Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Gamer Bro Meltdown Crisis

So some people know I had a game breakdown between players. It Is sad and left everyone losers. You shouldn't have to judge between friends. I'm not going to repeat the circumstances but I will put out some thoughts which reflect issues in geek culture as a whole.
This is mostly observations. I don't want to put words in peoples mouths or speak for people I cant pretend I feel their pain.

On person told me he has never had a fight between players because he selects them carefully. I find that a bit elitist and I am willing to give people a go because the pleasure of getting a new player or friend is worth a risk (If someone is a jerk or a fool they die more - if multiple players have a issue then I deal with it). If you say no to a player wanting to play you can come off as a jerk. I'm still undecided on best approach. Saying no to someone can have same result as in game meltdown.

Im a horrible game breaking player so veteran GMs cope better with me. I got booted out of a game group I Ran for 20 years because I transitioned between DM to player poorly. Actually every other person in group says they don't get why my friend blacklisted me. I had seen them do this to other people to so no surprise. I cut people off differently. Its better to give some reason. I wasn't really enjoying the other GM games really so losing game no biggie losing long time friends was more unwelcome.

I have a very smart friend and he likes to play moronic barbarians who start fights in every game which can ruin things for other players. I got nickname Murderface from some gamers when being a player. I will drive a truck load of babies into a gas station to stop cthulhu or ruin a scenario with one spell. Some players bring own agendas with them every game but they need to ask if it is ruining game or other players chance to enjoy. Lots of new or young players try all kinds of transgressive antisocial things in game that older players have gotten over years ago. "Im just roleplaying being a cannibal don't try to stop how I roleplay". I had a player say it was his character to be a rapist. I kept trying to kill the character but two other players used to pull unpleasant faces and just quit.

I have players who refuse to be in same game as each other. It is sad but ok. I had a player who would morally berate other players an inch from their face and take in game conduct way too seriously. Some players enjoy tormenting other players sensitivities. Some engage in player vs player in a fun way, others have not learned how. Others wont play with youths.

Some combinations of people don't get along. They might have other beef outside of game. So blowing up in game possible event. Saying I dont think you should be in this group can be harsh but i might consider doing this more if it saves worse blow ups in game. Id rather say it in a way that keeps the door open like offer to play some other game.

If gender or race are the issue it will blow up a million times worse. If the conflict is really directly related to these issues you need to check yourselves. It the person involved in crisis happens to be the only representative of their kind you need to be careful to separate the issue from their difference if possible, but you might end up looking like their difference is the issue anyway. For example if a female leaves group over some issue based on taste to could be perceived as a gender issue and it could grow into one. A few stupid comments in the mix and some mansplaining can easily make things worse.

Racism and sexism is everywhere but in hobbies traditionally dominated by single males it can be worse. When a woman I know wanted a women's only game in a separate club area she got dozens of men offering to DM and others saying they wanted to watch the women play (? missing the point and a bit creepy). If women want this then let them. It is not an accusation that all men are creeps. Yes they might still have other conflicts in taste etc but it isnt a big deal to support this. I heard men outraged by this idea (similar to arguments over women's rooms at uni). There should be men only games then. Most of the games are for men already and many women suffer through the unconscious jibes stoically. Some women cope with this differently. I know women that are fine with guys all the time. I know other women who cant go to shop without getting several unwelcome comments and a rape threat. I imagine this would not be something you would get used to and could make you react in other situations.

Saying you support women's rooms but.... (insert some side personal issue or agenda like unfair to poor men) is not helpful. Find some other way or time to say this just don't use that phraze in the start of a sentence ever. Its just like saying Im not racist but niggers and wops and spicks and coons and slopes and gays are (x). One guy once declared "Im not against women just communist lesbian femenazis". Not helpful. I find lots of specialists in technology have some backward attitudes and "know best". Being smart doesn't make you just or considerate.

Try to talk out these issues outside of game if possible.

