Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Bad Habits That Make Me A Better Gamer

Over the years I have developed a lot of habits in gaming that many people have commented on as being bad or "not good" gaming habits to have. Now, as Obi Wan is known to ssay this might be true, "from a certain point of view". However, some of these habits do have beneficial side effects on how I approach games and my mindset as a gamer. I'd like to share a few of my habits and some observations on how I feel they make me a better gamer.

1) I don't always read all the rules.
This may seem like a huge no-no for a gamer but usually when I start playing a game, I read enough of the rules to get started and feel my way through them as situations come up. For me this is a bit of over-eagerness and a desire to get in and go, but over the years it has made me less attached to the written rule and more willing and able to adapt systems to my own liking. Another secondary benefit is it has improved my ability to flip through a set of rules for reference purposes.

2) I don't play to win.
I have actually had some harder-core gamers outright condemn me for this. I was once told that I, "didn't care about the game" by one guy in the FLGS when there still was one. He turned out to be the sort of gung-ho tournament style player who would do anything to win, including submitted a pay-for-painted army into a painting competition. He, of course, was wrong.

I love the games I play. That is why I play them. I don't, however, get hung up on winning. I'd much rather have a ton of fun watching my units get cut down in one of those great Hollywood tragic last stand scenes than obsess over victory any day of the week. Heck, one of my favorite tales of gamer bad ju-ju is a story of how I managed to fail a total of five leadership checks on a single unit in a single turn at the onset of a game of Warhammer Fantasy Battle (maybe I'll tell you someday). The point is not focusing so much on winning makes me more fun to play with and a less likely person to get all butt hurt when things don't go my way.

3) I don't get attached to characters.
"Don't get attached to character? Where's the love!?" I can hear you screaming as you read this. Worry not, I do love my characters and have a great amount of fun putting together interesting characters with varying degrees of background and charm to them. What I mean by this is that I never forget that they are people in the worlds they game in and as such they are mortal, have limitations and may indeed meet an end. But, how does this make me a better gamer?

It keeps me playing. Not being so attached to my characters I can more freely break what I call the "player logic barrier", which is to say that I even when the deal being offered by the mysterious stranger in the dark corner of the inn seems too good to be true, I still take the bait. Too many games stall out because the players don't let go of their charaters enough to let them do the adventuring they want them to do and it is my belief that a good part of this is the fear of character death and dismemberment (CDD). If you can let go of your characters and love them from afar you will find that the adventures flow a lot better and the stories will often get better.

I had a character in one Star Wars game who was a former assassin droid gone rogue who now fought for the Rebellion. The character had depth to him. I had a background and had even done a lovely illustration of him that I was quite proud of. He was every bit a Rebel hero even though many of the other players, characters, and the NPCs of the world around him saw him as just a droid.

Anyhow, in one key scene in one of our gaming sessions the party were fleeing the massed forces of an Imperial base, hot on their tails with loads of pointless Stormtrooper blaster fire pouring in around them. Several characters in the party were already wounded, our ship was taking damage and the defensive turrets surrounding the landing pad that held our ship were coming to life. What were we to do?

My droid sacrificed himself.

Detonating every warhead in his internal concussion missile bays, his thermal detonators, proton torpedo launcher, etc. (don't ask me exactly what he had) cut the Stormtroopers off, taking many of them out and damaged the structure of the platform enough to disrupt the defensive turrets enough to allow the rest of the party to escape. I got to sit the rest of the session out with a satisified grin at how I had improved the story and listening to the role-play of the other characters as they talked about what my droid had done.

I am sure there are more things I do "wrong" that make me a better gamer, but these are the three that jump to mind. True enough, this post was done with a bit of tongue in cheek as I really have never considered these things as being wrong and I'm sure I'm not the only one who does them. I bet if you look at yourself, you'll find you too have some good bad gamer habits that serve you well.

Take care and thanks for reading,



  1. If you want to crosspost this to Armchairgeneral feel free. This is an excellent write up.

    I fall under much the same categories although being a playtester for a few major companies I do read the rules and after that I modify them (and send my modification ideas back to the companies).

    I also do not play to win. This might be because of my RPG/LARP background which started after I played Johnny Reb, Microarmor and Ancients with dad back in the day but I really care more about the story of a game and the fun of playing it than winning.

    Now that being said I do enjoy winning but winning is not the end all be all for me.

    I get attached to my characters but never to the level that I could not sacrifice them for the good of the party. That being said I do tend to play stand offish swashbuckler types in combat, bard,ranger, archer, rogue and mage.

  2. Thanks for the comment, IU went over and posted a back link on your blog as well.

  3. I agree with the points you made. I originally got into gaming because I liked painting little lead soldiers. That's always been the main focus for me, and the gaming was secondary. That doesn't mean I don't like gaming though.

    I do play to win though, in the sense that I try to beat the other side. If I lose it's no big deal, after all it is just a game.

    Character attachment is foreign to me. I've never really got that into a character that I couldn't stand to see them die in game. The only downside is sitting out the rest of the game.

  4. For me, sitting out the rest of the game was time to enjoy the aftermath of character death. This is a plot element usually reserved for NPCs and seeing how the rest of the group reacts is an interesting experience.

    Also, that is when I start working on the next character or finishing off the endless stack of "will you draw this for me?" requests that were always on my schedule as the groups official Pencil Whore.

  5. Nicely written post. I don't "play to win" either. I play to play.

  6. As my good friend Zach likes to say: "Let's push lead and roll dice. See what happens."

    I game for fun. If I win, great! If not, but I had fun because everyone was being sociable and enjoying themselves, better! If the other guy I am playing will do anything to win and then gloats about it: last time I play with that jerk. Very simple, and keeps me wanting to play.

  7. This could explode into quite a huge discussion. Two or three years ago your post would have incomprehensible non-sense. Just as hard to understand as solo gaming. It's the disease of the modern world; "The obvious and quick pay off."
    Your words are that of the conissieur, who's enjoyment explodes exponentionally because you expect and ask nothing in return. Nice post.

  8. Great comments all. I wish I could say that we were a sampling of the norm, but I have encountered far too many ultra-competetive players who want to argue every rule or even quibble or fractional distances in range. One game I witnessed almost came to blows over a matter of LOS across the terrain.

  9. Nothing much, maybe a little facelift here and there, and make a tad more 'universal' across the spectrum instead of pure minis, you know?

    Or just leave it as is, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it"!

    word verification: sinous (ewww, evil nose monster!)


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