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Past European Tournaments


Kid Chameleon Editor


14th July 2010

As a nation, things aren't going well for Portugal. The threat of Greek default and ejection from the Eurozone risks spreading like a fiscal cancer to Portugal and Ireland (with Spain and Italy also concerns). Unemployment is rising, economic growth is stagnant and, what is infinitely worse, Portuguese Mega Drive is in decline. When Alberto Campos organised the original Portuguese Mega Drive Championship, in 2005, he could probably only dare to dream the path that was ahead: In the six-years that have followed, Alberto has, for three successive years, lead his nation to victory in the European Mega Drive Championships and established Portugal as the Premier Mega Drive nation on the continent. Alberto himself is ranked as one of the greatest 16-bit athletes in the world and shows a high level of ability across an array of Mega Drive titles.

Video game technology is now three generations further on than when the incredible Mega Drive romped into the world and keeping alive such a console, which has been unsupported by its creators for nearly fifteen years, is no easy task. Alberto should be exceedingly proud of sustaining 16-bit gaming in Portugal, as well as establishing domestic tournaments that contain some of the most elite warriors within Europe. Yet, somewhere along the way, things have gone wrong. Citing a 'lack of interest', Alberto has been forced to end his series of domestic tournaments. We offer our (unwarranted) opinions, hopefully cause some controversy, while looking ahead to the sparkling new 'jornada' leagues that will replace the seemingly unsalvageable tournaments.

The Enjoyment of Elimination
The easiest place to begin scrutinising is the 'three-stage' system that has served as Portugal's competition format since their creation. Aside from a few minor variants, the first two stages have been elimination leagues while the third was a four-person knockout. The brilliance of this is that it gives each and every member the opportunity to become the Mega Drive Champion. Losing is not fun and although defeat occurs to every member, except the eventual champion, there is a difference between losing after a lengthy Mega Drive adventure and being trapped at the foot of the Stage One tables where a perpetual cycle of defeat exists.

Looking at the statistics, it is clear to see defeat affects longevity: Members who have reached Stage Three, at some point in their Mega Drive careers, have participated, on average, in over six tournaments; those who have never progressed beyond Stage One average less than two. Of course there is the counter argument that those who play in more tournaments garner more experience and are able to advance further - a combination of these factors are likely to be true. What is certain is that while a straight knockout provides the opportunity for shock results, a tiered league system groups players of similar ability and varies results, for the weaker players an elimination league does none of these. While the poor teams in such competitions as football's Champions League have a huge amount of cash to console their defeats, Mega Drive has not yet reached that stage where money can sooth the woes of weaker players, nor is there another competition for them to retreat into. The fact that in later tournaments Stage One became seeded, may have increased the enjoyment of the better players, but it also reduced the opportunity for rogue elements to achieve an unlikely qualification.

Democracy Does Not Work
All organisations need leaders and Alberto Campos, creator and architect, is the boss of Mega Drive in Portugal. Through organisation, knowledge, experience and ability he is clearly the man at the top who makes the decisions. Where he differs from others is that he has installed a sense of democracy and entitlement among his members. Generally, this democracy comes in the form of game selection, albeit occasionally under restrictions imposed by Alberto. While this must certainly increase the enjoyment of the better players, who constantly get to enjoy the glory of victory on their favourite titles over and over again, what effect does this have upon the weaker players? Asking a weak player which Mega Drive game they wish to play must be a little like asking a condemned man which method of execution he would enjoy - the answer doubtlessly none. The opportunity for the better players to choose their strongest games virtually condemns their rivals to defeat. While it could be argued the solution is for the weaker to practice more, with so many games to select from, it is difficult to focus such training.

European Stagnation
Perhaps we are putting too much focus upon weaker players here. Portugal have created the strongest Mega Drive nation on earth and surely, in any competition, it is the strongest who shall prevail. Besides, every nation in the world has a strong/weak divide. In England it is known as Division One and Division Two. In Germany it is known as Tobias Berg and everybody else. Losing is boring, but the winners also have cause for complaint and it lies not within the national shores, but with the lack of competitiveness in the European Championships. In some ways the Portuguese are victims of their own success: The gap between their nearest rivals, Team Germany, has widened since 2008. Following the 2010 Championship in Nuremberg, the Portuguese were critical of Team England for failing to train and the subsequent poor performance - they perhaps have a point. In 2008 and 2009 the English may have finished last, but at least they gave it a go. The team of 2010, seemed consigned to defeat from the beginning, and bought virtually nothing to the event itself. The ideal of the European Mega Drive Championships is utterly awesome, however, continual predictable victories are hardly the reward the Portuguese elite aspire to.

Revolution or Stagnation?
So how will the new Jornadas be different for the failed tournaments? Essentially they are a monthly occurrence operating very much as a condensed version of the preceding tournaments: the three stage system remains and participants have the rights to vote on and veto games. The differences are much more subtle: the events will be being a closed door affairs with participated at the discretion of the host and each Jornada will have a theme. It is hoped that such measures increase friendliness and enjoyment, although aside from dramatically reducing the number of contestants, it is very difficult to understand what this transformation shall achieve. While the Jornadas seem like a step backwards, sometimes this is necessary in order to progress further forward. In spite of a 'lack of interest' in the Lisbon quarter, there is the fire of Mega Drive Championshippery continues to burn in Portugal. The Thirteenth Mega Drive Championship saw the competition spread 300km north to the city of Porto where a new crop of Mega Drive athletes challenged two of the older order. It is hoped that this branch of the tournaments continues to grow in spite of the loss of Lisbon.

Details of the First Jornada will be published shortly...