Thursday, May 16, 2013

Psyche of a Gamer: The Social Contract

2nd Class Elitist and I have spent a lot of time talking about the culture of gamers.  To both of us the psychology of people, the why? to their actions, is something we both like to examine.  Time and again, we have discussed the social contract of gaming.  I thought I'd spend some time discussing this topic because all too often gamers forget that without the person on the other side of the table, we can't play.

I recently read a blog post about the idea of a social contract, where the author implicitly says it is wrong to expect one.  I couldn't disagree more.  His premise is that if I expect my opponent to behave a certain way then I am the one in the wrong if my opponent doesn't behave that way.  My problem with his argument is he has showcased unreasonable expectations.  Yes it is unreasonable to expect everyone to conform to your idea of the perfect way to play the game.  But it's not unreasonable to expect both players to observe some basic courtesies.  So I'm going to outline the basic duties of the social contract of gaming (as I see them).  This is designed for playing someone new, but can be used in all games.  There is a basic premise here that I think needs to be stated first, I believe you ARE responsible, to an extent, for the fun your opponent has.

  1. Hygiene: Accept the fact that you are going to be with this other person for a while, and if you smell bad, he's not going to have fun.  Unless of course he's a smelly bastard too.  If so you are a match made in heaven, but for the love of all that is holy and good in this world, play at home then.  If, however, you are playing in a public place, bathe!
  2. Accept the parameters of the game: This one needs a bit of explaining.  If you are playing in a tournament, it is your responsibility to understand the standards of behavior at that tournament.  If you choose to play in the event, then you are responsible for the way you are treated.  And yes, you are responsible for the way you treat others.  If you are going to a local store, ask questions.  Find out if the players here are all power gamers, or if they are fluff nuts (that's me!).  If they don't play the way you like, and you can't adapt, don't play.  If you do play don't ruin it for your opponent by complaining the whole time.  And lastly, you are a joining a new group for the first time, their rules take priority.  If on the other hand you are the regular in either the store or gaming group, make sure the new guy understands how you play.  It's just as unacceptable to invite someone to game with you and then get upset if they don't know the unwritten rules of your group.
  3. Win/lose with grace: If you are rofflestomping your opponent, it's generally bad form to rub his nose in it while it's happening.  I'm not saying you should apologize for winning.  But if things just can't seem to go your opponent's way, a little commiseration can go a long way.  On the flip side, losing with grace
    is often harder to do.  If a tactic or unit your opponent is using is making it hard for you, that is no excuse for poor behavior.  If seen tons of despicable behavior in this case, from whining about the tactic/unit, to throwing your hands up (making a speticle of yourself), and finally throwing dice (in my opinion one of the worst displays).  Any of these behaviors make it hard for your opponent to have fun.
Let me reiterate, I believe you are responsible for your opponent's fun.  But I don't mean to say that it's all your responsibility.  Your responsibility could be defined are providing an environment where you opponent can have fun.  If you struggle to have fun with new players, or worse still you are having trouble finding games, try these 3 rules.  I bet you have a completely new experience.  Until next time...



  1. For the love of God, please bathe. I can't stand to smell funky people at events. Why do people think its ok to go to an event smelling like ass and cheetos?

    Also I agree on the sportsmanship. I know a guy that everytime he beats your roll you get the napolean dynamite "YES!" or or a very effeminate "YAY". When he loses he wants to question and get a judges ruling. Really? A ruling?

    I think you left out one more rule. Time consideration. Some games are timed (like heroclix). I know one person that kills the clock everytime. Its not fun, we are there to play. Play damn it!!! Last week we were playing, 30 minutes into the match we are just on 2nd turn and some matches are already over.

    Those three reasons i am not playing clix anymore 1 guy stinks, 1 guy kills the clock, and 1 guy can't win or lose without it being contested everystep of the way.

    good article

  2. I should not say "Not playing anymore" I just don't play as much because of those 3. They are the regulars in the group also. While there are other guys there I love to play, they usually beat me 99 out of 100 times, but they are good sports, respectful, clean and actually give hints and coach you after the game is over. That is true sportsmanship.

  3. I agree, when I first started playing Warhammer, I got beat every week by the same guy. But each week we'd talk about the game and the tactics of different units. 4 months of losing later, I played another regular and won. But during that 4 months I never felt like the guy I was playing was rubbing my face in it.

    Also, and 2CE, can back me up here. Some of my favorite games I got my tail kicked. But the game was fun as hell.