Monday, June 26, 2006

GAME STORE CONFIDENTIAL ~ Who's at your table?

My creative juices just aren't flowing lately. Probably because the bulk of my human contact in the last week has been my 3 year old boy. And he has a very limited vocabulary. Wyatt does have a marked interest in my games though and I'm certain that if I ever let him get into any of them he'd gleefully throw the pieces everywhere. Throwing is his thing, And I mean really, really throwing... hard, fast and so accurate it is slightly scary.

I'll consider letting him have my copy of Puerto Rico though, there's always the threat that someone will ask to play it again and if Wyatt has tossed all the little colonist/slaves into the next county then the risk will be nullified.

Throwing things got me thinking... lots of gamers really have annoying table habits. Not you specifically... at least that I'm aware of, but you know...them. We sure put up with a lot from people we'd otherwise not know and possibly not associate with in order to play these games of ours. For example:

The Chip Clacker

Whether using the clay poker chips that have now replaced all the paper money in my games that have money or the plastic ones that come with some games, poker chips can be annoying. Especially if anyone at the table is a chip clacker. They sit there like they're in Vegas, one-handedly clacking and re-clacking their chips. It gets louder and louder until everybody else at the table has to almost yell in order to be heard above the ear-shattering clacking of the offender's chips.

The SBD Assassin

My dad is 80 years old. I have known him all my life. He lived with me for 16 years up until 2003. I lived with him for 16 years, up until 1967. That's 36 years. In all that time my dad never once farted in public. Not once. He never even asked me to "pull his finger" when I was little. That ought to give you a heads up about how I view public farting. Especially at a game table. And more especially at MY game table. Yes, farts are funny when you're a tyke. Farts are not funny when a grown man who has eaten nothing but chipotle burgers and broccoli for the last 7 years keeps passing silent gas. Disgusting. Rude.


Who's that drunken guy on the Simpsons? I forget his name, but he always burps so loud and forcefully his lips flap like sheets blowing in the wind. To me, loud and horrible burps are not okay because they aren't farts. They're basically mouth farts and I don't think they are one bit funny. Repeated table-burping ought to be dealt with severly. I've sat through some game sessions where the burping was so frequent and disgusting that I considered pulling my hazmat suit out of storage and wearing it so I'd stay clean.

The Whiner

Then there's the people who whine and whine and whine. I discussed them somewhat last week but I felt clarification was called for. I want to delineate actual whining from politicking at the game table. Whining is incessant and annoying complaining. Politicking is targeted whining intended to change the mindset of your opponents. Warrior Knights is a game I recently played where the politicking style of whining is useful. Just sitting around bitching about how you hate dice (Lyle) is pointless and eventually makes me want to grab the offender and shake all the whines right out of them. But if I did that, they'd just whine about it.

The Analyzer

We all know this guy/gal as the one stricken with Analysis Paralysis. Every group has one or two. What I don't understand about people suffering from AP is how they figure that consuming huge chunks of time thinking about the fix they're in will change the outcome? In my little gaming universe, the one inside my head, if I'm in a position where I feel myself heading into AP then I've already screwed up and will most likely lose unless I do something unexpected. So, as I have already suggested in an earlier blog entry, I choose the first thing that comes to mind and hope that the Shock & Awe tactic works. Why some people consistently delude themselves into believeing that consuming time will make it better is beyond me. I become annoying myself when there is an AP player in my group. On purpose.

The Stage Manager

This is the guy who feels it's his obligation (and his right) to direct the activities of all the other players in the game. He is constantly telling the others what they should do and why they should do it. I'm not talking about savvy politicking here either. As in the above example, politicking is acceptable and even expected in many games. But the Stage Manager can't keep his mouth shut... he has the innate need to tell everybody what to do, why they should do it and to fill them in on the consequences of not doing as he says. I've learned over the years that constant ridicule of every suggestion this guy makes can help to shut him up. Other than that, it's a permanent and recurring condition.

The Kamakaze Pilot

Realizing that he is either to far behind to have any chance for victory or even that he'd have to really make a supreme effort to pull the victory out, this player just tips his wings forward, applies full throttle and augers into the ground at top speed. The results of the Kamakaze Pilot giving up and self-destructing in the board game are usually beneficial to certain players and not others. Depending upon table or board position, the Kamakaze skews the game, skews the results and frankly, once I've seen this as a trait in a gamer I will go the extra mile to NOT have them at any table I game at. Why play if all you're going to do is make stupid mistakes and then give up? Sheesh... stay home, watch TV.

The Early Riser

Look, we all have jobs. We all need sleep. But please, don't even bother showing up for a 4 hour game that starts at 7pm if you have to leave at 10pm. How rude. I've had the displeasure of meeting quite a few Early Risers over the years and if they accept an invitation I never confirm it unless we clarify when their bedtime is first. Otherwise, just invite them when all you're going to play is short games... or ones that you know they suck at and that have player elimination as a mechanic.

The Litterbug

There's something about the anal and finicky nature of Euro Gamers that makes me think most of them are tidy people. But frankly, even in the Euro arena there are slobs. Those who open pack after pack of Ding-Dongs and strew the wrappers all over the table and floor. Or can't seem to eat a tortilla chip without spewing crumbs in a 5 foot radius of their chair. Or they topple empty soda cans on the table and drip salsa on their seat. This type of gamer isn't as annoying as some and they are often humorous. But they have caused me to have rules about open top glasses and pop cans at my table. I try and have side tables for Litterbugs to set their drinking containers on and even though it's slightly annoying, I don't mind running the vacuum under their seat several times throughout a game.

