By Chock Schmidt
“You really suck at this.”
I’ve had this said about me about a hundred or so times over the years. I’ve gotten invited to play some new game with a new group of people and I had no clue what I was doing while they were all masters of it. Eventually, someone thought that I was mentally challenged or something because I’m asking questions that are seen as basic elements that are assumingly understood. Good sportsmanship really comes down to Wheaton’s Law of gaming: “Don’t be a dick.”
If someone calls you on being a dick, stop being a dick. If you don’t tap gloves before the fight “cough Rhonda Rousey cough,” you’ll get knocked out by a left kick to the jaw and then told don’t be a dick by the entire world.
It’s not that you are making that person feel like they are stupid and they don’t want to come back, but as people who play games, we’ve probably all felt a bit small for an extended period of time in our lives.
I imagine that if you are playing Dungeons and Dragons, you probably weren’t the captain of the football team getting drunk every weekend with the cheerleading squad. You were probably closer to what I was (am), a weird, pale dude with a lack of social skills and no great physical features to impress people with.
Guess what? The world is made of about 6.9 billion of those people, so you’re in good company.
Now, that’s not to say that my blanket statement can be wrong from time to time, but by experience, gaming nerds were not the most popular amongst their peers.
I think it’s sad. I’ve gotten people who’ve made fun of me for playing D&D or Pathfinder into those games and they get more into than I do. One of my good friends is in Afghanistan currently and he’s more upset about not playing than I am at the moment. (It probably didn’t help that I ask him to bring me back a keen flaming scimitar, but hey, I can’t get one at Asian Gifts.)
The future of any group, be it a football team, a fraternity, a bunch of guys just drinking beer and playing a casual game, depends on the incoming talent that they have.
If you are wanting to have a fun time, teach the newbie how to play. Yes, some new guys can really take a toll on you, but 99% of the time, if you invited them to play, you know it’s because they’d be a good fit.
My group doesn’t have just anyone invited play. Everyone has to agree, which means everyone has to know that person prior to us playing. That’s more because it’s my home, though, and I don’t want anyone being uncomfortable.
If you are in a public place, you might not have that same code of vesting. If you bring someone to a public event, it’s always good to introduce them, tell the rest of the group why the newbie is there (he showed interest while looking at your card collection, he has an obsession with Barbara Streisand as well, I don’t know what inspires these things now), and tell the group how much experience he has.
If the group has any decency, they won’t automatically just try to nuke the dude and send him (or her, if you actually get a girl to play a nerdy game you lucky dog you!) home in tears.
I quit Magic about 15-years-ago because someone was being a dick at a Magic game. Actually, every someone was being a dick at that game, so that’s why I decided Magic wasn’t for me.
Now, I go to Friday Night Magic and I’m actually greeted with smiles and excitement. Am I going to lose? Yes! Is it going to be fun? Also, yes. It’s a learning experience.
In a tournament, the victor will sometimes give his opponent a bit of advice as a show of good faith. I did this when I was boxing and in Jiu Jitsu, I think it should be carried over to games as well.
Not only does it foster the learning experience, but you might provoke a new idea out of the newbie that no one in your community has thought of before. You can only grow as you obtain more knowledge. In this case, you must obtain more knowledge about what game you are playing in order to not get completely shut out by your competition.
This leads me into my next point which has been covered by the Two Patricks…Patrick Cossel and Patrick Chapin. The first is the publisher of this fine website you are reading, the second is a master Magic player, who has written a few books on making decks. Both of them have said the same thing: Language is important.
Calling someone a “faggot,” saying they are getting “raped,” etc. are phrases that keep people from coming into your game.
Why? Because they’ve probably been picked on already and are looking for a place that they will feel is safe and accepting! If you don’t make your environment one that is accepting and safe to newcomers, you won’t have any.
Now, go play. And don’t be a dick!
© 2015, Patrick Cossel. All rights reserved.