The 10 Commandments of Gaming

by Moritz Eggert

Transcript of our podcast from 24 Jun 2007

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1. Thou shalt not cheat

Yes, as simple as that. Cheating sucks. You hate it when people cheat you in real life, so don't be like them and do it in gaming. Cheaters have lost all honour and don't deserve to win. Period. An honest win will make you proud; a cheated win will taste bitter and undeserved. Think about it...

2. Thou shalt think about your move when it's not your turn

In Basketball you get punished when you dribble the ball too long. Gaming and sports are in a way team affairs, so everybody should make sure that the others have a good time. And that means they should not have to wait endlessly until you make one meaningless decision. I have seen people with severe analysis paralysis syndrome who literally took 10 minutes to think about their move in a game of Talisman. BEFORE they rolled the die. I'm not kidding.

One very, very simple antidote for that is to discipline yourself to plan ahead while the other's do their turns. Watch what they're doing and plan accordingly. Think about your move so that when it's your turn you can be very swift and precise in what you're doing. As a person who spends a lot of time as a performer on stage I think of it like this: When it's your turn it's like you are appearing on a stage. The more elegant and accomplished you are the better it will look. In a way it's your duty to entertain your fellow players with your next move.

This works in most Eurogames, where no game mechanic suddenly makes you lose half of your assets because of a take that card. And this is why Eurogames are good.

3. Thou shalt be patient

This might sound contradictory, but please be lenient with the analysis paralysis guy on your table. For selfish reasons. Have you ever experienced what happens if you prod a slow player with constant remarks of "faster, faster"? He or she gets nervous and ...TAKES EVEN LONGER. You don't want that, it's quite counterproductive. As you basically can choose with whom you play most of the time, avoid people that annoy you in this manner so that the mood at the table stays good. Or tell them of the 2nd gamer commandment and how it works.

Which brings us to

4. Thou shalt love your fellow gamer

Yes, as simple as that. The bible says you shall love your fellow man more than yourself. While that is not necessarily paramount in an abstract gaming context, it actually is nice if you treat your fellow gamers as friends (very often they might be your only friends - perish the thought). Show them that you like them by laughing with them, caring for them and also perhaps asking how their family is from time to time. Very often I have played with gamers who have absolutely no interest in you as a person beyond of when you hand them the dice or a card. This is bad. There is a world outside gaming, and sometimes it works wonders if you just... care!

5. Thou shalt treat the game with respect

You should not only love your gaming buddies, you should also love the game itself. Well, loving is perhaps exaggerated, but let's say: "treat it well". Especially if it's not your own game. Keep its contents organized, don't fondle the game material with sweaty or fatty fingers, don't eat a Big Mac over the beautiful map of your friend's copy of Britannia. Don't lick your fingers before turning the pages of rules you don't own. Don't hectically fondle and bend the cards in your hand - they want to survive more games than only one. Although if you played the first edition of "Ohne Furcht und Adel" you were not guilty, because these cards basically disintegrated if you just looked at them.

Just be careful - your friends and your games will thank you for it.

6. Thou shalt not grumble or complain or nitpick

Everybody has experienced this situation. You play a game you quite like but there is one person at the table who is constantly complaining about how bad this game is, how luck oriented, how she/he doesn't stand a chance, etc. This will happen usually very early in the game, and then continue until you just give up and store away the game you might have quite liked.

Judge a game after you have played it, not while you are playing it. There are many games out there whose beauty only comes into the foreground in the final tense rounds. I would count Puerto Rico and Princes of Florence among these games. Have you ever read a book you found boring but then suddenly you grew to like it, even loved it? If fantasy fans would have judged the Lord of the Rings novel after it's first 100 boring pages about hobbits and pipe weed, there would be no D&D and no adventure gaming. But once you have the whole picture, the first hundred pages suddenly make a lot of sense. So treat the game like a good fantasy novel as well -try to get to know it by actually playing it through at least once and THEN pass your judgment. I still remember my first game of Funkenschlag - I thought I was losing all the time until in the final round I suddenly won. This is exciting, let it happen.

7. Thou shalt not kingmake

The subject of kingmaking appears again and again in this show. Everybody has at least once had a kingmaking experience, either actively or on the receiving end. Kingmaking means: you can't win anymore but you use your remaining power in the game to decide who wins. These decisions are often annoying to the players still vying for victory, because they are at the whim of a person who will make a completely arbitrary decision about their fate. I usually avoid games that give ample kingmaking opportunities, but sadly there are quite a lot of good games out there which have kingmaking features, think of "Vinci" for example.

I have a personal simple rule that I religiously follow, and that rule is: always fight against the person directly ahead of you. If you're last in a 4-player game, don't play against player 1 or 2, play against player 3. Play to improve your position. Most games have some kind of placing mechanic, and losing as "second place" or "third place" just sounds better than "losing at last place". Fighting against the opponent directly ahead of you will never be seen as unfair, because most games are like races, everybody wants to have the best position. But giving up entirely just to set a trap for the leading horse was not even considered good style in a "Ben Hur"-style chariot race. If you avoid kingmaking you avoid lots of discussions and naughty arguments. You might actually be able to play the horrid "Risk 2400" if you play like this. Think about it.

8. Thou shalt be gracious in victory or defeat

Very simple - nobody likes a sore loser or a bragging winner. Adopt the good tradition of fairplay and be modest when you win, and generous when you lose. Applaud the winner and comment on his well-played game, even if you played a luck fest dice game without any skill. He will be happy and be equally generous next time you win, and you want that, n'est-ce pas?

Everybody knows that losing with grace means losing with honour, which in the end is much more difficult and impressive than winning.

9. Thou shalt not torture another player

Sometimes playing games brings out the worst in people. They bring out of game grudges to the gaming table or they love to create chaos and friction. Very often these people will pick on the easiest to provoke player just for the heck of it. Watch a game like "Organized Crime" or "Bang!" and you will see that the decision who will be shot is very often fuelled by a certain kind of sadism. Now all this can be in good fun - it is impossible to play "Bang!" without shooting at someone for example - but some people just carry it too far. They know how to push the buttons with certain people and enjoy torturing them, just like Jack Bauer does. This is not good. This is unsportsmanlike behaviour. You don't have to wipe out a person completely to win a game. You don't have to humiliate somebody to win a game. Think of Saladin, who always treated his crusading enemies with respect and was much loved even by his enemies. Be nice to people and they just might help you for real in your next game of Diplomacy.

10. Thou shalt not play to win

This is the most important rule. Some people are so obsessed with winning that they feel personally insulted when they lose. I hate such people. I also want to always win when I play a game, but I can immediately forget a lost game. In German soccer there is a famous saying which goes like "After the game is before the game". Which means regardless if you win or lose, the next challenge is ahead. And you never want that definite decision, you want the next challenge. A person who is so fanatical that he always wants to win will soon have to switch to solitaire games in my opinion. But gaming is social, and social we shall all be.

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