So when does a game become bad for you, or bring out the worst?
I ask this because recently a friend and fellow blogger had a bit of an incident playing Bloodbowl and "lost it" because of his dice rolling. He's realised he stepped across a boundary and to prevent further instances he's sold off all his Bloodbowl stuff. His take on this is here pileofshame - and well worth a read.
The guy isn't a Dick, any more than any of us are. He's an affable and friendly sort of guy, but somehow the game got under his skin and made him act like a Dick. So why? And let's not pretend we don't all have those moments. I have seen tantrums, rages and dummy spitting that beggars belief, and have also been a perp too - in fact I can be a real Dick to play when the stars are wrong. In our club there is a now legendary story of a gamer getting so annoyed at his army that he scraped the lot into the bin! What makes this happen?
Is it something in us, or the game itself? Actually I'm sure its a bit of both, but there was a discussion about the way Bloodbowl in particular is based on a system of testing to fail, with the game being decided not so much by tactics but by a series of dice rolls, with a fail ending your turn. It follows that one turn in six will simply be a total disaster because of one dice roll - the first. Dreadball is better in that it actually rewards success, and even abject failure usually isn't a cataclysmic loss.
Is it the "sports" element - and buy that I mean the competition? All games are competitive, and all gamers are competitive too. I've met many who say they are not, but the truth is they are deluding themselves (or attempting to delude you!). Somehow "sports" games seem to emphasise that. Maybe it's something to do with their being a clear focus on points \ goal scoring - a game of Impetus or similar Ancients mass battle rules set will not be decided by the roll of one dice or the performance of one unit, the victory goes to the player who uses his troops best overall. Sure you CAN lose by getting a General killed off by a fluke result, but those are so rare as to be memorable. Similar fails in Bloodbowl and most sports games happen just about every turn.
Is it just we gamers are competitive by nature and that some times we lose sight of the big picture and forget to play nice? Actually I think some guys ARE just cheats who twist the rules to breaking and beyond, but they are thankfully few and far between. I suspect there are many more of us that manage to conveniently forget the rules or add a few inches to a critical move in the heat of the moment, and hopefully feel remorseful about it later. Again for clarity I must admit to doing something similar in the past (clearly not now, I'm more relaxed and balanced - No Sir not me anymore.......)
Another issue is, just how far should you go with being open? I've seen and played several games where "things aint what they seem". "Oh I forgot to mention that's my General" or those peasant skirmishers with bows are actually elite Javelin men, or my "favourite" which happened to me in a Flames of War tourney - you need to kill 2 platoons to break a Company and win, bit the opponent is fielding multiple companies and wont identify which platoon is from which and only he can tell the difference. Is that cheating? In all honesty I think it is.
Lastly, and probably the most difficult to address, is the dreaded "Rules Lawyer" who plays the rules for loopholes and exploits them, or the list maker, who exploits a weakness in the list writing mercilessly. Again I've done both in the past. This isn't cheating but its hardly fair and gentlemanly play either. It is particularly galling as the players involved are all not only grown up enough to know better but are good enough players to win without it.
So to get back on topic, why do we sometimes lose it and act like a spoilt child, and what can we do about it? My friend disposed of the offending game - I hope that works, even if I would question if it was the game or something else at the root of the problem. I don't have a good answer, but when I realised I was slipping down that route I bought a hat. It's not very flattering and makes me look silly. I now take it with me to tournaments and wear it to remind myself that its only a game and not to take it too seriously. So far it works, at least mostly.
I'll finish with a quote from Micheal Jackson - not someone I would usually take advice from, but in this case maybe it is appropriate.
"If you want to make the world a better place take a look at yourself and make a change".