Tempering Your Voice

[A little gamer psychology today. Sorry.]

I game every two weeks in a World of Darkness LARP. I believe I’ve mentioned that before, but if I haven’t, here it is.

Yea.

There are about 30 people in the LARP. We have a facebook page to keep track of the group and everything.

I am not the most welcome face in the group for a number of reasons. I feel like a pariah, almost. Although I do have a few friends in the game, I really only roleplay with one storyteller and two other people 95% of the time.

That’s just what it is.

Oddly, I feel like a majority of my diaspora stems from the fact that many people play characters I cannot wrap my head around and/or play in stories I am not interested in and/or generally clash with me. Conversely, I tend to read gamers pretty well and I can see through all of the “issues” they bring to game. My buddy Mike is very good at showing patience when necessary toward these kinds of players. I am not. So rather than rub people the wrong way, I just avoid them. I’m really not a nice guy.

But over the course of the last year, I’ve noticed an alarming trend of disrespect among other people in the group toward one another (not toward me).

Which brings me to my belabored point.

We have a lot of players under the age of 30. Most of them have never done any other kind of gaming. Some of them say things that (out of context) trigger hostile rebukes from other players. Many of these people have more friends in game than I do. Rather than temper their voice of their response to seemingly innocuous (albeit inane) commentary, I sometimes watch in horror as people talk very very inappropriately to one another.

I’ve been to a lot of game conventions in my life. Heard people say awful, hateful things to one another. Racial slurs, brainless misogyny, and outright misinformed idiocy. In that arena, it’s so easy to ignore. People will be stupid and engendering debate with someone who thinks a game convention is the appropriate place to debate that Jews secretly control the World Bank is a waste of time and energy. I’m at a game convention after all.

And these are people I have zero respect for. I could easily tear him/her a new ass and never feel an ounce of remorse, so I move on.

Somehow. In the setting of a “Pollyanna” game environment like an all WoD game world, I find it troubling that people with this much background and connectivity to one another fail to show the least bit of awareness and understanding to (in their own head) say, “Okay. Joe is just being Joe. I need to temper my response to not sound so loud, abrasive, and antagonistic.”

I don’t have a final point, sadly. This is the first time since high school I’ve seen this kind of behavior amongst a regular group of gamers. And since I’m the guy no one likes and I never yell at anyone, I have to wonder…

…what am I doing wrong?

Feel free to post, if you’ve witnessed something similar in your gaming travels.

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6 thoughts on “Tempering Your Voice

  1. I’ve only played in two World of Darkness LARPs. One was cool, but the other was not. It was like being at a huge asshole convention. It’s like the majority of the people there only showed up to be complete dicks. I never understood that.

  2. this group has known each other for a long time. so maybe i’m missing some cultural cues. but new people in the group still get measured by the same yard stick. that said, the group is fine, and i was using it as the platform is discuss how gamers treat each other.

  3. The trend of the narcissistic and/or selfish gamer keeps increasing in my very limited circle of games. I’m not sure if this is a generational critique that pokes at generation Y/Z, but as more and more ‘younger’ people cycle through the groups I play / have played in, there are more and more players that I need to weed out who are ‘character centric’ over ‘group centric’. I’m not saying that selfish character actions are bad, quite the contrary. I believe they can add a lot to a story. It’s when the nature of these actions preclude the story from taking a reasonable course or are outright obstructionist in nature, that they reveal themselves as selfish actions by the individual instead of their character. It feels (again anecdotal) that this new generation of gamer is more comfortable sacrificing the gaming dynamic for their own comfort/fun levels. Perhaps the instant gratification of computer games, Hollywood movies, and being constantly connected to their peer group has eroded their ability to empathize with the group as a whole. What I mean is this: When generation y/z is faced with a ‘real life’ group decision, it is reasonable to assume that instant communication happens (texting, IM, etc), and immediate responses are tallied. Anyone who didn’t respond in time must not have had anything important to add. The average level of patience for these transactions is far less than generation x who did not have the luxury of instant feedback. Additionally, those are the first two generations where entertainment is instant on and instant off. If something isn’t fun, you have dozens of other options at your fingertips and you simply switch between them. Want to read a different book? Just hit the next button on your eReader and select from a list of hundreds. Generation X is the last generation (barely) that participated in constructing and deconstructing entertainment. With limited options, we had to be patient with what we had or else we could go without entertainment for a while. Want to read a book? Get one of your 15 books from the bookshelf, but put your current book back first. That mundane transaction teaches the value of setup and teardown. This is vital for one key area of modern table-top gaming: The GM or players (depending on the game) take the time to construct a scene. The very nature of that process garners respect from people who grew up having to do this with everything else in their lives. Unfortunately, this process can be invisible to younger gamers who legitimately don’t understand why they have to sit there and ‘endure’ a scene that they don’t appreciate.
    This brings me to my second to last point and the one that I think is the most pertinent to your post:
    This younger generation did not have playmates like generation x and its predecessors had playmates. They had the option to play against computer opponents or anonymous internet partners that could neither garner nor demand respect from them. This fosters a sense of self importance and detaches them from being able to function as well in the group dynamic.
    My Final point is one that makes me feel like an old person waxing for the better days: My generation was Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers, and The Great Space Coaster. They taught me to think about my decisions, to understand group dynamics, and that we’re all in this journey together. This new generation of educational programming seems to teach more about ‘not letting people tell you what to do’ and ‘why you alone are special’. Both of those points are fantastic and strong when they’re surrounded by ALL OF THE REQUIRED CONTEXT TO MAKE THEM WISE, but I am not seeing the context; which makes them nothing more than fuel for feelings of self entitlement.

