Monday, March 27, 2006

GAME STORE CONFIDENTIAL ~ Somebody Needs A Hug

Having already written one blog entry about the issues that arise being a gamer and not having a suitable space to play games in, I figured that subject wouldn't come up again. I was wrong. It is on my mind today and it's also partly the reason I'm posting this entry later than normal.

Saturday night I had a few of the local gamers over for an evening of gaming. Three guests to be exact because five people would have been a tight fit in my little rental hovel. RoBee was supposed to bring his even larger brother, Jumbo-Tron with him but while Jumbo was in the shower RoBee came to town and Jumbo was stuck out in the tralier because the lights don't work on his Audi. So that meant just me, RoBee and his cousins Lyle and Shaun. We decided one of the Mayfair crayon RR games was perfect and began playing Empire Builder. During the game it continued raining as it had all day long. In fact, it had stormed heavily in the afternoon. About 45 minutes into the game Shaun blurted out, "Woah! There's water here!" and he began scrambling for someting to wipe up the small puddle of water near the board. We looked up and noticed water dripping right down the ceiling light fixture, onto the table.

Now a normal person would have done something about it. I'm uncertain what you can do about a roof leak, during a rain storm, on a Saturday night, in a podunk town 30 miles from anything even remotely resembling a city. But that was not a problem for us. We simply put a plastic cup strategically under the light and kept playing.

I'd have been pissed off if the water had shorted the circuit, because playing a crayon rail game by candlelight is difficult. Not to mention Lyle is color blind and has enough problems to start with when it comes to identifying features in a game.

So this morning at 7am the owner of the hovel called me and said he and the roofer would be here this morning to get the repairs underway. One distraction after another and here it is, almost noon, and I have leaky roofs on my mind.

At least we managed to work around the leak and continued gaming until 1am Sunday morning without ruining any game boards or pieces.

None of this has anything to do with something about the board game community that constantly amazes me and probably you too. That's the emotional attachment some people get to specific games. Not the physical game itself, although that may be a factor for some. But what I'm talking about is the need some people have to attack games that aren't the ones they like.

I noticed this trait from time to time when I owned my store. It surfaced most often with RPG's and CCG's, although some wargamers were very defensive about thier chosen favorites. I've heard enough conversations about why D&D sucks and GURPS rules (or vice versa) to last a lifetime. I'm not a role-player so I could care less. I feel the same way about CCG's because after I went through my MTG phase I lost all interest in new and ingenious ways to tap a card.

Over the years I've spent lurking and posting on BGG I have seen more petty rivalries about which board games rule and which ones suck than almost any other topic. Well, except for the endlessly boring Thrift Store lists or the pleas for which games to play with your spouse/children/cousin/parent/etc. Since the release of RailRoad Tycoon last fall it seems that a new level of intensity has surfaced from the lovers of Age of Steam. There are about a half a dozen Age of Steam zealots who apparently log onto BGG for the sole purpose of finding any thread that mentions RailRoad Tycoon so they can slam it with their AoS-party "talking points".

It's gotten to the point now where I'm completely lost about why some people cannot feel better unless they convince the entire world that thier preferred game is better than anything remotely similar. This reminds me way too much of politics and religion. Although, I admit that I enjoy inciting political battles on sites like BGG. I am praying (figuratively) that Hillary Clinton runs for US President in 2008 because I know I'll love the battles of the mindless and clueless that will take place on the Geek.

Unlike politics and religion though, why does it matter to anyone if somebody prefers a game they don't personally care for? I don't get it. My dad shot many a Japanese enemy in WWII and now drives a Toyota. If he can do that how come a board game Geek can't just sit back and view board games the same way WWII vets view the world economy?

Abstract games come to mind for me. I don't care for them. Solution? I don't buy or play any abstracts. I look like crap in yellow. So I don't buy yellow articles of clothing. I also don't log onto BGG and seek out threads asking for advice on abstracts and then rant about how much they suck. I admit though, when I see a man wearing yellow or pink I sometimes tell him he looks girlish.

Music has the same phenomena in it. I like most kinds of music. My favorites are your basic Rock & Roll, Country Western, Blues, Classical Guitar and then oddball stuff like Devo, Del McCoury, George Clinton, The Chieftans, etc. I can't even begin to count the number of times people have gone out of their way to make a negative comment about what I was listening to.

Country Western? "Total crap man. That's not music, it's background noise for trailer parks."

George Clinton? "What is that garbage? If it wasn't for that Funk crap we wouldn't be plagued with Rap music!!!"

Nonetheless. I cannot understand what anyone hopes to accomplish by denigrating me, my Country Western music, my board games, my choice of truck and even the motorcycles I own. Do the RailRoad Tycoon haters think that if they repeat their rants often enough everyone will throw out their RRT games, order Age of Steam and then buy a beer for them? Does the guy at the hamburger joint with the Kawasaki Ninja really think that by putting down my Harley I'll see the light and be like him?

