The main three arguments that started this discussion were:
1. Soup lists would not be as effective if players stuck to an army list that was pure fluff by the universe/lore of Warhammer 40K.
2. Games Workshop would not need to nerf units and rules so much if they were not used and abused so much in tournaments.
3. The overpowered units get buffed by Games Workshop because then more players would buy them.
I think that the people I spoke with were forgetting a specific fourth point which is that in any game that pits player versus player, there will always be an element of competitiveness. That just cannot be helped as even in a friendly fun game both players want to win. It's simply human nature.
The main responses to the three points above were:
1. If Games Workshop did their job right then the game would be balanced and problems like soup lists wouldn't be an issue.
2. People should not be punished or put down because they enjoy the play style they find most fun.
3. It's Games Workshop's fault for releasing a rules set that can be abused like this.
You can certainly see that this is a topic that resulted in a lot of discussion, much of it heated. But it raised a further three points that I am going to try and address here myself:
1. Is competitiveness ruining/has ruined Warhammer 40K?
2. Why is it ruining/has ruined 40K?
3. How can we fix this?
In this particular discussion my response to point 1 was "yes, somewhat". War games by their very nature are meant to be competitive exercises. The problem is that Warhammer 40K is a game that generally draws two sorts of people - competitive players who play the mechanical side of the game and casual / narrative players who (usually) want to play less competitively but are more interested in playing because of the fluff side of the game. In my experience, the two sides rarely enjoy a game together because they want different things out of it.
Competitive play is about winning, although not necessarily WAAC (win at all costs). It's turning up with a perfect list and playing it to achieve victory. That is fine when it is competitive versus competitive. More often than not though I see competitive players using that same style against less competitive players and casual players, usually to detriment of the casual players enjoyment of the game. It is almost as if some competitive players cannot tone their play style down to accommodate the play style of their opponent. That however is not the fault of the game but the problem of having two very different styles of play. I sometimes wonder whether traditional historical war gaming has the same issue?
Some may disagree with me here but I have found that the 8th edition rules do not support a competitive style of play very well. It is too easy to break the mechanics and push the envelope too far. However, if played for a fun and casual format that isn't built around using and abusing the mechanics of a much simpler system than we have had before, it works fantastically. It is a war game so it is going to have tournaments and competitive events but I don't feel that that is where the heart and soul of 8th edition lies. Nor do I think it was the intent of Games Workshop was to produce a competitive game system.