Everyone feared that the days of organized Yu-Gi-Oh! play would be over, at least for a long time as the pandemic wasn't expected to end in a few short months. It is unfortunately still going strong and the beloved table 500 is nowhere in sight more than a year later. Of course, online Yu-Gi-Oh! exploded in popularity as duelists flocked onto simulation sites since they were the only outlets providing competition or just because they gave players the opportunity to play against their friends or new people once more from the comfort of their homes.
Then, Konami announced remote duels to incentivize players to use their own cards again. There were some mixed reactions in the beginning. Remote duels were initially viewed as a return to the stone age of internet when MSN chats were a thing – I remember dueling via MSN Messenger once. It wasn't popular at first as it was much easier to play on online simulators. But then Konami started holding remote duel invitationals with prize support to show players that the idea works while slowly drawing them back into organized play.
Slowly but surely, a lot of local events are up and running with the help of remote dueling. Players pay online to enter official tournaments with prize support and play in a safe environment without risky physical contact (that is one sentence I never thought I'd ever write or think about).
Apart from safety, there are other reasons why remote dueling is a good thing. The first being that players can finally use their own cards. Online simulators have an advantage as the entire card pool is available. With a more limited card pool—basically what everyone has lying around at their disposal—makes players think of new ways to combine their cards together and come up with new ways to play certain strategies. This also encourages players to keep buying new Yu-Gi-Oh! products as now there is an outlet to use them.
Also, no matter how good a simulation program is, there is just something different about seeing the opponent and trying to read their expressions, body language, the tone of voice, the nervous way their hand is being shuffled. All of this helps players read their opponents to predict their next moves or to find out whether they intend to bluff or if they are conserving certain cards for later. All of this makes the interaction seem more human. You are conversing with your opponent instead of typing. Granted, tournaments relying on simulators use also Discord for voice chats, but still the experience is not as complete or fulfilling.
Lastly, remote dueling seems to be the way the game would go forward for the time being until things go back to normal. We have some sort of organized play events that are safe to "attend" such as OTS tournaments, extravaganzas, Yu-Gi-Oh! Day tournaments. Who knows how much this might develop and what other kind of tournaments Konami might include? I think leaning toward remote dueling might slowly push Yu-Gi-Oh! to "esports territory."
A stable internet connection is your best friend, but if you are having internet problems, you can either miss out on a tournament or disconnect during one, causing you to lose a game or a match, and that certainly is frustrating. Along with the internet connection, you need either a camera or a cellphone. In theory either of those should support you for the duration of the tournament but a cellphone can overheat, or the battery might die without you noticing. A camera might malfunction, or your mic wouldn't work. Many things might go wrong, however these are all minor concerns that can be mitigated by being careful and checking the equipment from time to time.
Another concern is the camera setup itself. I am not talking about having a dedicated area for your setup, but if it is a removable setup, you might struggle a little to set everything up time and find the best camera angle to have your field appear as clearly as possible without showing your hand to your opponent. Also, there is some cost—though minor—associated with establishing the setup. You may want to purchase a webcam or a durable stand to complete your ideal camera setup.
All the above reasons are minor compared with the biggest problem facing remote duels, cheating. There are instances, especially in low-tier events like locals or OTS tournaments where deck lists are not required, allowing some cards to be swapped either between rounds or between games. An additional method involves spectating matches to find out what other players are playing, allowing the cheater to "amend" their decklist to counter those strategies. Another unfortunate reoccurrence is when the opponent's hands disappear off-screen for a few moments before returning with the perfect counter in hand. There was a high-profile case recently with the winner of a sanctioned event believed to have cheated his way to victory. I am not going to discuss this particular case as it's not 100% confirmed yet.
As a result of the above occurrences, a lot of players are afraid to play remotely and just lose to people who are not dueling fairly. Some judges of online event stipulate that hands should always be visible, and players are getting better at detecting unsportsmanlike behavior, however the issue still remains. I implore all players to duel fairly. Cheating to win is not worth it and having someone's name associated with such an act is not something that ever comes off of someone's record.
Remote dueling is the way to go right now. Whether it remains or not will depend on unknown factors. While I miss real-life events, I cannot complain about remote dueling, as it is the closest that we will get to the thrill of playing in real life.
What are your experiences with remote duels? Have you tried them? If so, how did you find them and what would you advise others to be aware of in terms of setups and dueling? Please share your experiences with others in the comments below!
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