If someone expects every other player to change humour style they probably mean it. It is ok to say no but is your humour a form of bullying? If people are actively picking on person it is bad. If the attacks based on them not being a white male like rest of group then it is really bad.

Sex and gore tolerance can split groups that is ok. That is taste. I am now making effort to make this transparent in my game blurbs. Ive changed my blog header twice to be a clear dick head filter when some one criticizes some image i use or sex or violence in text. Ive had other people censer and remove my attempts at warnings. Family friendly gaming and adult gaming both ok but both can operate without being at the expense of other. Being really really obvious which you are should help conflict and at least you can say people were warned.

If someone is vocal about their unhappiness with leaving a game it has some unexpected problems. For the group and the DM it can smear you all. It is uncomfortable to have all the clerks in your game store have an opinion on a conflict they were not a witness to. You might have several people complain from different perspectives and this leaves no winners.

If someone in your community is driving off players for being women, their race, age, disability or mental health, it is good to know and for the community to react. If you are in a position of leadership you might be asked to intervene or have to take some action. You need to be careful with what you say. Don't be patronizing to possible victims or a tough cop based on hearsay. Listen without arguing about their feelings.

Mental health complicates everything and when you belong to a group always seemingly being abused minor sleights can be more serious. Ive met alot of odd characters in nerd land and many sensitive about something.

You don't know what bad experiences someone has had or other problems they experience. A bad day at home or work can make people react poorly.

Playing with people for a while then having to leave from a conflict is pretty hard on people who depend on game for a social life. Having your friends play a game you are excluded from is unpleasant. Having to avoid someone and thus a whole group of friends sucks. So it can be pretty distressing to have conflicts like this.

People don't have to agree. People are allowed to be upset. Calming someone down a bit is an ok goal but telling people their feelings are outright wrong or being patronizing may not help.

Arguing against peoples feelings generally not helpful. You can challenge or try to make them see another point of view. It may not help. They don't have to come around. Attacking them for being emotional is emotional too. Don't bring up other issues or discredit them with tangent issues.

If someone is talking about some meltdown they may not be "milking it for personal power or financial gain" as many gamergaters and bloggers argue. Possibly they just need to talk and want help. Once both sides engage in dishonesty things will get worse and insoluble. It might be lack of self assurance that they need to hear other peoples thought. If they don't get closure they may end up looking further and talking more when helping them quickly might deal with issue faster.

I've had female friends seek to talk about problems. While personally the gossip was probably not good for me I was more surprised that members of the community had terrible reactions. Actually women had some terrible reactions. I felt a bit harmed by all this as it was my game but I still don't think the reactions she got to her calling out for a dialogue were fair. Some women told her to be quiet and toughen up or questioned her mental age. Others dismissed her concerns. Some guys offered to kick arse. Some came over all patronizing and asked if she was a child. Some blamed on her mental health. Mostly she wanted to talk. If your in a leadership role in your community you might have to just listen and be sympathetic even if you don't always agree. Just letting someone blow of steam or talking can help. If you can come up ways of avoiding issues in future good.

Threads on club over these issues boiled into threats of legal action from people abusing and accusing each other. Some debates healthy and can expose douchebags. Some people will mouth off opinions on any issue. Some will take everything as a personal offence even if issue not really about them. Silencing this stuff will create problems later. You can ask people to calm down or take a break without discrediting their emotions. If a thread grows abusive you might need to establish rules and kill some arguments.

Size of community changes dynamics over this. Bigger groups end up with more opinions thrown around. Bigger groups often act dumber. Sometime you might get a split. It doesn't have to bad bad thing. I have seen hobbies grow and contract from these issues. Hopefully your scene is big enough to give players choice and strong enough to resolve these issues.

