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Friends and Gamers

“Never game with someone you wouldn’t count as a friend.”

We’ve all seen and heard variations of the above comment, but experience is starting to tell me that it’s just not true. I have good friends who are gamers, but I don’t enjoy gaming with them. On the other hand, I enjoy gaming with some excellent players whom I consider mere acquaintances.

(This is only my experience; your mileage may vary, please do not take internally, this advice is only as valid as you consider it, yadda yadda.)

If a player shows up prepared, has a good time gaming, and contributes to the game, then he or she is in. Friendship is entirely optional; you don’t need to have the same outlook on life, interests (outside of gaming), or personality types to game together. These things can allow gamers to be friends outside of gaming, but aren’t necessary to the game itself.

On the other hand, any friend can bring baggage to a table. How many times have you heard of a gamer who doesn’t like what someone else at the table is doing, but doesn’t want to lose a friendship over it? There’s nothing wrong with gaming with your friends, but friendship is not a prerequisite for gaming.

We nerdy types often assume that someone with one shared interest must share other interests, but it’s not true. I don’t like anime, but I game with people who do. I have at least one firearm, but one player has an strong aversion to them. I have certain social and political views that are definitely not shared with all of my players or GMs. But we all get along at the table.

Please don’t consider this an invitation to allow the kinds of people you wouldn’t associate with into your game. There are some definite personality types who should be neither friends nor gamers. A short and very incomplete list would include the abusive, selfish, anti-social, self-destructive, and those sorely lacking in personal hygiene.

Agree? Disagree? Sound off in the comments and let us know!

About  Kurt "Telas" Schneider

Kurt Schneider played D&D in 1979 at summer camp, and was hooked. He lives with his wife, daughters, and dog in Austin TX, where he writes stuff, and tries to stay get fit. Look for his rants under the nom de web Telas or TelasTX. Quote: “A game is only as balanced – or as good – as the GM."

11 Comments (Open | Close)

11 Comments To "Friends and Gamers"

#1 Comment By Hawkesong On March 10, 2011 @ 7:24 am

Oh yes. I would say that if you wouldn’t ever want to be seen in public with a person, they are probably not going to work out at your gaming table.

I’ve had problems with at least two of the mentioned “definite no” types you listed there. And they are people who I am forced to deal with everyday (one’s abusive, the other has hygiene issues; and I live in the same house as them), but they are never welcome at my gaming table. And they know it, because I chose to be diplomatically honest with them and tell them they weren’t invited to games.

I think it’s a common fallacy on the part of us nerdy types to want to classify everyone we meet in some way – as a way of coping with responding to different people – and when we’ve developed our nice, comfortable descriptions of folks, it throws us for a loop when someone doesn’t quite fit the category we’ve mentally assigned to them.

The trouble comes when we then try to shoehorn them into that category, or worse, react to them unpleasantly in an attempt to change them to fit our perceptions.

These are good, clear guidelines, I think. The point of gaming is to have fun, and if a person is not bringing fun to the table, is not having fun themselves, or is impairing the fun of everyone else, then it’s time to ask them to leave.

#2 Comment By valadil On March 10, 2011 @ 7:26 am

I think the quotation is ridiculous. I use gaming as a social crutch. I’m sure many others do too. If I find myself friendless (like when I first went off to college), the easiest way to make some friends is to join a gaming group.

#3 Comment By Rafe On March 10, 2011 @ 7:37 am

I’m in the same boat, Kurt: There are many gaming friends I wouldn’t or don’t game with, and plenty of non-gaming friends/acquaintances I do, have or would game with. Gaming is certainly social, but “social” doesn’t mean “friends-only.”

#4 Comment By Roxysteve On March 10, 2011 @ 8:02 am

I totally agree.

The “Only Game With Friends” thing is, I suspect, born out of the worst-case-scenario thinking around inviting strangers into one’s home. I can get behind that too.

But it should be obvious that there may be a causal link between that rule-of-thumb and the scarcity of new gamers for one’s gaming group, be they black, white, female, male or anything else on the various scales of subjective human mensuration.

I’ve said before that after suffering from a distinct overpopulation of gamers who were rapidly becoming people I didn’t want within 20 feet of me let alone in my house I took the unregretted step of relocating all my games into the local friendly game store* where everyone was a total stranger, very few of them were people I’d share out-of-game time with** but all of them were enthusiastic gamers with whom I have had some of the best gaming time in 35 years of RPGing.

Yes, some of them walked away after one game, but no-one came to blows and we still talk in a friendly manner when we meet. Win-win from my seat.

And some of my friends actually remembered why they started gaming and got their dice groove back after years of saying “no thanks”. Win-win-win.

So I’d say replace the rule with: Never game with strangers at home. Find neutral ground and game with them there.


* – Ravenblood Games of Plainview NY

** I’m far too boring for them and more than a decade and a half older than most of them. It’d be like trying to hang out with your weird uncle.

#5 Comment By BryanB On March 10, 2011 @ 10:44 am

I certainly don’t have to be friends with someone to game with them. And I don’t want to game with everyone that I would call friend. In fact, I have had to discontinue gaming with some people over the years in order to remain friends with them.

This article is somewhat related to the geek fallacy that “you can’t quit gaming with someone and keep the friendship.” Just as you can game with people who aren’t friends, heck total strangers like at GenCon, you can also have gamer friends that don’t game at your table. The concept of Friend and Gaming Participant are two separate tags that people can have. They can have both tags, or they can have one or the other.

