So I’m sure I’m going to be talking about “that guy” a lot in future posts, so I figured I’d start with a post discussing exactly who “that guy” is, and the effect “that guy” has on the world of gaming.
Who is “that guy”
“That guy” can actually take several forms, but they all have a lot in common. They are someone who tends to find breaking games more fun than playing games. In other words, if they can find some tiny loophole in the rules, which is obvious to EVERY other non-“that-guy” around, they will make it a huge issue, and usually turn a fun gaming experience for everyone, into a pedantic rules discussion based on semantics, ridiculous rhetoric, and deliberate misunderstandings. They also are people who might enjoy pursuing a non-winning strategy in a way that simply ruins the game being played for someone, just to prove they can. In more extreme forms they are also cheaters and liars, because all they care about is winning, even if they have to stomp all over the experience of everyone else to do so.
The sad thing is that we all basically know a “that-guy,” and we’ve all likely had to deal with one (or more) of them in one way or another. Whether they are self declared leaders of an online community, or game store owner, or the guy you get randomly paired with at a tournament, or someone who shows up from time to time for game night. They exist, and sadly in greater number than we’d like to have to deal with.
Game designers actually give “that guy” fuel for their behavior
Game design is NEVER 100% ironclad, with no chance of misunderstanding. So in a world populated with “that guy” would game designers leave these holes in their games into which “that guy” can latch on and make the game unfun for others. There are actually several reasons.
First is that clarity is based on language, and since language is terribly open to interpretation (any linguists here?), someone can always find ways to read it differently. Due to that, the goal of 100% clarity is impossible. That said, the goal is still to be as clear as possible in a reasonable amount of space. In other words, the more clear you are trying to be, the more space it will likely take up. This is mainly due to the fact you have to take the time to address corner cases, strange interactions, and exceptions.
Lets take line of site in Malifaux as an example. We were honestly really tempted at one point to have the entire sections say: “Malifaux uses true line of site, do what makes sense to you.” Honestly, that would have worked for probably 90% of people out there and made total sense, and taken 1 line of text. However, we decided to try to increase the clarity some and extend the section to several pages to detail how line of site worked in more specific situations. In the end I think we created a line of site chapter that is clear for about 99% of people. So yes, we left just enough wiggle room in there for “that guy” to wiggle in. And that was a decision we made, because to increase the percentage to 99.9% probably would have taken another 10-20 or even 50 pages of dealing with things that come up so rarely that they would have made reading and understanding the game downright boring. So yes, we left them out, and we let “that guy” in.
The second situation became clear to me the night after Gen Con in a rules discussion about Kings of Artifice. There is a strategy in the game which can be used to make someone else not win, and make you not win at the same time. It’s terribly unfun, and something that only “that guy” would use in any regular way to somehow prove their “deeper understanding” of the game by breaking how the game is played, not to win, but just to…I don’t know, narcissistic all over the place? The discussion I had was about ways in which to remove this from the game to somehow limit “that guy” from being able to ruin the game for others. However, all the ways to remove this lame strategy from the game, also limited or removed other strategies and would have had a severe impact on the overall depth of play for the game. In other words, I would have to make the game WORSE overall, in order to remove a “that guy” strategy from the game. That’s a tradeoff I’m not willing to make, and so the lame “that guy” strategy will remain in the game.
Why does “that guy” do what they do?
There is no quick answer here, but many possibilities. I’ll make list (which is in no way complete I’m sure):
1) Narcissism – They want to be more important than the game
2) Strategy – it actually does give you an advantage to change the rules (for whatever ridiculous reason), because you expected the change and your opponent didn’t
3) Win at all costs – Winning is the only goal, and they’re willing to put aside everything else to win
4) They’re just a dick – no explanation needed here
5) Lack of social skills – they’re deeper into the rules and don’t understand that most games are about a social experience
6) Compensating for lack of intelligence – Intelligence is mostly about a persons ability to quickly adapt to new situations. In most games this is vital. However, if you can bring a ridiculous argument to change the context of the game and make people adapt to you, while changing a game in a way you are already prepared for, it actually evens the intelligence gap. It does not take a lot of intelligence to use the tactics that “that guy” uses.
