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"Pink isn't a color. It's a lifestyle." - Chumbalaya
"...generalship should be informing list building." - Sir Biscuit
"I buy models with my excess money" - Valkyrie whilst a waitress leans over him

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Old Stuff Day: Mike Brandt's Social Contracts and Needs in Wargaming Between Strangers

For Old Stuff Day MVB has kindly allowed this article from Whiskey & 40k to be re-posted (according to Brother Loring anyway...he better be telling the truth!). Enjoy :).

Social Contracts and Needs In Wargaming Between Strangers - How to Behave at a Tournament, and Other Thoughts 

I was reading a post or two over at MKerr's blog, He reminds me of some other players I know in that I believe we are probably very similar PERSONALLY, but are very different in what we EXPECT out of other players - especially strangers.

The Concept of Needs and Emotional Maturity

All of us need things in life. We need food, we need water, we need breathable air. Needs are variable ... and sometimes they are just "wants," but it's important to note that emotionally, needs are pretty flexible, and immensely different from person to person.

Some people need to be loved, others need to be respected, others need to be treated as if they are awesome, etc. When these needs are not fulfilled, negativity results - people feel unfulfilled, unhappy, angry, sad, a variety of emotions that most human beings do not wish to reside in (with exceptions ... let's avoid the exceptions for now, as this is more a lead in to a discussion about gaming, than a discussion about psychology).

It is of paramount importance to note that I believe expectations are not the same as goals or needs. You have a goal to have fun, you need people to behave a certain way toward you, but you CANNOT claim emotional maturity while simultaneously EXPECTING other people to fulfill your needs, or behave a certain way toward you. This is fundamentally true - not everyone's needs are the same, and so there is no set "way" for a person to act toward others that is "acceptable" and fulfilling of everyone's needs universally.

Instead, it is everyone's responsibility to be authentic to themselves, to be true to themselves, and the responsibility of those they interact WITH to decide whether or not they fulfill acceptable needs.

To wit, you meet an attractive woman at a bar, and you get her number. You're clearly attracted to each other, and there was some positive chemistry. You get together a week later for dinner, and find out that she's a liberal and you're a republican getting ready to run for senate; she hates black people and you believe everyone is Homo sapiens, period, no sub-species; she likes base-jumping and sky-diving, and you have a fear of heights. What will you do? She's hot, she's still into you (b/c she's not an authentic person, presume), she'd totally be your girlfriend. Should she be? Of course not, you are all thinking ... it obviously isn't going to work, you are fundamentally in disagreement on major issues. You need a supportive, non-racist girlfriend who enjoys keeping her feet on the ground.

OK, so let's take it a step further back, and you'll start to see where I'm going with this. You're single, you want to date, you have an interest in girls who don't enjoy dancing. You're also extremely allergic to techno music. It causes your hair to stand on end. Will you attend a techno club looking for girls? NO YOU WILL NOT. Furthermore, if you were to, and were to loudly proclaim the terrible nature of the music and wonder why they won't turn it off for you ... you're just about the biggest retarded, immature dick out there. Seriously.

Let's segue to gaming.

You go to your local friends' house for your weekly gaming group. Ever since you first went, everyone has taken really casual, laid back, helter-skelter battleforce-style army lists, and everything has been well painted. The group enjoys drinking a few brewskis, and you meet up beforehand at the local dive restaurant to bullshit, laugh, and set the mood for a fun night of 40k. Upon returning from the dive restaurant, a "new guy" one of the other attendees decided to bring places down his spray-primed army of power cheese doom. He complains that he can't really ever make the restaurant b/c it unsettles his digestive system to eat anything other than broccoli, and kindly asks you all to not drink in his presence, because he's vehemently against alcohol. In game, he rules lawyers everything, punks your casual list face in, and criticizes your painting while rambling about how great his army will look "when he gets around to it."

Will you invite him back? Of course not. Your gaming group has a clearly established standard, a clearly established social contract. Behave this way - this is why we hang out together, this is what we all enjoy. If you cannot conform to this, don't expect to be welcome!

