Thursday, May 8, 2014

People Wanted

My good friend Carl yesterday made a marvellous observation about badly behaving players in role-playing games.  Find the whole comment here.  I'll reproduce one paragraph of it:

"The pure, unfiltered escapism offered by role-playing games is like booze to a drunkard. Anti-socials are addicts of a kind. Addicted to getting their own way on everything. Addicted to breaking off sociality at a whim with little-to-no consequence. Addicted to being the star of their own play."

This morning I had found myself thinking how much this sounds like this ongoing debate of the last ten years, the 'internet generation':  The Entitlement Creed.  (Warning: it is a fairly condescending vid, but it speaks to the exhaustion of management).

Because really, the people Carl describes and the people these employers are tired of dealing with are the same people.

So with that in mind, if you are over 25, here are some things you should be looking for if you want players in your world that won't act like a bunch of dweeby self-interest gits.  I have to make it clear that I'm speaking mostly to people who should be well past the difficulties that arise with youth. People don't always come from good circumstances, and it can take a while to overcome both a financial hole AND a disastrous emotional upbringing.  I don't want to be seen as being unreasonable . . . so the first twenty five years are free.

However, after that, players without the following should be treated suspiciously.

Employment.  I know that an unemployed player sounds like a real dream, in that they always have enough time to show up for your games, but there's a dark side.  The unemployed player is also likely to be sponging off you and your other players for silly things like food, rent money, a couch to surf on and self-esteem.  These are going to be people who haven't yet figured out how to get a job, keep a job, or encourage anyone else to believe they're reliable, except the friends they've chosen to role-play with. The same friends who have already lent this player upwards of $1,000 altogether, and who are now having to deal with this same player's barbarian fighter demanding the massive diamond gem because of all the work they've done for the party.

Confession:  I spent a lot of time unemployed between the ages of 20 and 40.  During that time I worked something like 40 jobs, between writing gigs and performance gigs in the theatre.  I did surf a few couches.  Somehow, I always managed to get a new job within a week or two, when I wanted one, and I preferred to borrow money from my parents.  Since most of that time was spent running the game, and not as a player, I still managed to run sessions on my own table and in my own kitchen/living room.  So there are exceptions to the employment rule.  So take it with a grain of salt.

Education.  It isn't so much that I would expect a player to have a professional degree.  Thinking about it, and remembering my own experiences in university, I knew a few 'professionals' who managed to squeak by in their classes, who didn't get work in their fields after university and who never respected their education in the least degree.  What you really need to look for are people who don't equate education to 'job,' but who actually respect 'book-larnin' as an activity that bears merit. Your better players will read books. Actual books, where the words differ from page to page, as opposed to trash, and which might impress upon the reader some kind of knowledge.  If your player disdains reading, or books, then you are dealing with someone who thinks they already know all they need to know.  That is going to be a problem for your world.

Confession:  I didn't start university until I was 21.  I spent three years working in various statistical clerk jobs that I got because those were the days when you could take a test to see if you had enough education to start.  I spent seven years at university, on a student loan, on the understanding that I wouldn't have to pay it back so long as I kept going to school.  So the late 80s and early 90s were spent as a professional student, with time to do theatre gigs and a lot of writing for the university paper.  Ah, those were the days.  I spent a hell of a lot of time in the university library, though, during my off hours, because I was building a D&D world.  So I admit.  I'm an educated snob.

Family.  Now, like I said, not everyone starts with the best family.  I went to junior high school with a girl who worked the hooker stroll downtown because her family needed the money, and my daughter knew a girl who was not allowed into any part of her parent's house but the basement because her parents were running a drug cartel out of the upstairs.  Family can really suck.  Moreover, I haven't noted that ancestors have much to do with a role-player's cred, so just throw the progenitors out of the picture, huh?  What I'm talking about is their perspective on every having a family.  Do they know children exist?  Do they think well of them?  Because if you have a player in your world who despises the very idea that there are children, or the idea of having them, then you are dealing with someone who is still an infant.  Take my word on that.

Confession:  Hm.  I gained my daughter at 24.  I had always wanted children.  My first wife, my daughter's mother, passed away now, had multiple sclerosis, so I felt it was really up to her if she wanted children, but it worked out and we had one.  I don't find merit in the statement, "she is the most important thing in the world to me," because my present wife is also important, my writing is important, world peace is important, the improvement of role-playing is important and so on.  I don't like to rank things.  I just work hard to keep everyone happy as best I can.