7) Low self esteem – Being “that guy” is a way to become the center of attention, and gets people to pay attention to you. Sure it’s because everyone thinks you’re being a total dick, but hey, that’s better than just blending into the group and not really standing out for any other reason.
8) Out of touch – They think the game is somehow more important than the experience of gaming with others.
“That guy” traps
It’s funny how much this comes up in game discussions around the development office. We discuss “that guy” quite a bit around here, and try to find that balance between quality rules and changes intended to limit the ways “that guy” can ruin the game for others. And I think due to what I discussed above, as a design philosophy for the company, we actually probably leave more places for “that guy” to latch onto our games than many other companies. Simply put we don’t define our design by trying to cater to that type of player.
However, we have started seeing these “latch on” points not as drawbacks, but rather what we like to refer to as “that guy” traps. They are places in the rules that stand out for “that guy” to start doing their thing. The end result is a really quick and easy way to identify “that guy.” That’s right, we encourage “that guy” to do their thing, so people can figure how who they DON’T want to play with ever again. “That guy” traps are fun, and it’s funny to watch just how they are just totally irresistible to “that guy.” So use them, identify “that guy” quickly, and free yourself from ever having to play with them again.
“That guy” ruins games
I’ve alluded to it, but there are 2 main ways that “that guy” ruins your game experience. First, having to play a game with them. They go out of their way, for some personal fulfillment to ruin the game for the people they are playing with. They are hard to deal with, because you have to stand up to them and either get them to stop acting that way (which usually turns into some ridiculously long and unfun debate about who knows what), or get them to leave, which makes us feel bad. And it makes us feel bad because the vast majority of gamers are kind and fun people who just want to get together for everyone’s enjoyment. The second way they ruin your games is that game designers actually TRY to design their game without any “that guy” latch on points. I can’t even start to imagine how many games were made worse in an attempt to do this. There is really no way to even tell. I can just tell you from experience how many times, across the 5-6 games I’ve published, that I’ve been tempted to actually make the game worse, because I knew it might in some small way, reduce the crap I had to take from “that guy.” What this means, is that “that guy” is probably making your games less fun, EVEN IF, you’re not actually playing with “that guy” at the time. Yes, this is ultimately immeasurable, but it pisses me off.
Stand up to “that guy”
“That guy” is everywhere, so what is the solution? They will continue ruining games because for the most part, no one really stands up to them, and there is really no negative consequences for their actions. As a gaming culture, we’re tried to gain acceptance for so long that it simply doesn’t feel right to suddenly become judgmental towards other gamers, no matter how inappropriate their behavior is (yes, I have a post coming on this topic). But honestly, as our own culture we need to get past this feeling that we need to be universally accepting of other gamers, no matter what. There IS behavior in our gaming culture that is simply unacceptable, and this is one example of it (they include sexism (which is a HUGE issue), racism, elitism…and yes, “that-guy-ism”). I actually encourage you to recognize the “that guy” traps that are in games, to help you identify “that guy” quickly. And I encourage you to make them face consequences for their actions, which can simply include being uninvited to play the game at hand.
Don’t let “that guy” ruin gaming for you, or even ruin a single game. It’s not worth it. They have incredibly selfish reasons for acting the way they do (see my reasons above, they’re basically all selfish), so it’s not really out of line to let them know that behavior is not appreciated or welcomed in your games. Do it! If we all do, maybe, just maybe the population of “that guy” will start to decrease. I for one am completely tired of bending over backwards and being forced to cater to this behavior, because I’m trying to be polite for some reason, both when playing games, and when designing them.
And now you all know my thoughts about “that guy!”
Bottom line – DON’T be that guy, seriously, just don’t, no one likes you, and you’re ruining all our games.