Gaming Behaviours – RE: Safe, Sane and Consentual

I read a post that was making the rounds a while back and while there were some excellent take aways, there were also a number of points I took issue with and wanted to expand on. [Safe Sane and Consensual via Facebook] The overall point seemed to be that two important things when entering a game are communication and understanding what the other players are looking to get out of it. Which, is a good idea, but…

Yup, I’m just jumping right in…

Competitive Kids

The post describes young boy gamers as “asocial psychopaths” who get bonus points for making opponents cry. Maybe it’s just because I’m Canadian, but we were generally friendly and fun as I played Magic: the Gathering with one group of friends or Space Marine, Epic and 40k with another.

A theme in the post was lumping people in narrow labels. Instead, it’s that some kids don’t know how to handle competition and it’s not exclusive to gaming. Sports are another area that children are taught to compete and negative influence can force them to learn some bad habits. There’s also the “bully” factor. Some people associate gamers and geeks with being bullied, not bullying, but the truth is we all have our little fiefdoms. This can lead to specific kids trying to assert themselves in their own social circles, a behaviour that should be monitored and curbed if need be.

On a side note, I’m also disappointed that there doesn’t seem to be any mention of girls in the gaming club. Lots of girls are in to “non-traditional” games and TheWife even got to teach one in her Magic: the Gathering program she launched at her library.

Learning Methods

The author nails the learning styles. To sum it up, people learn through Visual, (seeing something demonstrated) Auditory (hearing something explained) and Kinetic (physically doing something) methods. (Called VAK.) When you’re teaching new players the game, it’s hard to determine what their learning style is – this is why it’s best to have patience and use a mix of teaching methods.

I like to show and explain things to begin. This gives them an idea of what they’re getting in to. (To be honest, if they’re interested in learning the game, they’ve probably already watched you play and thought, “cool!”) From here, you should get a good idea of how they’re picking things up. If they’re really digging watching or listening to how the game plays, then go with it and keep doing what you’re doing. If they’re getting impatient and want to dive in, that’s OK too. This impatience can frustrate teachers, but it probably means your student learns by “doing.” Before you worry about playing the game without them knowing all the rules, be honest – a person you explain the rules to once probably isn’t going to play much better.

Different Play Styles

The author breaks play styles down to Competitive, Narrative and Casual. I don’t like to lump people into one specific category, because the truth is that everyone displays different aspects of each.

Casual

– These players are mainly seeking to have some fun and socialize with their friends. They could just as easily be playing a card game or shooting pool. This is where the “beer and pretzels” term comes from.
– The outcome of the game doesn’t really matter and they don’t mind losing as long as they got to hang out and have some fun.
– Casual players tend to prefer to play other casual players since they’re just looking for a good time. Their aloofness may be well suited to end up matched against aggressive players in a tournament setting, while others might not be able to handle it because they’re only looking for casual play.
– You can be a “good” player and still be casual. You don’t have to be competitive to be good at a game.

Narrative

– I liked how the article described a narrative gamer as one who enjoys the game for the events that happen while playing and the stories they get to tell afterward.
For example, the lasgun that kills someone with a 2++ save.
– This is still a casual play-style in my book, but that’s why I say there’s no “one” style that anyone fits in to.

Levels of Competition

A player who’s competitive can sit anywhere on the scale between “Skilled” to “WAAC” (Win At All Costs) and might share multiple aspects of some of the behaviours I’m about to describe. As the article I linked to discusses, these players can be great people, but something in them just clicks when they’re placed in a competitive environment.

Skilled

– These players are simply good at what they do. They’re analytical, have a great sense of the rules and strategy as well as build strong lists.
– They like to win. Who doesn’t? That doesn’t make them a bad person. A lot of competitive players can be great people who are just good.

