Choosing the right person for a gaming group can be a challenge. A good guy, now, can easily turn into a jackass, later. In this post, I will detail my experiences with one individual that fit that description and the lessons learned from the incident.
After going through a revolving door of players, I decided to screen possible candidates before adding them to the group. The screening was simple, find out the person's age, and if acceptable meet him in person. The meeting would be comprised of at least one other player, to ensure a second point of view in my decision.
After a few weeks of searching, I exchanged emails with an individual I thought would be a good candidate. He was in his late twenties, had a vast experience with RPG's, and most importantly, was eager to play.
I was looking forward to meeting that individual and brought three other players with me. We met at a local restaurant chain where we talked for about 30 minutes.
During that talk, he seemed a little odd. I had never met someone whose whole life revolved around computer and tabletop games. He was not interested in the creation of those games, just in playing them. Every game he finished was a victory, and something to be proud of.
We decided to overlook that idiosyncrasy and invited him to a few sessions. During those initial sessions, everyone made sure to make him feel as comfortable as possible. We talked a lot about games and a little about his personal life. We even went to a few movies together.
Aside from our weekly gaming sessions, however, we had very little in common with this individual. None of our regular players shared his adoration for games or his taste in movies. Furthermore, everyone's schedule was full most of the week. Unfortunately, the individual kept on insisting we spent time together. At that point, most of the other players started to distance themselves from him.
Around the same time, his personal life was coming unraveled both romantically and professionally. He started to vent his personal frustration during the sessions. Most of that was directed at me, personally.
Everything I ever said, no matter how small, he had to contradict. The games I ran, were highly criticized by him. Since I had never experienced that in my house, I was at a loss as to what action I should take.
After a few weeks of this, the other players started asking me to confront him or start harassing him back. Since I was not comfortable with either option, I told them that I would wait and hopefully this phase would just blow over.
But things only got worse. Finally one of the players decided to confront him. The Jackass listened to that player but did not answer in any form. Most importantly, his behavior did not improve in any noticeable way.
This went on for about three months, until one day, for no reason, the jackass decided to cancel on us last minute. He did so by sending us an one-line email punctuated with the tongue out emoticon.
It was that email that finally made me realize the futility of everything I was doing. He had always demanded that I give him notice and a phone call before canceling a game. Even after all that, he would still complain and force the issue.
I felt utterly tired and used by this person. The following week, I decided to sent an one-line email saying I was tired of hosting the games and was canceling the sessions at my house.
My guess is that he would not offer up his house, nor would he try to look for another location. All he wanted was to have a good time at someone else's expense.
I was right, and not only did he not offer any help, but he went as far as instant message one of the other players asking what was happening. That player decided to rephrase what I had written on the email and punctuate it with the same emoticon used by the jackass.
Apparently the emoticon joke wasn't very funny since nobody in the group ever heard from him again.
Below, I list the lessons learned in a concise form.
- Interviews weed out obvious problems, deeper ones take awhile to surface.
- Do not put up with harassment. Do whatever it takes to put an end to it.
- Confrontation is rarely the solution.
- It is better not to game than have a bad game.
I hope not to run into this kind of situation again. If I do, however, the items listed above should help me solve the situation a little faster.