Gaming has plenty of opinionated and colourful players. Lots can't admit they are wrong or like to argue for fun which complicates things. Conflicts over money and ex couples can tear groups apart too. Becoming a certain size means you possibly need an incorporated society or club structure. Some of these I have seen transparent and honest. Some leave admins burnt out. Some hide all the legal stuff and meetings to keep power. Some have bitter internal club feuds. Often the person who does the most or secures a venue ends up having most power. The best ones work when people collectively don't want one poor bastard to do all the dirty work out of consideration and can share the load. Driving people out of a club because you leave garbage and messes is pretty sad.

If it seems like a job running your club or game it is ok to ask for help or take a break or go elsewhere.

Zac suggested that having other social opportunities like dinner and a meal to talk stuff out and have other basis for friendship out side of game is a good thing.

I wish I had some helpful advice and solutions but I don't really. Hopefully this is of some use even as a warning. Rule systems much easier to deal with than people. Part of the point is to let us agree on how to play lets pretend that failed in childhood games. Sometimes the same schoolyard fights happen anyway.

Feedback and gaming sob stories welcome in comments.

Happy gaming


  1. Well, you decry "choosing players carefully" as elitism, then provide a long list of reasons why we should choose players carefully. Perhaps you might consider joining the ranks of us choosy elitists?

    For me and the people I game with, it's the getting together with each other that is the point. If I didn't have friends to game with, I simply wouldn't game. D&D, etc.. isn't so important to me that it is an activity I have to do, no matter who it is with. I'm not going to tolerate passive aggressive knuckleheads, racists, homophobes, misogynists, people with horrible social skills, stenchy catpissmen, really anybody with some sort of political/social agenda who simply can't STFU about it, etc....just to game.

    On the other hand, if I'm running an official event at a convnetion, well sometimes I have to grin and bear it. I haven't had to do it yet, but if someone is egregiously rude/obnoxious/disruptive to the point of ruining the fun at the table, then they will get the boot.

  2. The game is just a game, the game is sometimes the excuse to socialize but I always feel the social aspect is more important than the game itself. If you have a group of people who don't really like each other and can't have fun together, then the game won't be fun or liked.

  3. Thank you for putting your thoughts out there. I don't have a sob story or feedback, but this is something I think about a lot.

  4. I don't think there is anything elitist about selecting players unless you play in a public space with a 'we'll find you a game' type policy. Personally I like to be very clear about the type of game, the people in it, the fact that I practice equal opportunities by exploiting anything and everything equally if that will make the game more fun (mostly halflings in black leather b&d gear in 1000 Towers lately). I also make it clear it is old school, characters die a lot and that you have to fit in with the others and follow my lead. It works mostly. One player brought a new guy who had the above warning, but had written a (for DM) difficult and extensive background which didn't fit the campaign well. I said I would try. However, second round of the first combat this character takes a hit, fails death save and dies. Whinny player for the rest of the session. It didn't work out because of poorly communicated expectations. I had a great yarn with him a couple of months back at a birthday party and we got on well, turns out that he is a drama student - if my friend had told me that when he had originally asked I would have been much clearer about what kind of game it was.

  5. OK I will be honest the guy who said he had never had a player conflict in any game (from a man with hundreds of games) because he was selective did come across as elitist more than the statement

    I personaly have made many friends from taking risks with gaming, giving people a chance and letting a few idiots play. A new idiot can make your old idiot seem superior and is like a promotion. Seeing the old idiot help the new idiot and become more responsible is kind of magic.

    I play in a club setting and con settings - all of my most loyal players I have had in last 4 years were taken on as a risk. I got back into gaming to meet new people and it works. Some of these people helped me move house when old friends forgot. So meeting new people is always an adventure.

    In my gonzo dnd games a bizarre deviant and total fuckwit can be equalized by weirdness and make some laughs. In my history games Im a bit stricter and BRP keeps players on toes and in fear of death.

    thanks for feedback, very appreciated and useful

  6. That was a really good post. Your experience come through and shows how much you try to be open minded.

    I would add, regarding forums and internet chat, that a lot of communication is non-verbal, like facial expressions and body language. So I don't think online is a good place for resolving any sort of argument with an emotional component.