Okay, okay... I admit, I do understand some of what underlies the deviant fans of specific games. It's a lack of confidence. A feeling that one doesn't really have any place unless that place is perceived as superior to the place of other games and their fans. It's a desire, in an odd and possibly even dangerous way, to prove that they are somehow more knowledgable, better schooled, more discerning or perceptive than the rabble.

Take the game For Sale. I like it. I think it's fun. It's easy, fast, social and attractive. Well, except I wish there was some sort of animal on the Space Station card. All the other cards have an animal and it drives me crazy there isn't one on that card. They could at least have put an alien on there. They didn't though, I've looked. Many times. With a magnifying glass. But back to the game. RoBee doesn't like it. So if he doesn't want to play we normally don't. I don't rant about what's wrong with him because he doesn't see the same things in a game I do. I don't need to anyway because I always make fun of him for wearing goofy looking hats and those giant shoes with the laces undone.

My point being, it doesn't make me feel less valuable as a person because not everybody enjoys what I do.

Am I missing something? Perhaps. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, but when you strip away all the apparancies of impartiality, the college degrees, the affluence and other embellishments most gamers have adorned their lives with, the ones who feel an irrepresible urge to put down games they don't like, and the people who enjoy them, are really just crying out for attention. They need help. They probably really just want someone to hug them and tell them that they really are okay and despite the fact that they are irritating, annoying, unlikeable and even downright creepy... that they are still welcome in the global gaming community.

In my view they are a vital part of our community... because they make the rest of us look normal.

15 comments:

ekted said...

"...I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference."

- Robert Frost

Age of Steam Fan said...

Because you mentioned Railroad Tycoon, I thought I'd talk about how I don't like it nearly as much as Age of Steam for the following reasons:

1. The lack of auctions creates a grossly simplified game that might as well be Monopoly or Candyland.

2. The improved component quality gives Railroad Tycoon a slick sheen that makes it feel too professional and not like a true gamer's game.

3. Railroad Tycoon doesn't make gamers cry because they've been forced into an income death spiral that will result in them fighting for diminishing and eventually losing returns over the next two hours of gaming.

4. One word: Eagle Games.

Lance Roberts said...

Personally, I'm always looking for input on games or music or whatever, since there is always something I don't know about them, and I always want to know more. I've never understood people who don't want more information, so they can know more, and thence they might be able to make a more intelligent decision in the future. So in gaming, I'll always give advice, because I always appreciate getting advice. "Do unto others..."

Anonymous said...

>> I'm not a role-player so I could care less.

COULDN'T. COULDN'T. COULDN'T.

Jasen said...

"I cannot understand what anyone hopes to accomplish by denigrating me, my Country Western music, my board games, my choice of truck and even the motorcycles I own."

I don't think they expect to accomplish anything. I suspect it's for pure egotistical self-gratification (as you've also hypothesized). In fact, what they get out of it is probably similar to the enjoyment you would get out of calling someone a euro-snoot, or insinuating that liberals are mindless and clueless, or saying that other argumentative gamers are irritating, annoying, unlikeable and creepy. It's not particularly nice but I'm sure it would be fun.

BilboAtBagEnd said...

Crazily enough, a lot of them probably do it because they really DO believe that their ranting will make a difference. It's the same reason people choose to stalk after companies or company games, whispering what they think is knowing, impartial advice when it's really, by this point, evolved from reasonable opinion into prejudiced, ignorant ranting. Obviously not all advice that is given is of this form---but the ones who are obsessive maniacs start to lose perspective in serious ways.

Sometimes it's a "cool" thing to do, to try to be contentious in a loud manner. The thinking goes that you can possibly attract the attention (good or bad) of people in general and maybe some of the "important" people. People who love what you say are wise allies. People who hate what you say are despicable, poor idiots. Either way, for the right kind of person, it's a good feeling.

There is a pretty big gap between the maniacs and people who are intelligently contentious, though---the latter is willing to let go, while the former can't even dream of letting go. They dog and dog and dog... and it becomes not just a passing interest but some kind of Life Cause. I think the rabid life cause business is the real separator, in fact.

The thinking might even go "I will save more people from liking X games because it's really a travesty and this will make the gaming world a better place". And they think this without any sarcasm.

And of course, the more popular something is, the more they want to slam it, because they don't like it, but all these other people do.... so they must be idiots. Otherwise the world is just wrong. And that, in itself, is the source of a lot of annoyance on the web.

The more deranged ones who are technically able to do so will try to take revenge in one sort or another occaisonally, too. It is like obsessive fandom in writing... and that in itself has resulted in random strangers stalking even writers who are not anywhere near best-sellers. Bottle covies; they won't stop until you put them down. You think the ones that pummel FFG and DoW are bad? Wait 'til you see the ones that stalk Looney Labs.

Many people do not fall into these categories. It's a loud minority that does. And how loud it is. And the more people there are, the more of them there are.

Eh. Fact of life. It just happens. You run into this sort of problem in every community. It drives me crazy, but what can you do? People are silly.

I have nothing against people who are willing to intelligently debate, but people who cross the line---ye gods. It's just gaming.

GROGnads said...

