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Eliminating Fun-Suckers From My Gaming Table

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Unfortunately, for a hobby that amounts to big kids playing with toys, there are a lot of people who seem bent on sucking the fun out of board games. It’s almost like a job for them. They’re constantly on the lookout for something to complain about or someone to bash. Whereas many prefer to enjoy games and focus on good times with friends, fun-suckers are intent on turning a session into an ordeal that must be survived rather than enjoyed.

You probably know some of these people, or at least have encountered some of them on BGG or at your local game store:

  • Sore losers and bad winners.
  • People who take everything too seriously, over-analyzing everything from the art to the components to the “deeper meaning” behind the games ad nauseam until the rest of the table begs for mercy.
  • People who spend a lot of time criticizing other people’s collections and taste in games.
  • Game groups/communities that are more toxic than fun with too much gossip, backstabbing, and cattiness.
  • Game snobs who refuse to play anything they consider “beneath” them (whether in weight, length, theme, or age range), or who bash new gamers because they still prefer to play mass-market games.
  • Sexist/ageist/racist jerks who believe that certain groups have no place in gaming and nothing valuable to contribute to the hobby.
  • Game bullies and alpha gamers who try to dictate how other players should move and then roll their eyes or make snarky comments when a player makes a move different from what they dictated.

There are many more and you probably have your own list of offenders, but you get where I’m coming from. There are a lot of people who work really hard at ruining the gaming experience for everyone around them, as well as themselves. Sure, there are other things that can suck the fun out of gaming. Bad games are the biggest one. But even a bad game can be a bit of fun if your group is willing to play it in good spirits and just go with the flow. There are a lot of people who can’t manage that. I’ve been playing games for a long time and I’ve concluded that 99% of my bad gaming experiences have resulted from human-related causes, not the games themselves.

This is sad when you think about it. Games are supposed to be fun. There’s a reason we refer to games as play and not work, depression, misery, anger, or pain. Games are supposed to be the antidote for depression misery, anger, and pain, not the cause. Too many people seem to have lost that notion altogether, or confused it with some form of superiority. “If I criticize everything and everyone involved in this hobby, then I am a better gamer with a deeper understanding of the hobby. Therefore, I am above the peons.” You may be, but you sure aren’t any fun to play with.

Well, I’ve reached a point in my gaming life where I refuse to deal with those who would suck the fun out of my gaming time. My gaming time is finite, as I’m sure is the case for most people, and I’m no longer willing to spend it with jerks. I’ve done that too much in the past. “Go along to get along” has been my motto for years. I’ve sucked it up and put up with every form of fun-sucker on the list above. I’m older now and I’ve reached the end of my tolerance. (Get off my lawn!)

Now I’m on a quest to find the fun in gaming again.  Since gaming is purely elective, this should be pretty easy. It’s not like work, where I have no say in who I must associate with or how much BS I must put up with. I can choose to make my gaming time as fun as a I want it to be and cut out all of the non-fun people and aspects of the hobby. Here’s my plan:

  1. Stop reading negative threads on BGG. It’s too easy to get sucked into the train wreck threads where someone is complaining bitterly about something gaming related. Maybe they have a valid complaint but by the time the thread is through, the whole thing has become bitter and nasty, and that attitude sometimes rubs off on me. I’m refusing to even read these threads anymore. It’s not entertainment for me. It’s depressing.
  2. Choose my gaming groups more carefully. I’m in a place now where I game mostly with my husband. However, I’m looking for new groups and I’m going to choose more carefully than in times past. I’ve made the mistake of joining a group just to get more gaming time, but I’ve discovered that no amount of extra time is worth it if the group is full of fun-suckers. 
  3. Refuse to engage in negativity toward other gamers. I’ll admit that I haven’t always been the nicest person, either. Sometimes I’ve picked on another gamer’s taste in games, joined in on a bashing thread on BGG, or been a sore loser and/or bad winner. Mostly that was when I was much younger, but when I’m tempted to be a pill these days, I remind myself that I don’t want to be a fun-sucker.
  4. Ignore the jerks. In the past I’ve tried to help the jerks out by gently pointing out their jerky tendencies. But I’ve discovered that jerks don’t want to be reformed. They want to keep their prejudices and my attempts at reform have only left me feeling bitter and sad. My new policy is just to ignore them. They’ll always be there, but I don’t have to let their narrow-mindedness color how I feel about gaming.
  5. Play anything, with anybody, as long as they want to have fun doing it. I don’t have any problem playing Monopoly, or Battleship, or LIFE with anyone, as long as they want to have fun playing. If you want to sit there and make fun of a game, or complain about how bad it is, I’m not your gaming partner. But if you just want to pass an hour rolling some dice and having some fun, then I’m all in. And if you want to play something more challenging, I’ll happily teach you.
  6. Don’t be afraid to give someone the boot. You can’t do this in a public store since it’s the managers who have to kick out the bad apples. But in your own home, you can ask anyone to leave anytime you feel like it. I’ve always been afraid to kick people out, but if you’re doing nothing but bringing the misery, then I have the right to ask you to leave. Politely, of course. I’m not a monster.

Gaming is supposed to be fun. Yes, there is a place for some analysis of games or the industry, or a few complaints here and there. But when it becomes a chronic disease, you’re not fun to game with anymore. All you’re doing by bringing your misery to the gaming table is ruining the experience for everyone else. I choose happiness and fun, instead. Goodbye, fun suckers! You won’t be missed.

I like games with tiles/modular boards that set up and play differently each time. I'm also one of "those people" who likes dice and revels in randomness.

Discussion25 Comments

    • Those people exists everywhere ist not a surprise or revelation.

      It’s so normal that I look this like a”first world trouble”.

  1. “Game snobs who refuse to play anything they consider “beneath” them (whether in weight, length, theme, or age range), or who bash new gamers because they still prefer to play mass-market games”

    While I agree with the latter part of this point, I couldn’t disagree more strongly with the former. The point of playing games is to have fun. If I don’t think Monopoly is fun, I’m not going to play it, and if you invite me to a game group where I think Monopoly will be played, I’m going to decline. If you’re willing to magnanimously stomach playing through a deathly boring game like Settlers of Catan with other people who want to play it, I really don’t care–and I’m certainly not going to praise you for doing so–but to call players who prefer not to waste their time on such things “game snobs” is to commit exactly the same offense as disparaging gamers who like simple games.

    • There’s a difference between declining a game night because it’s not a game you like, and being a game snob. If someone invites you to come over and play Monopoly, you’re perfectly welcome to decline or suggest an alternative.

      However, if you’re going to a game night or gaming group where lots of games will be played, I think it’s good form to suck it up and play games that aren’t necessarily your favorite for the other players who love those games. Chances are some people are sucking it up to play your favorite games that they don’t like.

      I know that frequently @Farmerlenny and I have very different tastes, although there is overlap. There are plenty of games we both enjoy, and when we can we play our disparate choices when the other isn’t present. But sometimes we’ll play a game that one of us doesn’t really like, and it’s much more fun if we just be a good sport about it. I’ll play Lenny’s ridiculous eurogames, and he’ll play Cosmic Encounter once in a while.

      • Game Master Toolbox

        I don’t like to play board games because I can’t grasp the nuances (and some of the big road signs) of a game, but I played in a board game in the last game event we had in Puerto Rico and had fun. I had fun; it helped that I won because the other players helped me with two plays, but it did open me up a little to try another game.

    • I think you have a point here. I decline to play trivia games because I usually win them, and very lopsidedly. It’s not particularly fun for me and it has to be frustrating for the other players. I’m not going to play less than my best just to let the other players win unless I am teaching inexperienced children. So, I politely decline.

  2. Thank you for the awesome article. I am still contemplating if I am giving a boot to a couple of friends in our group. It’s hard mainly because we are friends to begin with.