That said, many of my closest friendships have been forged by sharing the common interests of gaming and being in the same gaming group for a period of time. The social aspects of the gaming table will often link kindred spirits in bonds of friendship. This isn’t always the case though. Most people are just not going to want to game long term with someone that they don’t enjoy being around.

Some of my best friendships started at the gaming table. But some of my most disappointing experiences of friendships “gone downhill” have occurred in gaming as well. It has been a mixed bag but one that I am grateful for because the good experiences have far outweighed the bad experiences over the years.

#6 Comment By DrummingDM On March 10, 2011 @ 2:31 pm

I can honestly say I’ve never run into issues with friends I gamed with or gamers I’ve become friends with.

I still play with one of my best friends from high school nearly 15 years after we left school. And in the last 6 years I’ve made 3 very, very good friends because I started gaming with them. And I know for a fact that I have wildly different political and social views than at least one of them, and probably two.

But I am of the opinion that if someone isn’t the kind of person you’d want to spend time with away from the table, they’re not going to work out, but that’s because I play in my (and one of my player’s) home(s). We don’t want people who weird us out sitting in our dining rooms and around our kids.

If I can’t see myself being your friend, you won’t work out in my game. We don’t have to *become* friends, but it shouldn’t be an impossibility. It’s just that simple.

#7 Comment By Scott Martin On March 11, 2011 @ 9:42 am

Yes, there are people that I game with that I won’t become friends with–but we enjoy time at the table. There are friends who I’ll never game with–it’s not their cup of tea. Both work out.

If your friends all have to be game-ready, you’re probably limiting your friendships too much. Patrick’s recent networking article discussed the limits of “all my friends must be invited to every game” thinking.

#8 Comment By baakyocalder On March 11, 2011 @ 10:11 am

Longtime lurker, first time-poster.

The quote about only gaming with friends, like most general advice about gaming, is somewhat true. It can also be wildly misleading.

It’s not fun to game with people you can’t get along with. I’d revise the quote to ‘don’t play with people you can’t stand the company of during the game.’

That means if you have a friend who ruins that game for you, it’s best they don’t play. As an undergraduate, I was in a gaming club and spent a lot of time with my gaming friends.

They didn’t want me in one game–a comedic Champions game. I was even allowed to create a character to see the system, but it became clear that I didn’t mesh with the group. It would have strained friendships if I played. I did not and those who played enjoyed themselves; I had other projects and played other games with my friends, so I didn’t miss them.

Years later, I had two friends who I gamed with, but they were fellow PCs instead of being players. Behavior I could tolerate as a GM was too difficult to deal with as a player–munchkins who give your character a hard time and who really play to be a little jerky aren’t fun to be players with.

On the converse, I’ve played with people at gaming conventions and in promoting the HackMaster Association that I’d never play with in another game. Some people and I just can’t game together.

However, I’ve found that in convention and demo gaming, I can play with a lot of people I don’t know and have fun.

I go in with the idea that people I have yet to game with are friends I haven’t made yet.

That makes it easy to just play. . .

#9 Comment By inarvan On March 13, 2011 @ 8:39 pm

I come at this from a different direction: how can you engage in a personal interactive medium with people you don’t like? Gaming is collaborative storytelling for me, like sharing a fond memory and everyone around adding their spin to it. Part of being a good GM is knowing all the people at your table and being able to work with them to create fun for everyone. How can you do that if you genuinely don’t like the people at your table with you except in a “scratch this collective itch with me” way? I don’t play pen & paper games with the same shameless detachment I use when playing MMOs or even online FPS games. I have tried gaming with people I didn’t like, and it just did not work for me at all – I kind of felt like junkie going to the drug den for my next hit…dirty and sad. If I don’t want to spend any time with someone, it doesn’t make it better for me if they are also a gamer. My two cents, anyway.

#10 Comment By Kurt “Telas” Schneider On March 14, 2011 @ 7:27 am

Thanks for the comments, everyone; this is definitely a topic that draws a disparate range of opinions.

@HawkesongI would say that if you wouldn’t ever want to be seen in public with a person, they are probably not going to work out at your gaming table Sounds like a good guideline.

@RoxysteveNever game with strangers at home. Find neutral ground and game with them there. Another solid opinion, although my personal preference is to game at home.

@BryanB – I think you nailed it down; the labels ‘friend’ and ‘gamer’ are somewhat independent of each other.

@DrummingDMIf I can’t see myself being your friend, you won’t work out in my game. The ‘potential’ angle widens the friend pool a bit, but many who are welcome at my table will never fall into the ‘friend’ category. To each his (or her) own.

@Scott Martin – This is one area where Patrick and I differ, although his article is one I can get behind.

@baakyocalder I’d revise the quote to ‘don’t play with people you can’t stand the company of during the game.’ Nice restatement, and completely invalidates my article. Thanks. (/sarcasm)

However, I’ve found that in convention and demo gaming, I can play with a lot of people I don’t know and have fun. Very true, but (IMHO) conventions and one-shots have different expectations. Heavy intraparty conflict and high mortality rates can be fun at a convention, not so much in a campaign.

I go in with the idea that people I have yet to game with are friends I haven’t made yet. Hell yeah! Love the positive attitude.

@inarvan – Your two cents are always welcome. I suspect we may differ on the definition of ‘don’t like’. A possible clarification: I will game with people who don’t get invited to non-gaming events (parties, etc).

Finally, apologies for the delay in replying. We close on a new house on Friday 3/18, and I’ve been a bit busy with paperwork and packing (/understatement).

#11 Comment By Patrick Benson On March 14, 2011 @ 11:44 am

@Kurt “Telas” Schneider – “This is one area where Patrick and I differ, although his article is one I can get behind.”


But we can still game together.