We don’t always give a lot of thought to how we treat our human opponents in games. In fact, sometimes we can get so lost in the actual playing of a game that we forget we’re playing against another human being.
Today, as both a reminder to myself and to raise awareness about respecting other gamers, I’ve written this article to help us all remember to treat each other better. We help make others’ gameplay experience either fun or not fun, based on many of the issues I’ll be covering today, but it all comes back to respect. Read on, for the surprising ways you may be annoying your opponent!
#9: Disrespecting Their Stuff
As gamers, we don’t appreciate it if someone handles our stuff without asking, flipping through Magic decks or picking out random Clix figures while we’re in the middle of another game. Yet many gamers do this to each other as if it’s accepted behavior. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been playing another game, only for someone to go rifling through my stuff, picking out things they want from my boxes without asking whether the items are for trade. Not only that, they sometimes handle my Near Mint collectibles with dirty or sticky hands, drop the items everywhere, or shove them back into the boxes willy-nilly.
It’s important to ask before you handle anything that isn’t yours; it’s doubly important to be careful with their items if they give you permission to look through. When you look through someone else’s stuff, remember that they probably spent a good bit of money to get what you’re looking at, and treat it accordingly.
#8: Not Stating Your Actions Clearly, Every Turn
Silent games may be fun for some, but not for everyone. I, for instance, like to know what kind of combos or actions my opponent is doing, so that I can have time to respond if there’s a game opportunity. But if you’re hunched over your side of the table, and you either don’t tell me what’s going on or you mumble it where I can’t understand, you’re in fact making it harder to play the game.
It’s tempting to leave the explanation of your game actions out–believe me, I know. We get so familiar with our strategies that we think they don’t need explanation anymore. But to someone who’s not familiar with them, those strange silent moves seem incomprehensible. Take just a little time to explain what you’re doing–this will help all players understand what’s happening in the game and enjoy it more.
(I do realize that extreme shyness or even medical conditions can lead to silent games as well. If you’re uncomfortable or incapable of speaking loudly, you can also simply offer your opponent the chance to look at the cards or figures you’re playing, so that they may see the abilities for themselves.)
#7: Only Playing Games/Game Types that You Can Win
It’s boring and sad to play a game that you know already is a foregone conclusion…well, at least for most gamers. But there are some gamers who truly enjoy soundly defeating others, so much so that they only play games they know they can win. Unfortunately, this can be very annoying to other gamers, who might like at least a chance of winning. Soon enough, a gamer who only plays what he or she can win will find themselves fresh out of opponents.
We all like to win; that’s natural. But the most fun experiences of gaming, I find, come from a real tooth-and-nail struggle, a game that’s truly “anybody’s game”–not a game where the same person always wins and it’s over in 5 minutes. You grow more as a player when games are not easily won, for one thing, and it’s just more fun for everybody when every player can share in the (imaginary) carnage. If you’re always playing one type of game, allow someone else to teach you a new game similar in style, and branch out. Who knows, you might find out you have a new favorite game! (Just don’t monopolize it… xD)
#6: Not Being Careful with Food/Drinks
You wouldn’t want your hard-earned collection ruined with someone else’s careless positioning of a drink or food item, would you? One of the more annoying things that a fellow gamer can do is to put an open drink right next to where they’re playing, well within range of getting knocked over by a careless hand gesture, or even another player. Greasy food items also come under this heading: if the grease splatters out from the food as you’re trying to eat it, where is that grease going to go but onto the tabletop, where possibly hundreds of dollars of gaming stuff lies?
Using drink cups or bottles with tight-closing lids (and keeping lids closed!), and having napkins handy for surrounding greasy food, are both easy solutions to avoid annoying or worrying your opponent. Plus, you run less risk of messing up your own gaming stuff, too!
#5: Whining About Your Luck
“Yes, I know the Dice Gods are smiting you and Lady Luck is not being a lady for you. You’ve said that 10 times this game already.” I find myself thinking this often during tournament play, when it seems the whole community of gamers becomes overly superstitious. xD A few mentions of luck not being with you is one thing–it can lighten up the mood. But talking about it over and over as if luck is the only thing against you? It sounds suspiciously like whining to most people, and whiners are not happy gamers to play against.
