Monday, February 20, 2006

Gamer Drama

This one is hard to explain, because we've been around it so long that we're numb to it, but let me paint this picture for you.

In 1991, I began attending the local conventions for Strategicon (3 per year). I have never paid for a badge to attend this convention as I have always worked by running games, watching a booth, etc. Sometimes, I would run 6 or 7 4-hour games in a weekend. If you've never done this, that's a lot of work. Most people do 3.

It started with obscure RPGs like Good Guys Finish Last and Judge Dredd, but by 1998, I had a following of devoted fans who came for my complex, but rule-light LARPs. Mike Leader worked with me for a few years and we began running games under the name MSG. We even made stickers, purchased prizes, and brought BOXES upon BOXES of props. My 7th Sea LARP is a maze of "toys."

Because I never made a big deal of what we were doing, we never got the attention of the people in charge. No one knew that we were entertaining sometimes 10 to 20 people at a time and spending our own money on goodies and taking time out to make incredibly elaborate stories.

Our compensation was a free badge and sometimes "crash space" (a spot of floor to sleep on to save on the 1.25 hour drive to the con each morning).

Usually we'd end up paying for our own room, though, because the RPG planner would forget or we'd be so cramped in there that it just wasn't fun. So three times a year, I was paying $200 for the weekend so I could run games for other people.

That's bad business, that is.

Anyway. About two and a half years ago, I skipped three cons in a row. I just stopped going. I stopped running. I stopped helping. I basically, stopped being involved.

Fed up, I just spent those weekends doing something else with my time and it was liberating.

And then a year ago, I went to the local con to see my friends again. I gamed for two days, crashed on someone's floor, never paid for a badge, and generally just enjoyed myself. It was pretty cool.

No stress of having to entertain anyone.

No work. No expectations. Just pure gaming.

I had a blast.

But, after a few cons of this, the bug came back and I wanted to run.

Now. I should explain that the convention coordinators -- John Paiva, Clyde Brien, and Norm Carlson -- are good friends of mine that I've known for years. So, if I'd ever chose to complain about the con, I could have, but didn't. Certainly I'd tell anecdotes from time to time about a rancid volunteer or two, but I was always pleasant about what really irked me.

But in September, they finally decided to hijack me and force me to redesign the convention flier/program/logo (something I HAD bugged them to do for years). Which was the perfect time to say... "Hey. I've got this adventure I want to run for you guys. It's a 12-hour marathon DnD game. Nothing like that has been done here. I just need a room upstairs. Can you help me out?"

"Sure, jim. Just go talk to Jeff upstairs."

"I'd rather not. I have a history of having to deal with crap whenever I talk with those people."

"What do you mean?"

[Insert ancedote.]

"Could you talk to them and just secure the room for me? I'll write the adventure intro and coordinate the promotion, etc."

"Sigh. Okay."

[Two hours pass.]

"jim. I talked to Jeff. Just go up there. I've told him you're coming. He knows to expect you."

"Okay. Not ideal. But the president of the con told him I was coming. That should grease the wheels."

[Insert expectation of failure. Walk up two flights of stairs and/or take elevator. Enter 3rd floor RPG HQ.]

"Heidi! Robin! I haven't see you in a long time."

"Hey... you."

"What's going on?"

[More small-talk.]

"I'm here to talk to Jeff about running a game next con."

"Oh. He's not here, but Mandy his wife is. Just have a seat and wait."


[Standing. Waiting. Mandy is on her cellphone having some sort of Gamer crisis. Eight other mouth breathers are standing/sitting around doing nothing more than getting stinkier and making it difficult for Mandy to hear her own phone conversation.]

"What do you need?"

"I was told to talk to Jeff about running a game for you guys, next con."

"I'm his wife. You can talk to me..."


"I'm the middle of a really important call right now, so I can't deal with this." [Insert dramatic voice.]


[Mandy resumes phone conversation. In walks two more knuckle-dragging apes making as much noise as the eight mouth-breathers in the room. Mouth-breather #3 gets loud.]

"Guys. Wait outside. Mandy's on an important call."

[Being quiet, I decide that I don't need nor want to move.]

