it a lot less and not thinking about it as much. Going back to university is also a big factor here. I’ll still put some content out, but right now I don’t think the Meta Snapshot is going to continue. Hopefully once I start having fun with the game again, I’ll put out some articles like the older ones, looking at specific decks or concepts. I’m also thinking about more tangentially-related content like this. My mate Eric who a lot of you know suggested some videos or articles about related cyberpunk media and music which should be interesting. I also want to maintain the Big List of Decks, so if anyone wants to send through content for that I’ll happily put it up.
Thanks for tuning in, and happy running!