If you’re really having a tough time of it, try talking about other topics other than the game to get your mind off it–anything where you’re not focusing on how bad your luck seems to be running for you. I can be whiny about my luck, too, and this strategy surprisingly works, especially if you’ve got an opponent who’s a little more laid-back. And, if you’re facing an opponent who is doing nothing but whining about luck, try getting him or her off the topic–distract them from the bad dice rolls and card pulls, if you can. One person’s whining quickly casts a pall over other people’s games, and the quicker you can stop the negativity train, the better.
#4: Being Continuously Distracted During the Game
It’s great to have an opponent who’s interested in lots of different games. It’s not that great to have to play someone who’s involved in about 5 different games at various tables, or who has his or her phone out texting the whole time, etc. If you’re playing one game, stick to doing that activity and nothing else if at all possible. After all, who wants to be stuck at a table waiting on your opponent to get back from winning/losing two other random games?
Focusing on one task at a time will make you a more alert player, make the game more enjoyable for everyone, and might actually help you win instead of lose because of player errors and distractions. It also lets your opponent know you respect them and their time enough to play the game in a timely manner.
#3: Taking Forever to Do Your Turn
Slightly dovetailed with #4, “taking forever to do your turn” could mean you’re highly distracted during the game, but also could mean having small nervous crises over which card to play this turn, or which figure to move into combat. It also could mean an impossibly long, detailed, combo-ridden turn, in which the other player(s) are forced to watch you basically play and win the game by yourself. Any of these scenarios are incredibly annoying to opponents–they can end up thinking, “why did I bother even playing?”
If you’re unsure of how to play a new strategy, or just aren’t certain how to move forward, it’s not a sin to ask someone else for strategy help. These are games, not real war tactics, after all. And, if you look around the table and notice that most of your opponents’ eyes are glazed over after your 15-minute turn of ultimate doom, you might want to rethink how you play–at least, if you ever want to play against human opponents again. Super-combos of supreme ownage are great against computer-generated opponents, but we humans like to feel that we’ve got at least a fighting chance of winning. Instead of proving your authority by taking over the game, allow others to be part of the experience, and perhaps take time to observe how they play the game, too!
#2: Being Loud/Inappropriate/Offensive, and Refusing to Act Otherwise
Telling slightly offensive jokes (or hearing them bandied about) is pretty much par for the course amid gamers, but there’s a difference between being funny and just being loudly offensive/inappropriate. Most especially, if you’re playing a game and your opponent is having trouble concentrating because of your “humor,” you could end up alone at the game table in a matter of moments. Not to mention that someone might just decide to leave if you’re talking offensively and refuse to stop even for polite requests.
It’s important, especially in a large group environment, to be sensitive to how others are responding to your words and actions. If you notice that someone looks a little uncomfortable with what you just said, apologize; if someone asks you to tone it down a little, simply do so and make no further comment on the issue. I admit, I’ve made some pretty inappropriate remarks in my past, but learning how to apologize and keep going is part of getting along with others in general. We don’t have to self-censor all the time, but being aware of the people around you can keep you from making major verbal faux pas.
#1: Showing Poor Sportsmanship
Nothing is more annoying to a fellow gamer than to see his or her opponent stalk out of the gaming shop, mad because he or she lost. Mild fits of temper, especially in high-stakes tournaments, are naturally going to happen, but when a gamer lets one loss color the rest of the experience, both for themselves and for the other players, you know the poor sportsmanship has gone too far.
I’m preaching to myself here a good bit, because I don’t like to lose, and I don’t like to lose in 5 minutes with barely any time to fight; it angers me, much more than it should, and I can’t seem to let the anger go easily. But it’s important to realize that every game will have a winner and a loser, and you can’t be the winner every single time. The best thing you can do is to be a cordial, pleasant loser, so that the winner doesn’t end up feeling bad about it. Angrily stomping around, or getting in your car and speeding off, is not going to change the result, but it will disturb the other players and cast a good-sized shadow over everyone else’s games.
As I said at the beginning, many of these points go back to respecting other gamers and being considerate. I’m not saying that gaming should be conducted with the pinky finger perfectly extended, but perhaps we could put the middle finger away, just for a while. 🙂