Let’s talk about the GBWC and how to fix it, unless you’re bored of it already

First off, a little housekeeping. It’s been a while since I posted. I’ve been busy, and have not found something good or juicy to write about. Secondly, some caveats. This is likely going to largely resemble Tim of Child of Mecha’s recent facebook stream, so If you don’t have the time or are averse to reading things above a certain length, by all means listen to that. In fact, it might be worth listening to that first before reading this. Another caveat, and I really should not have to write this but I feel in this age of major misunderstanding I should, everything here is just my opinion, and I am happy to have my mind changed.

Every model that won something this year, very well done to you all. You are brilliant, amazing and highly skilled builders I have a tremendous amount of respect for. There are some models however, I just don’t like. Not because they’re not well done, but because I have my own tastes. I actually cringe slightly reading back this sentence, it seems you can’t say anything without it being seemed as a statement of objective fact. What a bizarre culture social media is generating. What I want to address as many already have is the massively inconsistent judging, and if the GBWC can even be taken seriously as a contest for modellers any more?

As Tim put it, there seems to be a confusion as to whether the GBWC is a contest of artistic expression, or of technical design. I would rephrase it as, is the GBWC an art, or design show? Should it be constrained within the world of Gundam, or be allowed to go beyond? It’s already constrained within Gunpla, so it fits it’s namesake at the very least, but is that enough to allow a contest such as we have just experienced?

The GBWC every year has some kind of controversy or social media hype, but I think this is the first time the scrutiny of judging has spread into the ‘mainstream’ of the community. The issue is the consistency across the regional events – in particular cases such as the USA by comparison to the Japanese winners, the distance in style between the two is very obvious. The USA’s winner, as stunningly created as it is, is a neon-techno anime dream of gunpla, with virtually no connection to the Gundam universe other than it’s base parts. The Japanese entry looks like a technical drawing from a Dendrobium Haynes manual, complete with cutaway revealing some stunningly meticulous inner detailing. These two are a great example of the obvious contrast in judging style. So what’s the problem with this? Everyone builds a model they like right? on an open playing field. There’s complete, artistic freedom to go either the design route, or the art route. Great right? I disagree. I disagree becuase it is stright up, unfair.

There are builders who have varying tastes, but I also think when you get to a certain level of mastery you’ve concentrated and practiced on so many particular skills that you’re not capable of expressing skills in a completely different style, at least not to a level that could compete. I could not for example, see Seth Tuna put together a piece as artistically expressive as Win Eiam Ong, and perhaps vice-versa. Not to judge these two modellers of course, but I could imagine forcing these chaps to do one style they’re not comfortable with will almost certainly impact their motivation to compete. This to me rules out the GBWC in it’s current form, or the idea of ‘theming’ the contest annually which would make it pretty boring.

And here we arrive at a possible solution, and one I think all Gunpla modellers, worldwide should be advocating for. Categorisation. Tim suggested this in his address and I think this is a perfect solution we should all get behind. At the very least, make 2 categories, one for ‘design’ based builds, that could (perhaps) exist within the Gundam universe or approximation of, and one ‘expressive’ or ‘artistic’ category in which anyone is free to do anything, as long as it uses Gunpla. It’s so simple, and surely would not be all that tricky to implement? It would of course mean 2 winners, or multiple winners, but as much as I hate to speculate on the marketing strategy of a multi-million dollar company, it would in my opinion be a smart and very inclusive marketing strategy for Bandai. How each piece however would be deemed to go into each category would be down to the entrants, and the judges to decide. Contentious perhaps, but fairer than ‘enter it and see what happens’.

The ‘design’ category would be judged by seasoned, actual scale mech modellers, and the ‘art’ category, by seasoned art-based and more expressive modellers. The details of who and how I don’t know, but I know it would be a more gratifying solution. There could of course, still be an ‘overall’ winner from either category, deemed as ‘the best’ and judged by an entirely different mix of judges. At least this way, people can be more confident that their skillset will be judged fairly, and in the spirit of real competition. Put it this way, javalin throwers in the olympics don’t compete with the hammer throwers, even though they’re essentially still trying their best to throw an object the furthest.

┬áPut it this way, javalin throwers in the olympics don’t compete against the hammer throwers, even though they’re trying their best to throw an object the furthest.

As much as we all discuss and advocate for reforming ideas as a community, there is of course one thing we should all understand. Bandai, does not care about modellers, it cares about sales. Sounds cold, but it’s true, and if you think otherwise you are kidding yourself. Understanding this however should not make you ‘hate the capitalist machine’. This company is responsible for a franchise you love, and without it there would be no Gunpla. Sure there’s other companies doing it, but without the success of Gunpla they wouldn’t exist either. Bandai is either going to take notice, or not – the fact is we don’t know, but we can at least write, make videos about and rant about the GBWC across the internet and at least attempt to be heard. For now, let’s congratulate the winners, even if you don’t like the models. One day perhaps you’ll win, and see how you feel when everyone tells you, you don’t deserve it after spending months and months on a build. You can hate the model, but there’s no point in hating the modeller.