Let the circle be broken
You know me, I'm all about the art of games and a lot of what I talk about in this column has to do with various bits and pieces cribbed from various things and place, that i hope, will create a more fertile patch of land to grow these sorts of things in.
But I also am very keen to understand the social dynamics of gaming. One of the primary reasons to game at all is to be social. To find friends and have an excuse to get out of the house. Novel writing is a solitary activity. Gaming never is. Even Chat gaming is social. Gaming involves you taking your pristine, in-box, character and ripping open the package and playing with the other kids in the neighborhood.
As i get older, i notice certain changes and refinement in the gamer social dynamic. As people get older there is a tendency to be less tolerant of things. It's a known fact that men over the age of thirty have a much harder time making friends and their social circles tend to dwindle down.
I have observed, on more than one occasion, the slow calcification of gaming groups. As a group tends to become more cliqueish, it also tends to become more incestuous and ingrown like a toenail. This leads to schoolyard soap opera and drama and if left unchecked can end friendships and damage the gaming community at large.
And that's not just sad. It's tragic.
There once was a time when we'd think nothing of allowing a gamer friend to sleep on the couch after getting kicked out of his parents house. But too many stolen books, too many arguments over things that are truly trivial, too many nights schlepping another person's emotional baggage, and too many days of just dealing with our own crap can make us bitter.
Worse, in unguarded moments, it can make us wonder, "Is this the best i can do for friends?"
Let's say you're like me. You may work long hours at a dull job, but at least it gives you the opportunity to be thinking about other things. And what you think about, as like as not, is the upcoming game. In essence, you are working for the weekend. Making your way through the long hard slog in order to get to the thing in your life that gives it balance.
And you get there, only to discover that one of the people at the game has had a hard week and hasn't left it at the door. He's being a real cock. Or maybe you walk into the larp only to discover a couple of the players have decided to have a knock down, drag out, Out of Character fight and it has effectively ruined the night for everyone.
Maybe you walk in the door to discover that the young lady with the neurotic tendencies and the low self esteem has tossed over ANOTHER guy only to take up with one of the other players. She's hanging all over him like a cheap suit, and the Ex, and the 4 guys that came before him are all there trying to deal...Sexual tension so thick you could drive a nail through it.
Maybe you've walked in the door on the night where some person test drives the larp for the first time and his idea of "Fun" is VASTLY different from everyone elses.
Maybe you log onto the chat game, only to realize that people are completely blind to their own behavior. They act like pricks and then don't understand why people hate them. I have literally heard a person playing a vampire on a chat work himself into a self righteous tizzy over the fact that he had a blood hunt called on him, because he was a multiple murderer, Diabolist, and had made the Masquerade bend over and grab it's ankles. He seriously didn't understand that he had DONE WRONG THINGS!
God the list of bullshit that can happen at games is so deep and broad, it's almost a wonder that any of these games go right. And almost all of them come out of familiarity breeding contempt. Yes, that's right. The better you get to know your friends, the less you tend to like them.
Jeez. That sounds pretty fucking grim doesn't it. But with the exception of those people who are closest to you, The one's you've started to think of as family, Your social circle is very likely to implode under the weight of drama, bullshit, and slights real and imagined.
But there is a solution.
One of the main reasons why i do Larps is that they help me to expand my social circle. And I think i've talked about that here before. I go to great length to try to keep the larp in a constant state of expansion. I am firmly of the belief that the more you add new blood, the more vital the whole community stays.
It's occasionally important to break the same social cycles, before boredom and bullshit start to make you think that picking lint out of your bely button, would be a better use of your Saturday night. Each new person that walks in the door has the potential not only to bring something new to the community, but they also might have tips and tricks, you might never have thought of before. The new guy, might just teach you something about yourself. And you, might teach him something in return.
And that, all by itself, is worth the price of admission.
Plus, a LARGE community of players makes it easier for you to avoid people you really don't cotton to. If you don't particularly like that girl because she's a OOC manipulator, and you don't much care for the mouth-breather who plays one of the power characters, well in a large game, you don't have to deal with them a lot. In a large game, it's harder for one person to make it un-fun for everyone. A large game has more absorption for crap like that. The trade off is that large games tend to develop a certain amount of bureaucracy in order to function.
And who knows, If you approach things like an adult, and you keep your OOC drama at home, You might just rub off on those people. And if you keep an open mind, and a set of open eyes, you may come to find value in people that you didn't like at first. If nothing else, you might develop a grudging respect.
And just like Corn-bread. There ain't NOTHING wrong with that.