    • That can be tough. I don’t know what steps you’ve taken, but since they’re friends have you tried talking to them about their disruptive behavior? Sometimes people just get carried away and don’t realize how their behavior is affecting others, and if you let them know they will try to change.

      Or, they might insist you’re overreacting and that what they’re doing is fine. In which case you have a tough problem, but if it’s affecting the rest of the group negatively, you have to do something about it.

  3. herp derp, derp derp.

    i think the key factor here is time, which for adult working parents are very precious and if you have a dedicated evening or afternoon set out with friends and/ acquaintances, board game choices and openness to new games shouldn’t be such a hassle. I recall we had Lords of Waterdeep for a year before trying it ‘cuz some thought it looked too complicated and we had other games to play. Now its one of our favorites.
    Still having one hater isnt all that bad. gives u someone to hate on too 🙂

  4. I recall like it was yesterday, an incident from a Gen Con at least 10 years ago. I was a stranger at the game table, so was Slow Guy, and Young Couple were there together. We played a moderately complex game that none of us was completely familiar with. Slow Guy was … a little challenged, I could tell, and the game rules were giving him some fits, but he was making reasonable plays and wasn’t impacting my ability to enjoy the game.

    At the end of the game, Slow Guy said he had fun, and wouldn’t we all like to wander over to the other table and try that other game with him?

    Young Woman of the Couple says in a cold voice, “You are the slowest player I’ve ever seen, and I could not stand to sit through another game with you.” Young Couple picks up their belongings and storm off.

    Sweet Cthulhu! I was left to try to soften the blow for Slow Guy, who was devastated.

    Moral of the story: maybe the Slow Guy at the table is slow, but maybe he’s going as fast as his slightly disabled brain can manage. Maybe his color-blind, or dyslexic, or has some other nigh-invisible handicap. Maybe he’s got a splitting headache, but staying back at the hotel waiting it out means his one convention for the year is ruined.

    • Jennifer

      And that’s exactly it. Whenever you’re gaming with strangers, and sometimes even with friends, you don’t know exactly why they behave the way they do, what’s likely to upset or offend them, what might be bothering them, or what their limitations might be. It’s better to be nice than to be like the couple you describe.

      No, you don’t have to roll over and tolerate bad behavior, but sometimes you do need to suck it up and just be the bigger person. No one ever got hurt because someone was too nice, but people do get hurt when others act like complete jerks whom the world revolves around.

  5. Most of the fun suckers I’ve encountered tend to be “gamer as a lifestyle” types, for whom gaming is SERIOUS BUSINESS.

    For me, gaming is one of many activities I do with family and friends, with the emphasis on time spent with family and friends. The point of these activities, whether it is playing a boardgame, minis, rpgs, playing in a garage band together, going to a movie, shooting hoops, hunting, fishing, hiking, etc… is to enjoy the time with family and friends. Once the boardgame session becomes the focus for the SERIOUS GAMER type, the other participants fade into the background and become a necessary evil, resulting in them being treated like second class citizens.

    Because of all of this, I don’t game with strangers, outside of cons, and even then, me and my friends tend to load events with 2-4 of us. Sometimes it makes others mad when we are having a good time and not taking it serious* (not to the point of disrupting the game for others, of course…we are….quasi-serious gamers..LOL), but to hell with them.

    *: once had a guy get all “THIS. IS. GENCOOOOONNNNNN!!!!!” on me once. I laughed at him, apologised to the guy running the game, and went and found something else to do.

    • This attitude seems almost as toxic as the reverse. Basically you need to be on broadly the same page as the people you are playing a game with. If what you want is to hang out with your close buddies & goof about that’s fine but so is wanting to play the game on its merits.

    • My gaming group had a problem gamer. He insisted on being at every session, but — outside of generating a character — barely participated. His big thing was his laptop — the was always stopping play so that he could show everyone this cool new video he’d found, or commenting loudly on some article he’d read, or playing some new song for us.

      Those games died.

      The games that survived were the ones where he was conspicuously not invited.

