Sunday Bonus Post: A Wretched Hive…

Generic Alien Superpowers are always good for crashing through spaceships.

Generic Alien Superpowers are always good for crashing through spaceships.

“Games give you a chance to excel, and if you’re playing in good company you don’t even mind if you lose because you had the enjoyment of the company during the course of the game.”

Gary Gygax, the creator of Dungeons and Dragons, said that. It’s a pretty excellent appraisal of the business of gaming as a pastime. Mostly, it’s something to do in good company, a social endeavor.

Yesterday, my friend Tax Hitler and I went to the game store to play X-Wing. We contacted our new friend, who we met there, because its nice to game with other people, and make the whole thing a more social endeavor. When we met this gentleman there the first time we played the miniatures game at the shop, we were both pretty happy.

You see…prior to showing up the first time, we had thought that there was a high probability of the X-Wing community being primarily Rules Lawyers, people who were not only better than us, but in fact would Lord it over us, when we just had an enthusiasm for the game. Nothing is more dispiriting for a beginner than that, and we pretty much decided that we didn’t need that in our lives.

When we met our new buddy, he was exactly the opposite. Friendly, sportsmanlike, very helpful…he in fact clarified many of the rules of play for us, and further, was just plain an excellent person. In the subsequent weeks, we have been pretty excited to reach out, and set up another big gaming session…which we did, yesterday.

The session wasn’t as great. We met a new player, who was a lot less sportsmanlike. At one point, this young man actually yelled at Tax Hitler for not having as solid a command of the rules of the game, which was…not cool. I actually refrained from playing until the very end of the gaming session, because I honestly didn’t think that I would deal with that too well. I know my temper, and the idea that a gaming session, very casual, would need that kind of crankiness…it didn’t sit well. This was precisely the kind of gaming that we had been trying to avoid.

I didn’t feel too good about it, really. I also realized that this fellow wasn’t trying to be unsportsmanlike…that was just his method of gaming. A lot of confrontation, a whole lot of Rules Lawyering…generally the opposite of the kind of thing that we were in for. A lazy Saturday where we get to play with our tiny spaceships, with the attitude of, “Oh! So that’s how that works!” as a constant. I wasn’t really set up for being told how to maximize the output of my tiny spaceships, or to be drawn deeply into the meta jargon of the game.

I spent a decent amount of the time drawing, instead of gaming. I listened to a whole lot of gaming talk, and a whole lot of trash talk. Eventually, I bought some new tiny spaceships to play a two player team game with…on the side of my buddy, Tax Hitler. That should have been pleasant, but by that point, the bloom was off the rose. I didn’t play too well, and I think it showed.

Our new friend, the fellow that we came to play with, was gregarious, and thanked us many times for coming out. I think he knew that we were kind of…off our feed, so to speak. on the way home, Tax Hitler and I talked about the whole thing, and what we thought. I actually contacted the guy we went to see, and said that there was probably a clash of gaming styles there, which we didn’t feel that good about.

It’s that kind of thing that makes the gaming community somewhat impenetrable. A group of people who all like the same thing…but need to be somewhat better sports about it, maybe. I went to great lengths to hold my tongue, and at this point, I wonder why I did. I think as I get older, I’m trying to outgrow the whole “give as good as I get” mentality. I didn’t want to be rude to a virtual stranger in a store where I was a guest…that’s uncool. Being rude because I was experiencing rudeness…I tell my students not to do that ALL the time. However, taking the High Road left me with a taste in my mouth that makes me not really want to game at that shop very much any more…because I really don’t need that kind of experience.

Part of me wonders why the shop owner didn’t say something, along the lines of “Keep it friendly, reel it in a bit.” Tax Hitler and I have spent a bunch of cash on our visits…so we are building up to being decent regulars. Are we not regular enough, at this point? It’s possible, but I think that’s not it. I think neither of us got really visibly angry or upset, so that sort of thing just went “under the radar” as okay.

Comics have become more mainstream, and as a result, the environment of comic book stores has generally become more open and welcoming, less of a “this is our thing” zone. I’m thinking that if tabletop gaming is going to find a larger, bigger marketplace, it needs to take the same attitude to a degree. Not just shop owners…they are generally right minded. You do, after all, want to sell product to everyone, and make the experience positive.

Gaming is a social experience, though. If gaming stores are going to have gaming areas, the people in those areas should observe a kind of etiquette, a good sportsmanship set of ideas that make it a positive experience for everyone.

Despite the art, I didn’t take a single tiny spaceship out of play yesterday. To my credit, I didn’t complain about it.

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