I really haven't got a fourth one.  Believe me, if you can manage ALL of the first three with your players, you're going to have a solid group of reliable, smart players.  Even if they haven't got the job they want, even if they haven't finished their education, of if they haven't any children, they have aspirations.  They understand sacrifice and reward.  They perceive the world does not revolve around them.  They grasp that if things are going to get better, they are going to have to work at it.

They will bring that exact same quality to your world.  So look for those people.


Oddbit said...

BTW your link is bust.
The clip is pretty good. When was that filmed? My link didn't have the comments and stuff. (Not that it isn't still relevant. The style just seems a bit older.)

Alexis Smolensk said...

Fixed the link. The embed code was faulty.

Maxwell Joslyn said...

I'm a student, so many of the available players have all their sub-25 problems. It's just something I have to navigate. What's more troubling, however, is that most of the adults I've met in this hobby weren't functioning adults (where `functioning adult' can mostly be defined by what you've laid out here.) Makes me worry about my ability to game well in the future.

Maxwell Joslyn said...

I am fortunate, however, in that the students I know are mostly ones with aspirations, and who are willing to work hard to achieve them. This is because of the climate of the school where I study. So I can count my blessings, because they are at least somewhat better than the guys back home. What a nightmare high-school D&D was!

Alexis Smolensk said...

"Makes me worry about my ability to game well in the future."

We do better, my brother. First, because we recognize the idiots more quickly, and second, because we do not allow ourselves to suffer them as long.

Jomo Rising said...

Ugg, employment.
I DM, and in recent years, I have found myself under/unemployed. I have had lots of time to pour into my world. How have I treated my players? Most of whom have jobs? Expectations... If only they could put as much time, effort and passion into playing as I have in building. We are in a transitional time in the game, so, good timing Alexis.

Matt said...

Well, by this list I have a pretty decent group of players.

Out of my current 5 players only one is over 25. He's actually the one that doesn't clear points 1 and 2. The remainder of my players are employed, college educated (or getting their educations) interested in learning new things, and generally good people.

One of my players is unemployed, and never finished high-school (these things are correlated). I don't know what he thinks about kids, but I know he's not interested in having a family at the moment (which may be responsible considering the lack of employment)

Still, he's never asked me for money, and he only eats my food when I offer it to him. He takes part in the game, and he helps others have a good time. He likes to get treasure as much as anyone else, but he's never complained to me that he didn't get his fair share. For now he passes.

I have another friend who likes to play occasionally. He's over 25, he wants kids, he's very well educated in his field and continues to learn about it. He's also flakey, unreliable, and the sort of self-absorbed where he thinks he has to be available to help any of his friends, any time, with any thing, because he's a "good person." It's nice, but he lacks the responsibility to actually follow through He's there to listen if you have a problem, and he'll offer to help. Sometimes he might even show up to help with something. Good luck getting him to help on time, or to actually do anything tangible other than tell you that things will be fine, and that whoever is responsible for your problem is a jerk.

He's a friend, and I like him, so sometimes I run him for a session or two with a character who will ultimately fade into the background as his appearances become less and less common. Still, he's far worse for my game than even my least responsible regular player.

Employment, Education, and Family are symptoms of the sort of person that makes a good player, but they aren't the requirements for one.

BaronOpal said...

I heartily agree.

The last time I had to put together a gaming group I did the usual thing; I put an ad up in the local game store. When prospective players called, I asked them three questions. First: “How old are you?” Correct answer: 21+. I was done being a second father to some people. Second: “What keeps you busy during the day?” Correct answer: “I work at [company]” or “I’m taking classes towards [degree].” You have to have focus, drive, or passion for something besides gaming. Third: “How will you get to the game?” Correct answer: “My car or bike.” I am not being a taxi in addition to running a game.

If the questions were correctly answered, then we went out for a comforting beverage of their choice. If they didn’t trigger the Freak-o-Meter, then they could find out where I lived and we could game. I simply did not want to deal with anyone who didn’t have their shit together. Especially since I had a 2 year old at the time, and was putting forth a lot of effort keeping my shit together.

It was remarkably successful, and I haven’t had any problem players since.

As a side note, if the city I live in had decent mass transit, I would be more lenient on that. But, it doesn’t.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Agreed, Matt. By my confession, at 25, a professional student, without a job (though married with a kid), I wouldn't have seriously passed 1 & 2 either.

We have to use our best judgement. But these three things are often very telling. I wonder how long your 25+ unreliable friend is going to keep that job . . .

Also, please note, I'm happy with someone who just has a positive attitude about kids, even if they don't want any. If they can 'be an adult' around a bunch of kids, that passes for me. It's the man-boy that HATES kids, cause they're still competing for attention, that has to be looked out for.

Hah, Opal. Yeah, 'freak-o-meter.' I hear that.