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Subject: Dealing with gamers who don't like confrontation... rss

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Tahsin Shamma
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If this type of thread has already been hashed out somewhere before, feel free to direct me.

I've recently run across a couple of situations where I intentionally make confrontational moves in different games in order to create disadvantages to those players' positions on the board. I've also witnessed a player getting attacked via standard game mechanics and getting frustrated that the turns he had spent building up his position were now being reversed.

I'm apt to just chalk these situations up to gamers who can't take some games or situations lightly, but I mentioned these same situations to my wife and she described it as playing "mean".

I really disagree with this, so I ask the community, is it "mean" to instigate confrontation with the aim of imposing disadvantages or removing gains by other players through attack or intentionally driving a bid higher?

If it's not mean, should I just pick games more carefully with those players? This could in turn could diminish my enjoyment of a game.

Thanks for any feedback
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Confront them with the issue.
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I think 'mean' would be to purposely give another player a disadvantage without anybody gaining from the move. Otherwise, as long as you don't violate the rules of the game, you are playing it as allowed, whether or not you are getting closer to the objective is another story.
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Tahsin Shamma
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toober wrote:
I think 'mean' would be to purposely give another player a disadvantage without anybody gaining from the move. Otherwise, as long as you don't violate the rules of the game, you are playing it as allowed, whether or not you are getting closer to the objective is another story.


So, you don't consider that giving another player a disadvantage is, by it's nature, giving every other player an advantage?
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P Johnson
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It is mean, like intentionally trying to block shots in soccer is mean, or trying to throw a baseball so fast the hitter can't put it in play, or double teaming the best player on the court.
The purpose of playing a (competitive) game is to win, and it sounds like you are playing competitively. The only way it would be mean is if it somehow destroys the fun and the spirit of the game.
Can you give an example of a 'mean' play you are making?
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Most of the time, yes. But there are occasions when somebody I know is going to lose, and he oes something to drag out the game (or give everyone, including himself a disadvantage) with no change in player stats or position. That is being 'mean'.
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J C Lawrence
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My goal in a game is to win. I can win by out-performing the other players and I can win by ensuring that the other players stumble, fail, and lose. Both work equally well. There are games where I try and run fast, and there games in which I try and break all the other player's legs and then saunter across the goal-line. In most games I try and do both. I am happy to end a game with a score of only $1, just so long as all the other players have less.

The first rule of gaming: Everyone else must lose. Okay, how can I arrange that?
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Tahsin Shamma
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Tunicate wrote:
It is mean, like intentionally trying to block shots in soccer is mean, or trying to throw a baseball so fast the hitter can't put it in play, or double teaming the best player on the court.
The purpose of playing a (competitive) game is to win, and it sounds like you are playing competitively. The only way it would be mean is if it somehow destroys the fun and the spirit of the game.
Can you give an example of a 'mean' play you are making?


In any auction style game, intentionally driving a bid higher to raise the price the person who really needs the item must pay, even if it does not benefit me.
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J C Lawrence
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veector wrote:
In any auction style game, intentionally driving a bid higher to raise the price the person who really needs the item must pay, even if it does not benefit me.


Such benefits you by reducing their ability to bid against you for the items you want.
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Some people do get overly invested in the game. If they feel like they have really built something (be it a conquered territory or an economic engine), then it feels mean for you to up and take that away from them.

It is perfectly allowed and should be encouraged if the game allows it. Many games - especially area control or area majority games - are balanced because they know players will gang up on a runaway leader and knock down their advantages.

That said, some players just do not like this style of gameplay. And that's fine. Not all games are for all players. So, for people who are adverse to attacks, you may want to focus on games with higher indirect competition. Agricola is great for this. So is Core Worlds. That way competition can be fierce but not direct.

If even that is too much, there are always co-ops.
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Tahsin Shamma
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clearclaw wrote:
veector wrote:
In any auction style game, intentionally driving a bid higher to raise the price the person who really needs the item must pay, even if it does not benefit me.


Such benefits you by reducing their ability to bid against you for the items you want.


I agree, but by the wife's world-view, it's "mean". Of course, I disagree.

Another specific example is encouraging people to attack one another in a game (I do this more with people I know well), which I love to see because conflict away from me is an advantage for me.
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Leo Chell
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Surely the aim for the game is to win. One way of working towards winning is to disadvantage your opponents. If that takes confrontation then so be it. Maybe try co-op games with them?
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J C Lawrence
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Establishing conflict, even if it is only contention for a limited resources needed by other players, can often be a successful tactic.

Let's have you and him fight while I win.
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P Johnson
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veector wrote:
clearclaw wrote:
veector wrote:
In any auction style game, intentionally driving a bid higher to raise the price the person who really needs the item must pay, even if it does not benefit me.


Such benefits you by reducing their ability to bid against you for the items you want.


I agree, but by the wife's world-view, it's "mean". Of course, I disagree.

Another specific example is encouraging people to attack one another in a game (I do this more with people I know well), which I love to see because conflict away from me is an advantage for me.

Case 1 is clearly a strategy.