The Depression Case

Oh Gawd! Woe is me! I never win. Bleh, bleh, blech, moan..... this is what you hear from this downer person. A constant and grating undercurrent of self-loathing, self-pity and unending negativity. Man! It's amazing how people like this make me want to just slap them and slap them and slap them until they either laugh, fight or run away. Anything! Give me anything but some self-indulgent carper who cannot see beyond his own sad little world and understand that he loses because he is not a good player and that in order to become a good player he ought to pay frickin' attention to the game rather than his downer and dour inner fears.

The Glad-Handing Sales Guy

This is me. My attitude is, I'm certain, fairly annoying to some people. I'm always perky and full of commentary. I make jokes and drop the F-bomb in as many locations as I deem appropriate for the situation. I tease, cajole and smile while emanating an undercurrent of threat. My goal is to sell, distract and keep the other gamers laughing. Sometimes it helps me win games, that I know for sure. Mostly though, the table is populated by gamers who are too experienced and too wily to be fooled by my superb marketing skills. But, like many others, it's my trademark and even if it only works in the meta-game sporadically, it's a lot better than trying fart my way to victory.

So ask yourself... who are you at the game table? I've probably missed about 20 "types", some equally as annoying as the ones I have here and some maybe worse. One thing for sure, I did not begin my gaming days as the type of gamer I am now. I made the effort to review my own behaviour and did some modification over the years. We all have to be some type, even if we don't have to tools to see ourselves in another's eyes. But if you can see how you appear to others... and find you don't like it, then be a man! Do something about it. So much of what goes on in gaming happens off the table and in the social interaction that it's easy to overlook that board games are as much about the people you spend time with as they are about the game spread out on the table.

And who likes to spend time with someone who farts, burps, whines, is a control freak, annoys you by slapping his chips all the time, drops garbage on the floor, over-analyzes every move, gets depressed because of all his mistakes, decides to self-destruct and ruin everyone elses fun, gets depressed about it and then claims he has to get up early and bails out on you?

I'll take the Glad-Hander any day... not that I have much choice, he's me.

* Yes, I know 16 + 16 = 32
** Yes, I know that Barney is the drunk guy in the Simpsons.

These are part of the mechanics of marketing, selling and keeping people interested. They're a lot like Easter Eggs that programmers hide in software for fun. They allow the sharp reader or listener to congratulate themselves on how sharp they are and they open the mind as the astute observer has now keyed himself up to find even more mistakes in the presentation. Purposeful errors or little inconsistent tricks like this are themselves part of what makes human interaction fun. It's a game within a game. Try it sometime... it's the first step towards being a happier person.


DWTripp said...

No, no... Strabo, whining is annoying and petty complaining with no real purpose other than to be noticed and -- oh wait, ah, you put a smiley in. So, it was a joke right?

Which reminds me of another type that inhabits game tables the world over... people who have no sense of humor.

GrillTech said...

How about the "I work outside in the hot sun all day and don't shower when I come to game" types. I would rather play with someone having all the bad traits you listed then this guy.

Fred said...

You must have a very, very wide circle of friends, to be able to eliminate so many people from your games, and still have people to game with.

Craig said...

Gas from either end is considered rude, but dropping a F-bomb isn't? Not that I appreciate the former at my game table, but it seems to be a rather arbitrary distinction on manners doesn't it? Which behavior would you rather your 3 year old emulate?

Anonymous said...

I'm the Chip-clacking, SBD'ing, Brapping, Kamazazee-glad-handler(or in generic terms, a SPAZ )

I also sing 80's songs while other people AP too much.. Not sure what that's called though.

DWTripp said...

Yes Fred... I have a wide circle of friends and those remaining few who have temerity to float an air biscuit at my game table understand they are risking so much for so very little in return.

but it seems to be a rather arbitrary distinction on manners doesn't it? Which behavior would you rather your 3 year old emulate?

That's a trick question isn't it? As if I had to make a choice between two unsavory behaviours. By the way, do you still beat your wife?

My real answer? I would sooooo much rather my youngest boy understand that loud and annoying passing of gas in public is bad than get tense about whether he sometimes drops the F word. Either behaviour (at too early an age) will get him in big trouble with Daddy-O, that's for sure.

MWChapel... if we happen to end up at the same table at BGG.Con I'm bringing a camcorder and requesting a Flock of Seagulls song.

Anonymous said...

You deride whining and stage-managing, but make an exception for what you call "politicking"; that is, trying to persuade people that the moves that would favor you actually favor them. I think politicking is way worse than other forms of whining and stage-managing. I hear lots of people saying they like to politic, but I've never heard anyone say "I like it when others give me insincere advice about what the best play is, trying to get me to make plays that would help them". Do you listen to that sort of advice? I certainly don't. A stage manager can help the game along by helping a new player identify his reasonable options. A politicker doesn't help, because you can't trust what he says.

Anonymous said...

In 18XX there is an almost tradition in that a player who is doing too badly will quite deliberately and with optimised forethought drive himself into bankruptcy and thereby end the game. This behaviour can of course cut a long game quite short. However as a behaviour, and as an expected behaviour, it has an interesting and even somehwat valuable result: It means that the players will play aggressively, very very aggressively, but not to the point that they drive any single player to the point of playing for bankruptcy -- well, not unless they stand to win when they other play bankrupts... It acts as a sort of balancing mechanism, keeping players in the game, interested participants even if they are no longer contending.

Anonymous said...

DW I have one addition to your list.

The Sloppy Gamer

This is the guy who refuses to put game pieces on the board in a neat and orderly way. The dude who never takes the time to stand up the little plastic units in Conquest of the Empire. Instead, opting to push a pile of men around the board.

It is rude due to the fact that you can never tell what they have in those piles. So you always have to ask, hey what is in that army over there.

Same goes for piles of money, collected resources or anything else that one may need to look at from across the table.