by Rick Thornquist
May 23, 2011
First up, a confession: I hate it when people text when I’m playing games with them. Now, I’m not talking about one text in an evening – I even do that occasionally. I’m talking about people who are endlessly texting throughout a game. This annoys the crap out of me. It’s like these people are teenage girls, unable to cut the bond with their online friends for even a few minutes. If these people find their phones more interesting than me, I’d rather they just don’t play games with me in the first place.
This got me to thinking. It’s not only the texters I’d rather not play games with. There are other kinds of people as well, and I find that they all fit into a number of categories. Hence, this article. If any gamer finds themselves in any of these categories, please, please, I beseech you, don’t play games with me.
The Texter / Phoner
I’m going to lump the texters in with the phoners. Who are the phoners, you ask? Oh, you know them, the ones that can’t bear to have their phone leave their side – even for a minute – because they are so important. Of course, their phone rings and rings again while they are playing and what was supposed to be a fun game turns into an exercise in waiting for the phoner to conduct whatever business is more important than me.
I used to play with a guy that epitomized a phoner. He was a system administrator and was on call whenever we played games. His phone would inevitably ring with someone who was having some system problem and the game would come to a screeching halt while he tried to fix it. (I’d tell him to just tell the guy to just reboot the server – the standard solution for any computer problem – but he wouldn’t listen until ten minutes later when he’d tell the guy to, uh, just reboot the server).
The Drinker / Druggie
A few years ago, I played a game of Web of Power at a local game store. My opponents were new to the game. No problem there, as I’m often called upon to explain rules. This rules explanation, however, was a little different than most…
I started with an overview and talked bout how to win the game. Just as I was starting to explain the sequence of play, one of the guys, who looked slightly out of it, interrupted me and asked, “So how do I win the game?”. I was a taken aback, as I had just explained that two seconds ago, but I gamely restated the victory conditions. The rest of the rules explanation was similar, with the guy endlessly asking me about stuff that I had just said. The game itself was no better – the guy was useless and couldn’t remember any of the rules. At the end of the game he confessed to smoking a joint just before coming to the game night. Idiot.
Drinkers are no better. Obviously a drinker would be useless in a strategy game, but in a party game situation, where you may expect it to help, it does just the opposite. In my experience, drinkers get obnoxious and belligerent and the games end up being torture.
I was in a game with a bunch of people at a convention. In the middle of the game, one of the women gets a phone call. Arg. She takes the call – we wait. After she hangs up she says she has to go. I must say I was pretty annoyed. Then, however, I became a little sympathetic – perhaps she had some kind of emergency and really had to go. My sympathy disappeared when I heard from one of the other players that she does this kind of thing all the time, and there is almost certainly no emergency. I went back to being annoyed.
I do realize that people may have to leave because of real emergencies. Case in point: I was at the GAMA Trade Show in Las Vegas years ago and got a chance to play Ticket to Ride: Marklin before it was released. I was very much anticipating the game and sat down one morning to play it with Mark Kaufmann of Days of Wonder and a guy who shall remain nameless. In the middle of the game the guy looked at us and said he had to go to the bathroom. We said, fine, go. He said, uh, I might be there for a while. We were, like, what? He then told us to keep playing and when it was his turn to just draw two cards off the top of the deck and put them in his hand. Puzzled, we said okay. He left.
We kept playing and anticipated his return. Five minutes, went by, then ten minutes, then fifteen. The guy’s stack of cards was getting huge and I was actually getting worried. He finally came back, looking drained. He confessed that he had the breakfast buffet at the Circus Circus and it apparently didn’t agree with him. In that case, I was sympathetic. (That would have been enough for the story but… and yes, this is absolutely true, he ended up picking up his deck, finishing the game, and, believe it or not, winning. We were all stunned. Someday I’m going to have to try out the “go to the bathroom for fifteen minutes” strategy in a future game of Marklin).
I’ve not found smelly people to be too much of a problem in gaming, but it does happen. If you haven’t taken a shower in 72 hours, don’t play games with me. (Another aside: I remember a wargame convention years ago that had the following admonishment in the convention program: “There’s a shower in your hotel room. Use it.”).
Years ago, I taught a game of Where’s Bob’s Hat to this guy and two other players. The rules explanation was fine, at least I thought was, until we started to play. Right away this guy starting interrupting the game, telling me I’d missed telling him some rule or other, and kept interrupting throughout the game questioning every rule. Now it’s certainly possible that I missed a rule, hey, I’m human, but Bob’s Hat is a pretty simple game and I was pretty sure I had taught it right. It turns out I had – the other players got the game exactly right and told this guy that I had explained it correctly. This was to no avail – the guy continued to be a dickhead. That guy became infamous in our gaming community and whenever he showed up to a gaming event – which, fortunately, was not too often – he was shunned like the plague.
We’ve all had problems with players who can be slow. I’m quite sympathetic and am willing to put up with a little analysis, but sometimes people just take way too long on their turns and it make the game torture.
Most slow players know about their problem and, when gently admonished, will endeavour to speed up. I remember one guy, though, who was taking forever on his turns and when we tried, gently, to hurry him along, he got belligerent and insisted he was going to take as much time as he needed. I’m glad he got what he wanted out of the game, because for the rest of us it was torture. Oh, and he won’t be playing games with me, ever again.
If you do suffer from one or more of the above afflictions, please don’t play games with me. It’s just not worth it, for both of us. However, if you are like most gamers, and I’ve met thousands of them, who are wonderful people and don’t exhibit any of the above conditions, please DO play games with me!