Case 2 sounds like something I'd do. It is an advantage to you to sow conflict elsewhere. I suppose if I was playing a game and everyone else said not to do this because it wasn't fun, I'd stop. That is provided it wasn't a feature of the game, which it sometimes is!
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Bryan Fischer
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As a player who doesn't like confrontation, I'll speak to this...

I'm generally an "alternative win condition" kind of player, or at least the player at the table who isn't taking place in the big war. Twilight Imperium is a great example. I don't like taking place in the arms race and only do what I need to do to keep others at bay so that I can play my game without the direct conflict. I've won the game on multiple plays this way, through card draw. It works in other games as well.

I mention this because there's a difference between players who don't like confrontation, but still play a strategic game, and those who are sensitive to being picked on and label that confrontation. The later doesn't like it when they are penalized by another player's actions, but they might not understand or see the reason why the other player did it. And as soon as that player is bruised, there's often no way to salvage it.

There are also players who love confrontation, but still get sore when someone who normally never takes part in conflict makes a move that catches them by surprise. They will often label this as "mean" (to put it nicely). For instance, I was playing a game of Giants not too long ago. Another player at the table, who never shies away from making confrontational moves as long as he benefits from them, was very upset after I made a late game move that would keep him from ending the game immediately and, most likely, winning. He was pretty furious for a moment. I can understand this, and perhaps my reasoning for doing it wasn't clear. Obviously making that move that turn meant giving everyone (including me) a chance to win on the next turn when we didn't have as likely a chance then. I won on the next turn.

I find that most gamers are sensitive to being picked on at some point or another. If they feel like someone has been dishonest or is picking on them in particular, they get bruised and the game experience is ruined for them. While it's not always right for them to feel this way, it's not always wrong either I find. And game play experience is a HUGE part of gaming. It goes the other way, also. If a player feels bruised and constantly complains about it or gets angry at the table, they are in turn ruining the game for everyone else.

I find that this topic is a per-table, per-player discussion. It's easy to argue the overarching themes, but in practice it's rarely black and white. And every gaming group has the player who likes to pick and the player who doesn't like to be picked on.
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veector wrote:
I mentioned these same situations to my wife and she described it as playing "mean".


Some people take anything confrontational as a personal attack and not part of the game. They are not able to see the difference of how someone is acting in a game versus the real life. They might develop out of it if the game has characters that the player's control instead of just players. This brings a role-playing element to the game. It is not the player who acts in a game, it is the character. The players are just doing their best to advance the pursuits of their characters.

Some people can not handle randomness, especially when they feel that it is unfair, although life is full of unfair things. (Maybe their life at the moment is too random, so they do not like that in a game.) But some games really are about how you react to bad things happening to you, and you have to do your best to overcome the challenges. Game situations can be more about how you deal with losses and less about avoiding them altogether. Playing co-op games can help by giving examples and comraderie in difficult situations.

Some people can not handle losing well. They may think they are considered stupid because they lost. Giving credit when they make good moves gives a sense of achievement, progress in learning a game.

Not all games are suitable for all people and all groups. Know your audience, pick the games for the group. But also, try to identify (ask if necessary) what are the things the players hate about some games and maybe there are underlying issues that can be somehow resolved.
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Tahsin Shamma
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Bryan Fischer wrote:
As a player who doesn't like confrontation, I'll speak to this...

...

There are also players who love confrontation, but still get sore when someone who normally never takes part in conflict makes a move that catches them by surprise. They will often label this as "mean" (to put it nicely). For instance, I was playing a game of Giants not too long ago. Another player at the table, who never shies away from making confrontational moves as long as he benefits from them, was very upset after I made a late game move that would keep him from ending the game immediately and, most likely, winning. He was pretty furious for a moment. I can understand this, and perhaps my reasoning for doing it wasn't clear. Obviously making that move that turn meant giving everyone (including me) a chance to win on the next turn when we didn't have as likely a chance then. I won on the next turn.


I would have loved to have seen this game. To me those are the gaming moments to be savored, when there is an epic story of confrontation to be told.
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Tahsin Shamma
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a1bert wrote:
Some people take anything confrontational as a personal attack and not part of the game. They are not able to see the difference of how someone is acting in a game versus the real life. They might develop out of it if the game has characters that the player's control instead of just players. This brings a role-playing element to the game. It is not the player who acts in a game, it is the character. The players are just doing their best to advance the pursuits of their characters.


Maybe it's my 20+ years of experience as a Game Master is getting the better of me? devil I love conflict in games because it drives a story which is at the core of most experiences when gaming. To others, it probably is about the analytical moves, but I find simply focusing on those aspects to be dry and without fun.
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Is it mean for 3 players to always put the catan robber on fred even though he is in last place?
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My friend's gaming philosophy is "Kill Dave". He's been doing that off and on for about five years because I can take it. It always makes victory that much sweeter despite Brandon's best efforts. He tries to win too, but if he sees an opportunity to screw me, he'll take it. I've learned to try to avoid those situations and I usually do.

My mom deliberately tries not to do anything mean. We play scrabble as who can build the coolest word and don't play for points (though we do keep score).