    The saddest part about this writing, is that I’ve really only made a statement against the typical gen y/z’er as I see them. I am trying very hard to prevent myself from jumping into the damaged self image state that I believe is far more prevalent today than in my generation. I’m not saying we’re not damaged, but we were fortunate enough to not have immediate peer feedback for every action of our lives.

    1. like many people who have mental issues, i read the rants and raves section of craigslist.org. i recall on one occasion, an australian had written about how americans did not understand the concept of “mates” and upon reading his accounts i was instantly reminded of how many people i’ve cut out of my life because doing the ground-work to be friends with them just wasn’t worth it.

      as it went (as i recall, anyway), this man went on to write about how americans never have to work to maintain friendships and that only a small few ever understand the notions of competition. his observation, which i’m inclined to agree with, is that getting along is hard and therefore it’s easier to turn to dungeons and dragons (he actually mentioned d&d) than it is to fight for your friends. he’d been here 15 years and didn’t have many american friends, but he illustrated how in australia, it didn’t matter what was going on, if a mate was in trouble, he would side with his mate 100% regardless of how stupid the issue was. this usually resulted in some fistacuffs, followed by some apologizes and then some drinking together. in all, a valued experience because it all added to their bonding process.

      reading your post, i’m struck by the sheer volume of generalizations made it in, that years ago i would have made to describe anything. but now, after being around engineers and people who think they know more than i do, i’ve been trained to avoid these kinds of statements, even when they are 90% true. i’ve turned to writing in anecdotal form. something i’m not fond of, either.

      much to think about.

      1. I almost always find your responses invigorating because your perspective is so drastically different than my own experiences and yet we still manage to function in the world. I used to be the engineer type that would slam anyone who made a generalization because it was so easy to come up with scenarios to break them. After hanging with so many computer industry professionals, I can’t stand to have a casual conversation without forcing myself into generalities; which of course highlighted how much of an asshole I had been previously (still am?).

        I am also inclined to agree that maintaining friendships is really hard because you have to try and get along.

        How many truly close friends have you made from gaming in comparison to number of people who’ve cycled through your games? (Not rhetorical).

        I know for me personally, there have only been a handful of people that I wanted to get to know from gaming, and fistfuls that I shut out. The litmus test these days is simple: If I tell you I don’t care what level your gnome bard is but I’d like to grab a bite and you are offended, then I know you’re most likely “one of those” gamers I need to avoid.

      2. we are really off the rails now.

        i made a comment recently to both my other gaming group and my anger management therapist… “people disappoint me.” when a gamer does it, i just shrug and say, “meh. gamers. whatever. even the ones who think they aren’t like ‘those guys’ are still devoid of social and spacial awareness. so i just shrug it off. but when the lady behind me in line at the store is yapping at 80 decibels on her phone, i want to strangle her.” for whatever reason, i attribute higher expectations on a stranger than i ever would on a gamer.

        here’s an example: i spend about an hour getting ready for you guys to come over each week. i buy snacks, soda, ice, and i prep the game. after you guys leave, i spend 30 minutes cleaning crumbs from under the table, on the seats, off the table, and then put away all the cans and trash. to me, that fact that i have to clean up after adults is a reflection of semi-retarded behavior that i should never have to do. especially since i’m hosting, buying you guys food, and running the games. for me, if you weren’t gamers, i’d probably say something or most likely never have to say anything… because normal people know better. but, i oddly never get upset about it, either. because i just don’t expect the behavior to be any better.

        but, i’m sure we did the same thing to aaron. so, at the end of the day, it becomes easier to do the least bit than it is to work on ourselves and be aware of our behavior.

        gamers like the veneer, not the structure. obsessive with the veneer means inside is hollow.

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