OK, so how does this compare to your local game store, then? Suppose you the player in the above example want to attend the local game shop. You show up, and check the window - nowhere does it say whether people there drink beers, play with painted armies, are rules lawyers or use power lists or play casually or what, etc. You walk in, and see a bunch of powerful unpainted armies on the tables and people barking and laughing and competing intensely. You walk into the store further, and ask someone for a game. A giant, stinky douchey guy walks up and goes "WHAT'S YOUR ARMY?!?!" "Why, I play footdar! (sorry, dudes, I couldn't help myself)" and he replies with a big grin and "haha, sure I'll play a game, lol, do you mind if I proxy some stuff??" When you say "proxy, what's that?" he laughs in your face.

Aimlessly, starting to feel a little peeved at this dude, you regardless set up on the table ... BUT WAIT, "WE HAVE TO ROLL FOR SIDES FIRST MAN, AND THEN TERRAIN AND MISSIONS AND SHIT, RAR" ... it gets worse and worse. You keep playing.

What is your problem, you retard? Why the hell did you keep going with starting this game? Is it your opponent's fault? Is he a big flaming jerk? Maybe. Is he to blame for you not having fun? NO. You ignored every signal, and kept on walking right into it.

Didn't your geek brain have some giant mental image of this going off every 3 seconds?

NO, it didn't, b/c you're not emotionally mature enough to walk into an environment not comprised entirely of people identical to you. Sorry, it's true.

Your JOB in life, to attain happiness, is to understand what you need and to see your needs fulfilled. It is not the responsibility of others to make you happy. The big fat stinky douche in the above example is not out to destroy your fun - he's out to be himself, quite unabashedly might I say. Good for him. YOU'RE THE REAL JERK if you spend the game pissed off, hating the guy, and talk shit about him for years afterward to your buddies. It was your choice to ignore every sign and retardedly accept the game with him. What did you think was going to happen?

NOW, here you are, wizened by the experience, getting ready to sign up for a tournament.
On the tournament front page, it reads this:

NO SPORTSMANSHIP. NO PAINTING. NO RULES JUDGES WILL BE PRESENT. SATANIC WORSHIP MAY OR MAY NOT GO ON IN THE BACK ROOM. Your prize is a cookie, that the tournament organizer has taken a piss on, to ensure it is contaminant-free (go NH3).

Are you going to sign up and attend? If you do, are you going to be all pissy when your opponents don't practice sporting behavior, are running unpainted armies, and rules lawyer you into the ground with no judge-based recourse? IF YOU'RE THINKING YES, YOU'RE STILL RETARDED.

The NOVA Open is an event with sportsmanship scoring, a detailed (and soon to be far more detailed) set of expectations of opponents, prizes and rewards for people regardless of their competitive finish, PLUS prizes for people doing well on the competitive front, a 3-color minimum painting requirement, and much more. Should you expect someone at the event across the table from you to be your best friend, happily getting along with you in all rules discussions and game chat? THE ANSWER IS STILL NO. You should expect them to follow the required expectations of the tournament, PERIOD.

If you want your opponents to be friends, game with friends. If your opponents turn out to be friendly, and you get along, and could be friends with them - AWESOME, but rest assured that strangers are still strangers, and not all people get along, nor should they be expected to.

Every game has a social contract ... but that varies from game to game, player to player, environment to environment. It's not static, the same for all. Sado masochists should not expect everyone else to be a sado masochist. Straight people should not expect everyone else to be straight. Catholics should not expect everyone else to be Catholic. Americans should not expect the whole world to love America.

Friendly, affable gamers should not expect every stranger at a tournament to be a friendly, affable gamer. Do I personally wish everyone was? Sure. But if I attend an event full of strangers, I'M THE IMMATURE JERK TO BLAME if I'm disappointed when everyone doesn't embrace me as their best friend and amicably solve every single discussion we have.

95% of the people you run into at the NOVA Open I'm sure you'll get along with just fine ... I'd bet my money on it. When you run into that 5% who are just so wildly different from you that you'll never see eye to eye ... for the love of all that is good and kind don't blame THEM for it. You are as different from them as they are from you, and that's NOBODY'S fault.

Your fun is your responsibility. That's why you don't invite the douches back to your gaming groups. That's why what you don't do is invite them back and argue with them / belabor them into changing who they are.

Celebrate differences, and avoid environments full of different and new people if you can't.

My $.02
Loving and being considerate of others is NOT expecting a social contract of them that they didn't sign. You're just as douchey as them once you do.

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