"Guys. GO!"

[Mouth-breather #3 does this head-jerking move that is so ridiculous and asanine... I can't describe with words. Just imagine the motion that a peacock makes to throw its hair back before getting into a rumble with a rival (pea)cock. It was as hilarious and sad as you can imagine. If you see me at a con, ask me to pantomime it. It's a hoot.]

Other mouth-breathers continue yapping, and knuckle draggers look confused, as though a fire were spreading and they couldn't read the english-written exit signs. Rolling my eyes. I leave the room. I return to tell John and Norm the story and vow never to run games for anyone for free, again.

And in case you're waiting for closure on this. There wasn't any. It's been 6 months and still no one has offered an apology/reconcilliation to fix the Mandy-drama.]

I still genuinely want to run this game, but I have no interest in running it through the circles. Norm and Clyde got hear the story again last night and perhaps I'll run it somewhere on my own, anyway. Clyde was sympathetic, but I didn't get the burning at the stake I wanted.

Now that you know all this. Now that I've laid the foundation. Here's the definition of gamer drama:

Gamers can never just tell you something, have a problem, or generally run into an obstacle. Everything they encounter is the apogee of drama; everything is some unsolvable problem that requires an expenditure of energy so great that if they took that energy they used to overreact and put it into the problem, no one would know the problem existed.

[I sense someone noting the irony of the post, which is probably why I avoid talking about this nonsense.]

But, that isn't our hobby, is it?

Our hobby is about little boys and girls who can't control anything in their daily lives, so they become the masters of gaming and hobby minutia, controling everything in their myopic environments to the point of becoming stat-bullies.

Everyone knows who I'm talking about.

Everyone knows what this means.

But we turn a blind eye to it, because it's easier to avoid these children's gaze and pretend the elephant in the living room isn't throwing a tantrum, rather than address the real problem...

... gamers are drama queens, who need an inordinate amount of attention and lack the cognition to see the forest for the trees. They hem and haw about ridiculous trivialities; they cry when their characters die; they argue about rules when they can't do something cool RIGHT NOW; they hyperventilate; they ostracize and demonize and generally blame others for everything.

There are so many alternatives to being a high-maintenance gamer. So many more healthy ways to conduct yourself that don't drain those around you. Why the need to be a 14-year old jerk for 20 years continues, is anyone's guess. But without introspection, no one knows that he/she is a pain in the ass and no one is going to improve.


If you, or someone you love, is a gamer.

Please. Put down your dice bag for two weeks, get some exercise, practice your breathing techniques, meditate, focus on something for yourself for a while, and get help.

This message brought to you by the People Against Sad Gamer-Related Drama (PASGaRD).

PASGaRD. Because there's more to life than THAC0 and elf jokes.

Thank you.

Lastly, here's a funny post on fluidsum for your viewing pleasure that might make you laugh a little? There's a short joke about gamers toward the end of it.

I apologize (now) if anyone is offended.


A real post by mid-week.

Scout's honor.


Herb said...

Sign me up for PASGaRD.
And remind me never to play with people again. They may ruin my standards.

Nah, I just think this post addresses a fairly specific group of people. If you've had 5 characters die, fine, you're probably still kinda new at this, and yes more drama.

If you've had SEVERAL HUNDRED characters killed, you've probably been desensitized to most of the horrors that stimulate gamer drama. Still, I suppose I can't say much, since I think I've played with a total of 12 people out of the several billion in the world. Too bad I only speak English and kind of Spanish.

So I'll keep it short. Yeah, thank me later (just kidding).

We'll see what the next post is about, and I'll promise you an essay if it's good.

Chris Carlson said...

What a coincidence. This is my Reason #1 (from my upcoming book, "One Reasons Not To Sign Up To Play Games At A Gaming Convention").

P.S.> It was really good to see you again and hang out down at the hotel bar Friday night. Probably the most fun I had all weekend. Which is a little sad considering: a) I had more fun *not* gaming at a gaming convention (see above), and b) it was on the first night of the long weekend.

jim pinto said...

Hey Chris. Thanks for posting.

And is it a shocker that anyone's favorite moment at a con involved me?