Emotional

– Some people become too invested in a game for one reason or another, which can lead to competitive behaviour. Some don’t handle losing well or winning means too much to them while others might’ve just had a bad day.
– Things might be fine at the beginning, then get worse as the game wraps up and gets close.
– This can cause all sorts of negative actions during a game like taking extra actions, flubbing dice rolls and so on, that you might misconstrue as cheating. Their emotions will also turn against them as they forget rules, screw up strategy and over-commit.
– Emotional players can have their behaviour adjusted easier than others but it also means you showing patience. They need to slow down, remember to double-check their rules (even basic stats) and avoid timed games.

Big Talkers

– Mostly, these people are just annoying and full of themselves. They run their mouths during and after a game, rarely acknowledging reason and play the mental game. They’ll push and push. Games will be unpleasant and you’ll defeat yourself before the game even starts.
– You might also find big talkers love to give you all sorts of advice, no matter how unwarranted it is. Netlists and metas can end up as rules of law.
– Don’t feed the trolls. Try not to allow things to bother you and don’t talk back other than being friendly.
– Unfortunately, these people can end up with their own circle of followers, ending up rather influential within your local scene.

Rules Lawyers

Tiny details can mean the difference between a win or loss and these people won’t let you forget it. It’s not that you’re cheating, so much as how much effort these people go to to ensure you’re not. Nit-picking is another term.

Aggressive and Win At All Costs

– They’ll do whatever it takes to win. The difference between these play styles is that an aggressive player may not stoop to cheating and a WAAC player might not be aggressive, but they often employ similar behaviours.
– Aggressive acts usually boil down to posturing, tone of voice, not respecting personal bubbles, intentionally taking actions faster than you (or they) can be sure of proper results.
– Underhanded tactics can include cheating, aggression and mind games.
– Often, you’ll feel like walking away from these games and that’s OK. These players are usually known in their community and as long as you don’t flip the table, people probably won’t blame you for the actions you take in handling them.

Learning how to handle these different playstyles is actually a useful skill. Being all social-like helps us grow and is especially important for kids who are learning to interact. Infact, I think in-person competitive environments are good for kids these days, rather than the faceless competitive interaction they get through video games. (I’m not against video games – I’ve just played enough League of Legends to get an idea of the poison the upcoming generation thinks is ok to spit out against opponents and I think removing visual cues from the human element is a big part of the problem.)

Communication

Casual players can have a great time playing competitive ones, but it’s a good idea to go into the game with a few things decided beforehand. Are you playing a scenerio? Will the turns / game be timed? Large or small game?

Most of the time, if a player has an aggressive play style, the rest of the local community knows. Unfortunately, new or out of town players might not be prepared for it.

I think a lot of competitive players also recognize their level of play and (at least in my experience) tend to check themselves when gaming against casual players. (As they also tend to have a good idea of who the other competitive people in the area are.) For example, they’ll be the ones saying things like, “Hey, I’m trying to improve my game, so I’ll run on a timer.”
The article uses an example that made a great point about aggression and communicating with your opponent before a game, but I felt very uncomfortable reading it due to its personal nature. The point is, when you’re playing someone you’re not really familiar with, talk before a game – make sure each of you understand what the other person is looking to get out of the game.

Many of the people you game with can be classified as “Facebook friends.” People you get along with, but not so close that you necessarily know what demons are plaguing them – if they had a bad day, how certain jokes will go over, what buttons you might push, etc. General rule of thumb: Don’t be a dick.

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  • I think I am the definitive beer and pretzels player.

  • I defy all classification

  • Thuloid

    What if I’m into non-consensual gaming?

    • Don’t give me ideas I’ll be roaming the streets forcing people at gunpoint to play games with me it probably won’t end well

    • I’m picturing some kind of terrible Jumanji / Wargaming mash-up… “ROLL THE DICE!!!”

      • Thuloid

        Just need a safe word. Which I keep secret.

        • That’s why you pick a word you wouldn’t normally shout during wargaming… like… “affordable.”

          • Thuloid

            “Balanced!”

  • Warlock

    I’m quite happy to watch my dudes get blasted/swept/routed/blenderised/vaped off the board just as long as I have fun and make hilarious dice rolls.