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If you were playing against active members of BGG it probably would not be mean. Against your friends though? I don't know. Not everyone ascribes to Knizia's “When playing a game, the goal is to win, but it is the goal that is important, not the winning.” Many people just want to play a game as kind of an activity and don't want to be super competitive. Maybe they aren't as good at compartmentalizing the game from their normal friendship and take things personally. I think this is a skill that takes practice.

I guess what I am trying to say is that your wife isn't wrong. It's just how she perceives games. It might be mean to do certain moves when playing games against certain people. Not everyone wants the same experiences. You may need to choose between playing less fun games for you vs playing with new, more competitive opponents.
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Bryan Fischer wrote:
As a player who doesn't like confrontation, I'll speak to this...

I'm generally an "alternative win condition" kind of player, or at least the player at the table who isn't taking place in the big war. Twilight Imperium is a great example. I don't like taking place in the arms race and only do what I need to do to keep others at bay so that I can play my game without the direct conflict. I've won the game on multiple plays this way, through card draw. It works in other games as well.

I mention this because there's a difference between players who don't like confrontation, but still play a strategic game, and those who are sensitive to being picked on and label that confrontation. The later doesn't like it when they are penalized by another player's actions, but they might not understand or see the reason why the other player did it. And as soon as that player is bruised, there's often no way to salvage it.

There are also players who love confrontation, but still get sore when someone who normally never takes part in conflict makes a move that catches them by surprise. They will often label this as "mean" (to put it nicely). For instance, I was playing a game of Giants not too long ago. Another player at the table, who never shies away from making confrontational moves as long as he benefits from them, was very upset after I made a late game move that would keep him from ending the game immediately and, most likely, winning. He was pretty furious for a moment. I can understand this, and perhaps my reasoning for doing it wasn't clear. Obviously making that move that turn meant giving everyone (including me) a chance to win on the next turn when we didn't have as likely a chance then. I won on the next turn.

I find that most gamers are sensitive to being picked on at some point or another. If they feel like someone has been dishonest or is picking on them in particular, they get bruised and the game experience is ruined for them. While it's not always right for them to feel this way, it's not always wrong either I find. And game play experience is a HUGE part of gaming. It goes the other way, also. If a player feels bruised and constantly complains about it or gets angry at the table, they are in turn ruining the game for everyone else.

I find that this topic is a per-table, per-player discussion. It's easy to argue the overarching themes, but in practice it's rarely black and white. And every gaming group has the player who likes to pick and the player who doesn't like to be picked on.


thumbsup

Just to add in my two cents as someone who doesn't like a lot of direct conflict either...

I'm not totally opposed to conflict. I just don't like conflict for the sake of conflict. This happened a lot when I first started in the hobby and I would play Munchkin with different people. Some games there would be people who would gang up on me, even if I was at level 0 with nothing but a race to my name. They would totally hold me at bay because they knew that I was the most experienced person at the table, and wanted to keep me from having a shot at winning. I don't mind being picked on a bit more for being the most experienced player, but meanwhile someone else is 3 levels ahead of everyone else and nobody is doing a thing about it.

This is the kind of thing that can potentially make me upset and/or ruin a game for me. If there is any sort of king making mechanic involved in a game, that's usually a potential red flag for me. If I'm playing a war game, the objective is simple...defeat the other side by any means necessary...but if I'm playing something like Carcassonne with the wrong group of people, there is that possibility that people will spend most of their time trying to ruin what I'm doing versus work on scoring points for themselves. That's not the kind of person I enjoy playing with.

This is why I've gone into Euro games so much in recent months. Even though they're (usually) competitive, I don't feel like people are doing anything except for advancing their own goals. Even if someone takes that wood that you wanted, there are still other options for you to consider. It's also why I have thought about looking into war games more, because even though there's conflict, it doesn't feel cheap or mean.

My advice would be to stick to games that are either meant to be confrontational, so that everyone understands the nature of what's going on, or if you do decide to be confrontational in games that don't demand it, don't single anyone out. In my experience, that seems to be the one thing that ruins a gaming experience more than anything else.
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Eric Brosius
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Some people don't like certain things in games. There are things I don't like in games. If they don't like "mean" games, you should try to be aware of which games are "mean" so you can describe the games accurately and they don't wind up unwittingly playing games they won't like.
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Maarten D. de Jong
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Donkler wrote:
You may need to choose between playing less fun games for you vs playing with new, more competitive opponents.

Precisely. There is no other way because the associated viewpoints are not compatible and will cause their adherents to grumble mightily about the resulting experience. Gamers playing to win will become annoyed at others more or less throwing the game; those others will become annoyed at the agression with which they are treated. It is, when you get right down to it, a case of expectation management.
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I play wargames. I know of nothing but confrontation.



Seriously, I'm not playing with people who don't share my gaming ethos. I'd suggest using BGG or other on-line resources to find like-minded gamers in your area, rather than to play games in a way to satisfy a non-confrontational player and thereby decrease your own enjoyment. Personally, if I'm not having fun playing a game (however it is that I define as "fun" for myself), then I'm doing it wrong. Life is too short to compromise on how I spend my leisure time.


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