Hey "DW", why don't YOU put that 'Alien'-"spaceball" critter from the "Dark Star" movie upon the "card"? Oh, and I could 'care' MORE, but I don't!

DWTripp said...

Having read all the comments I feel compelled to reply to them.

Ava, in her usual intelligent manner, reminds me that this behaviour is commonplace and she expands on some of the motivations. Ekted gives us a Robert Frost snippet. A good one too.

Lance reminds me of me. Except he's not as irritating as I am. Somebody rightfully corrects my miserable grammer and Jasen takes up where he and I left off before the 2004 election. Jasen? The difference between me and the people I'm ranting about here is simple - I'm not even close to taking myself seriously. They are dead serious. For a look at very intelligent and very subtle humor reread the post from "age of steam fan". It's brilliant.

And in my further defense, I coined the word Euro-Snoot and now I see it being used regularly on BGG. That tells me it's not a put-down as much as it is a much needed definition of a gaming sub-culture. And it sounds cool too!

Thanks for the idea Grogs, I may surgically alter the Space Station card and put something animal-like on mine.

Anonymous said...

Some people think that it is important what other people think of them socially. Other people, more or less, don't.

Jasen said...

"Jasen takes up where he and I left off before the 2004 election."

Just to clarify DW. I'm not entirely disagreeing with your post but I am trying to point out that it is somewhat disingenuous and hypocritical. In the sentence above, you entirely dismiss my post, likely lumping me in with the mindless and clueless you alluded to even though we're not even discussing our politics. And this despite the fact that we've had serious, mature and in my mind, not so mindless discussions in the past.

My issue in this post is not your politics; it's with your seamingly inate need to be provocative for no particular reason other than perhaps pointing out that you're more normal than the next guy. Perhaps you're being uber-subtle in your approach, but to me you seem like you think yourself above your own reproaches and criticisms because "you don't take yourself seriously". I try not to take myself too seriously either but somehow I don't fit into the good (your) side of the argument...

It's easy to win when you're the one making up the rules.

If somehow, I've misconstrued a self-deprecating, witty post because of its subtleness, then I sincerely apologize.

I do agree that Ava's comment was fantastic. Worthy of it's own post.

gamesgrandpa said...

DW --

AMEN! and AMEN!!!

(figuratively speaking)

DWTripp said...

If somehow, I've misconstrued a self-deprecating, witty post because of its subtleness, then I sincerely apologize.

No apologies needed Jasen. I read your comment with interest because it contains some of the same elements of personalities that have intrigued me my whole life... and are magnified by niche groups and subcultures such as board gaming.

I mean to be provocative, it's true. That's exactly the reason Coldfoot invited me to be a part of this blog when he created it. in fact, all humor must be provocative or it's not humor.

Since my entry this week was about negative-humor, or the Geeks who seriously attack games that they feel threatened by, I have to take on the role of being above their studied humorlessness (is that a word?) in order to get the point across. The point? They're so unaware of their own unwarranted bias that they really are funny. They are the subject now, not the game.

Ava has the gift of seperating the tangled strands of little snapshots of human behaviour and explaining them in such a way that you understand. That's one of the many reasons I like her, despite the fact that she plays abstract games.

I take the low road. When I read stuff that is truly stupid, dense, arrogant or obtuse, I just poke fun at the person or people. It's easy, it makes me laugh and it keeps my mind off all the times I've been guilty of the same thing.

Lastly, I am far from "above reproach". I just happen to be one of those humans who could care less what people think about me, my beliefs, my choices in life or why I don't wear yellow clothes.

More people should lighten up about trivial things like board games. If they don't I'll keep picking on them until they either laugh or go away.

qzhdad said...

I think this confirms a suspicion that my wife has had for a while.

We had a very hard time convincing my daughter that people can have different opinions and still both be "right." She was convinced for a while that one of her sister and I didn't like her because we didn't like ketchup (one of her staples at the time). She also can become incensed that someone could prefer a different Pokemon or character in Harry Potter or even a color. She is also the one that has (diagnosed) Asperger/autism.

So maybe my wife's suspicion that many gamers are autistic is accurate. (BTW, she includes herself in this category sometimes)

DWTripp said...

So maybe my wife's suspicion that many gamers are autistic is accurate.

Wow Scott. I never looked at it like that. I've always defined it as single-minded and annoying. I think your wife is on to something there.

As in the ADD labeling, many adults now attribute their successes in life to what has come to be called ADD (which I suspect is nothing more than an acronym that justifies drugging many otherwise normal, but active, children). I read a lengthy series of articles about 10 years ago that covered, in depth, adult behaviour that mimicked the behaviour that would get you a ritalin prescription if you were a nine-year old.

Many of the adults were hugely successful and quite often in unlikely circumstances.

Thanks, now I'm off to read up on autism.

fizzix said...

It seems there may be something to that connection between games and Asperger's Syndrome. I have had two students in my game club with this condition and they were both really enthusiastic about playing and they continue to play now that they are in college (not to mention that one is in engineering and the other in computer science).