Laugh, Dammit!

When did we gamers get so serious? It feels like we can't roll a d6 without running into an argument or misunderstanding out here in the wilds of the Internet. Granted, part of that is a function of the Internet, where all the bridges have gone virtual, so trolls are free to roam and stir up trouble. I'm not saying we don't deal with serious social topics from time to time, but not every topic should be treated so seriously.

The hobby is called "gaming". That seems to imply that we play games. And games should be a pleasant diversion undertaken by choice for the express purpose of having fun. So where did all the virtual dead bodies come from? And why do so many gamers say things like "You can take my 3.5 rules from me when you pry the rulebooks from my cold, dead fingers." I mean seriously.

It's a game. It's supposed to be fun on some level.

If your table is anything like mine, you hear four categories of table talk:

  1. In-character interactions.
  2. Rules questions and results of rolls.
  3. Raunchy jokes.
  4. Monty Python quotes.
Half the talk at my table makes people laugh, more than that if you count over-the-top fumbles and criticals. We accomplish in-game goals and we move the game forward, but we don't forget that we're there to have fun. As I've always said, "If it ain't fun, it ain't worth it."

I think part of this goes back to a question I've been thinking of lately. "Which came first, the gaming group or the friends?" Many people who play online or in con settings pick up the dice with complete strangers at the table. The group hasn't built a common vocabulary nor shared experiences, and in a con setting the players probably won't be gaming together on a regular basis. This makes joking at the table a risky proposition. It's possible, it's just harder to pull off effectively since people have come to the table primarily to game.

Most of my gaming experiences have been with already-established friends. We have shared experiences that we can tap and expand on in the game. And yes, joking with each other has already been established. We know each other's limits for what's acceptable and we've hammered out a social contract the overrides the game's contract.

For the level of fun and joking I enjoy at the table, I would probably be escorted to the door if I showed up to a con game laughing my butt off. That's not to say I won't interject some awful puns during play, and who doesn't like a good Python quote when it's appropriate?

In talking online, I try to maintain the same stance. I assume things should be funny. I rarely assume what someone said was designed to cause pain. I believe people are generally good, so I give the benefit of the doubt when I can. I'm not without my hot button topics, but I try to let the majority of what's said roll off my back.

You've got the choice to do the same in your online interactions. You can take everything that's said as a personal attack or malicious misinterpretation, or you can take one breath and read it again with a different voice. Try to listen for the point the author was going for past the actual words on the page, and mention the possible misinterpretations of what's written as an aside to your calm and well-reasoned response.

Years ago in the dark days before Twitter, we had an email list where we'd post cool things to a select group of friends. It's name had over 50 characters, and we all agreed to never set up an alias for it. We wanted to self-police our thoughts, so we imposed this criteria: if it's cool enough to expend the effort to type in the list name, it's cool enough to share. I miss that. That's also why I type in "Thanks!" at the end of all my email - that's not a signature file; I want to thank you for your time in reading what I'm emailing to you.

Don't we have enough problems without inventing a new holy war based around which edition of rules you like best? If you want a deadly serious game, go figure out how to feed and care for refugees in the middle of a guerilla war. But first let's stop fighting with ourselves over how many dice of damage a fireball does so we can tackle the world's truly serious problems.

Laugh, people. It's a game.

4 comments:

  1. Thanks! Yes, I've been fortunate lately to be around a fun group. Since I'm always the GM, I interject a LOT of humor especially to engage the boys. (our gaming group is a bunch of dads and sons from ages 10 up, plus a mixture of young singles) Many are completely new to RPG's and almost all are new to "old school" 1974-1976 D&D. So, it's light, creative, and we can have tons of good times.

    Always tons of Monty Python, Princess Bride, LoTR.... Yes, it's a game, and characters die, but sometimes they die so hilariously!

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  2. Python quotes seem to be a gaming standard, especially among gamers of our generation. ("Generation" sounds better than "age" to me.)

    Don't get me wrong - there are plenty of serious issues that come up in games. Usually someone tries to be funny, but the joke seriously offends one or more of the people in the room. That's not cool.

    But seriously, can we dispense with the blanket "You Suck" statements? I'd expect that behavior from talking trash at a sporting event, not at a gaming table where imagination rules. Nobody benefits from being dismissed with a personal dig.

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  3. I don't know my current gaming group outside of gaming but what you described still pretty much covers what my group talks about... plus a little WoW strategy that goes over my head and the occasional comic book stuff when I can convince them.

    I'm all laughs and fun the only time it being just a game bothers me is when someone declares it loudly on a forum as a way to basically say "Shut up, your thoughts don't matter."

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  4. Having been at one of your gaming tables, I remember a time when someone relatively new joined the Adris D&D campaign you ran. There was an argument the characters got into, and it got so heated at one point a couple of the characters threatened to leave the party.

    The new player got concerned that they were destroying the game, "Wait stop, you guys are seriously gonna quit the game ?"

    "Hell no, we were just role playing. If my character wanders off, I'm sure I'll make a new character and find some way back into the party"

    We all laughed about it, but it was one of those things that slipped our minds. Some of us forget how others might react, not having done much with rpgs and such, or just not knowing the group of people involved. When you sit down to play a game, you might not know the other players, and things said/done can be interpreted in every which way. It's hard to know someone is joking sometimes when you just meet them.

    The good groups are those that actively try to get to know the other folks (if it's new/unknown players) through the game, rather then just play the game with other people for the sake of playing the game.

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