We Need to Stop Judging How Others Play

 A few things have popped up lately that have me reflecting hard on how the gaming community on social media treats each other, and to be honest, a lot of the time it's really despicable. The worst part, however, is that many folks have the best intentions and don't realize how judgmental or self-important they are being. Others are just trying to express an opinion, and yet come off like they're preaching, accusing, insulting, or belittling others. 

I'm far from immune to this, myself, as a disclaimer. In no way am I pretending to be above these issues. I'm an opinionated guy (a lot of my friends are laughing uproariously as they read this, in a "NOOOO...YOU?" kind of way), and more often than not, I just say what I think, and don't sugar coat it. As a business person running a gaming company, I honestly should be a lot better at that than I am. It's something I struggle with.

But I digress. 

Two things happened today. One was me, and one was someone else. Both come down to One True Wayism, which is a goddamn blight on the gaming community. Even if you think your version of it is morally upright, it's still crapping on someone else's fun, and that, my friends, is absolutely uncool. Let's break it down. 

6540049 © Marcin Okupniak | Dreamstime.com

Edition Wars and "Your Game Sucks"

So today, I saw a post from Tim Brannan's blog from July 4 (you're probably reading his blog, and if you aren't, you really should be). It's about 4th edition D&D. I don't like 4e. I hate it, in fact. It was the single most divisive edition of the game ever, and it nearly broke WotC. It was the first time in the history of TTPRGs that they weren't the top dog in industry sales. Its failure led to 5e, which say what you will, made D&D a legitimate international phenomenon in a way it never has been. 

A poster made a lighthearted comment about not liking it, and my response was far too harsh. I said, "I agree with you 100%. 4e was D&DINO: D&D In Name Only." 

That was, put simply, uncalled for. The poster in question said, "If people like it, great! Play it! Just not for me!" 

I then chimed up to clarify, saying, "Yup. Everyone is welcome to play whatever they like and it's not for me to tell them what (or how) to play their games. There's no such thing as badwrongfun. There's just fun. If you dig it, play it.," and that's really how I feel. My approach, however, was belittling to anyone who likes 4e, and that, quite simply, is incorrect and inexcusable behavior. 

There's lots of games I don't like that others love. There's lots of games I love that others don't. It's not on me to act as the grand arbiter of what's a good game. 

I've done the same thing with VTT platforms and online gaming. I've been extremely dismissive of it, but in truth, some people enjoy it more than in person gaming, and there's nothing wrong with that. Some people do it because they legit can't game in person with people for whatever reason. Who am I to dismiss their method of fun? 

I didn't intend to belittle people who enjoy specific games or methods of gaming, but that is precisely what I did. And I'm not alone. People do this all the time in the gaming community. It needs to stop. 

1125339 © Bogdan Lazar | Dreamstime.com

You Must Use These Tools, or, You Must Play This Way

This one gets sketchy. The post in question was a very popular D&D streamer, who was (rather arrogantly) preaching that everyone needs to use tools like X cards or "respect mechanics" at their table to keep from "triggering" others, insisting that they were a core, vital, and necessary tool to ensure that comfort levels are valued across the board. 

This poster was preaching, however, in response to another post wherein someone was insisting that those things are stupid, and nobody that uses them are welcome at their table. They claimed that people need to grow thicker skin and get over it. 

Here's the thing, folks: both of those stances are correct on some level, and both of them are also wrong on some level. 

First, for some tables, X cards, Session Zero boundary discussions, and comfort mechanics are, in fact, necessary. Indeed, they're especially helpful if you're sitting down with an entire new group of people for the first time and nobody knows each other. These are games, folks, and if anyone at the table isn't having fun, you've lost the point. I don't care what the topic is, it doesn't hurt you in any way to not incorporate it into the game, but if it does hurt someone else, then the game is lost. 

On the other hand, not every gaming group needs these things. I have been gaming with the same people for over two decades. We all know each other inside and out, backwards and forwards. Nobody is going to be caught off guard, and if something does crop up, we are all comfortable with each other to just speak up. So some groups (more than you'd think, I would wager) can do away with these things. 

Do people need to grow thicker skins? Eh. That's a discussion for elsewhere. Sometimes I think they do about some things in this day and age, but it doesn't kill me to show a bit of common respect for people at the table. Gaming is about the group, not the individual. It's the Vulcan concept of IDIC: Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations. If you can't agree that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one at the gaming table, you may want to stop and think about whether it's the right hobby for you. Or not. Again, it's not my place to tell you how to think or feel or play your game.

If I can be forgiven for being really freaking blunt for a second, if I have a sexual abuse or sexual assault survivor at the table, I goddamn well better be avoiding those topics in game. That's not a "grow thicker skin" situation. It's someone with actual trauma. 

In any case, nobody should be telling anyone else how to play. That ranges from what tools you have to use in your game, to what platforms you should use, to what the "correct" approach to role playing vs. roll playing is. There's only One True Way in gaming and that's, "are you having fun?" 

4849619 © Ivan Grlic | Dreamstime.com

Showing Common Decency and Respect

In the end, I just don't think any of us should be telling other people what the "right" or "wrong" way to play a TTRPG is. Someone might have practices at their table that you think are awful, but they and their players have zero problem with. The solution, then, is to not play with those people. There's over 30 million D&D players out there. There's probably tens of thousands of streaming sessions. You're sure to find someone whose proclivities match your own, and VTTs, Zoom, Discord, and other platforms make it easier than ever to hook up. 

Your local game store can probably help you find an in-person group if that's your thing (I personally can't get into online TTPRGing). If you haven't been to your FLGS, you might think about stopping in. They are an important part of the community and a wonderful place to meet great people, make new friends, find gaming groups, and discover new games. My town is blessed with a number of them. I'll link a few below, because they deserve recognition. Many towns don't have a lot of game stores. I might do another blog on finding yours. 

Again, however, it's all about just being respectful. I've said over and over again that all the problems in our world could be solved if everyone just started treating each other with common decency and respect. You know, if we treated each other like human beings. Most of us don't mean to be judgmental or harsh when we state our opinions. We all might just take a step back and think about how we say things before we say them...because it does matter, and the only universal is that there are no universals. 

Okay, there are some. Violent crime is bad. That's a universal. But you get my point. 

Pittsburgh and Surrounding Area Game Stores

Check these guys out if you're ever in town. They are all run by awesome folks. 
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