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Aaron Fletcher on Yu-G-iOh!
Group Analysis: Conforming Pressures

February 9, 2007

I don't like the term cookie cutter, it never really appealed to me. Firstly due to me never eating cookies and secondly I really don't think that decks really are carbon copies of each other. If decks were exact copies of each other we wouldn't be where we are today, we wouldn't have hybrids, would we have a variation on gadgets for instance?  Rather, I believe that conformist decks ("cookie cutters") are dynamic, they change and grow and it's really a beautiful site to see, everyone working on which version they think will next make it big. It amazes me the amount of effort, planning and just sheer determination which people bring to this game and I suppose it's the reason why it has it's fan base of today. But what makes people play conformist decks? Why do people need to play decks that match every one else? Can we explain this net decking phenomena? 

Lets consider the player firstly, what does playing a deck which other people have created achieve? Well firstly people can use the argument that it's a 'tried and tested' method of obtaining that elusive Yu-Gi-Oh! Victory, or is it? Think about it, competitive 'conformist players' all play in a limited number of tournaments, roughly with the same skill levels (which in a certain area is pretty common), so by playing the same deck what are they doing? Playing the odds essentially as in order to win they must 'luck out' to get to the top. When considering conformation, winning isn't everything.

A counter argument to the above statement could be that people are deliberately trying to play the numbers, as they have no or little deck building skills. This is a very flawed argument as I have found that people who often run conformist decks often know more then those people who preach about originality (which by definition of the term is contradictory in a game with a limited number of cards). I see it as a requirement in order to stay ahead of the competition. Go do it yourself, go out and ask someone who plays a conformist deck what X card does in their deck and nine times out of ten they will recite every effect, ruling and possible permutation that you could have. In short conformist players know what they are doing.

Can we explain why people use these decks? First before I propose my theory lets consider where conformist decks arise. Competitive Players are under intense pressure to play the right move, win the right games and move in the right circles, but non the less they are under pressure. This pressure needs to come from somewhere so lets jump along this logic and say players are pressuring other players to be good, whether it be intentional or not. In any situation where your placed under pressure you'll follow a lifeline, a command, and if people proclaim that X deck is the best, your just like lambs to the slaughter. People are just waiting for that command to copy a card, a trap lineup and a deck.

And here is why. Its an often misconception that people are impervious to dominating authoritarian figures, while research does show that certain personalities can withstand pressures to conform the majority of it is clear – we as a group of people love to be told what to do. Let me highlight this claim with a study conducted in 1963 by Milgram. In this study there was a confederate (someone who worked for the psychologist) who acted as a learner, a participant who acted like a teacher and the psychologist. The teacher (who was the person were really interested in) was told that this was a study to look into the effects or learning and punishment.

The teacher asked the learner questions and each time they incorrectly answered a question they had to shock the learner (obviously there was no shocking involved, just cleaver acting), each time after that they had to increase the voltage level for every incorrect answer. Now a lot of the participants resisted this shocking the confederate and they showed signs of stress (incoherent speech, sweating, and hesitation). When they showed this to the psychologist all the psychologist responded with was "You must continue the experiment".  Shocking isn't that around 64% of that participants killed the confederate, even when they saw the effect of this? 64% would just follow an order, which is around 6 in 9 of us. Think again if you're impervious to dominating authoritarian figures.

The reason why I've gone to great lengths to highlight this study which does have ethical and methodological limitations is this, we humans just want to be told what to do when were stressed. Think about this and bring it back to the TCG. Were playing 'original decks' and we don't win for a period of time this would cause stress in ourselves, we doubt our dueling ability. If people surrounding us are winning with a certain decktype (the authoritarian figure if you will) research that 6 in 9 of us should adopt this deck.

Trying to bring back round the idea of conformist I'll highlight this argument. Conforming to a list isn't as easy as Ctrl and C (in most cases). When building a deck you usually debate over cards and it's hard to make up your mind. In a closed knitted community of duelists there will be one card that a group of players will say is a cut above the rest. By saying this, they will challenge your core belief that another card is better, and you can either go two ways. Firstly you can try to withstand your group or secondly you will adopt the ideal of the group (roughly 64%), which is to place their card in instead of yours. This happens numerous times so is it any surprise that after a while, I.e towards the end of the meta, that decklists look the same? In short conformation and decks appearing similar are inevitable.

So if 6 in 9 of us naturally adopt this deck, are these people wrong? Maybe its that they just want to fit in, as playing a conformist deck does this, and winning doesn't come into this. The only place where winning comes into this is the reason why they switched off original decks.  Ill make a bold argument here, maybe it's the fact that originals fail to prevent their 'few' from being susceptible to conformation that more and more conformist decks are created. If originalists had better decktypes then the few that fracture into conformist decks just wouldn't. Now this isn't a go at the originalists, it's a go at the card pool. Inevitably in this card pool there isn't enough cards to provide enough support to each theme.

In conclusion conformation to decktypes is the norm, so there really isn't any need to look down on people for having similar decks.

Next Article: Aaron Fletcher's Take on the Manchester Regionals

If you want to challenge anything that I have said or just want to send a hello please contact emuron@gmail.com . All emails will be responded to.

Aaron Fletcher


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