  6. Article basically does a 360 and starts disparaging people who might play for anything else other than fun…cute

  7. Great read, truthfully. If I may say so, I feel you have reached a point of ‘maturity’ or refinement on your own road to gaming. Establishing rules or principals around achieving what you want from gaming is very much the respectful thing to do, regardless of what that thing ultimately is for you. Our community recognizes the vast difference between the casual (‘fun-having’) gamer and the competitive (generally more prone to ‘fun-sucking’) gamer, and thus has balanced the divide with rules of respect the intent of the other. As a community organizer I can never condone poor sportsmanship, toxic negativity, or general jerk behavior but I will say its important to recognize that gamers game for different reasons/passions/motivations and one is not necessarily ‘better’ than the other. Fun, after all, can be relative. If you want to have fun, your guildlines are empowering and truthful. I will certainly share this post. Bravo i say!

  8. I’m glad others have noticed that ‘fun’ can be a relative term. While there are some genuine jerks out there, most people come to the table wanting to have fun. They get that fun from different aspects of the game. So, try to find a group that matches your gaming style.

    There’s this one guy in our club who swears that he is all about the community, having a good time and won’t tolerate “fun-suckers” at his table. But if you ask him what he expects, he give you a big list of no-no’s. Oh, and if you play at his table, you better be ready to stop playing the game at any time and start a discussion about politics! Maybe somebody, somewhere calls that fun. I’m not one of them.

  9. Great post!

    We’ve had our share of people who are hard to play with in my gaming group and over the years I’ve tended to become more discrimination about whom I’ll play with to the point of sometimes going home instead of playing if the only table free consists of people whom I know I won’t enjoy playing with.

  10. Kaaleppi Änkyrä

    If you wish to became Grandmaster of Chess or make your living (or even boost your income) playing poker you MUST take it seriously. You MUST analyze your games thoroughly, be ruthless about your flaws and play to win.

    If you wish to have good times playing you shouldn’t play games where taking it seriously is compulsory for good games.

    • Zidders Roofurry

      Pretty sure they’re not talking about competitive chess or competitive poker or competitive Magic:The Gathering here. I get the impression this has more to do with friendly games than it has to do with competitions. That being said you don’t need to be a ruthless asshole to win a game of poker. You just have to be really good at playing poker. I’ve seen poker champions who managed to be civil and still won lots of money. There’s no excuse to be an asshole. It’s called good sportspersonship.

  11. my problem is rule sharks.
    also, tournaments aren’t fun for me anymore cause everyone has switched to “kill” mode. it can still be fun while being competitive. but going absolute all out to be a “win at all costs” for 50 bucks store credit is stupid. actually lost a friend over a tournament situation where he blatantly cheated, the GM said the match had already been ran, and it was too late to do anything. haven’t played war hammer 40k since. now just sort of only staying social with a small group of friends if i can, avoiding shops like the plague.

  12. I agree generally, but #6… You can’t boot someone from your house in the middle of a game, unless they are literally trying to physically hurt someone else.

    Well, technically you can, but this is one of the most cruel punishments you can do – publicly exile them.

    Public etiquette & general niceness means if someone is being horrible, you kind of have to suck it up, try to fix it, and if you can’t, admit that the day is ruined, and don’t invite them again. You get extra points if you have the mettle to explain to the person why they weren’t invited again (in private and in as nice a way as possible, often with a second chance).

    I know, I know, each of your game days is precious, and you can justify it by saying that everyone else had a better time after – but is salvaging 1/2 your game day worth publicly humiliating and ruining someone’s social life with the entire group? I honestly wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy, but maybe I’m a bleeding heart.

    As annoying as it is to lose out on a day of fun gaming, there are always other days in the future.

    • Zidders Roofurry

      You shouldn’t have to put up with toxic individuals. If someone is being an asshole and being toxic towards others then being kicked out of someone’s house is their own fault. If they don’t want their day ruined they shouldn’t ruin it for others.

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