Thursday, May 24, 2012

Player Maintenance

On May 21st Tourq Stevens of the always awesome Stuffer Shack made a post about player maintenance and when enough is enough. Essentially the post talks about how at some points the level of work required to have a good time with something isn't worth the amount of fun you'll have during said good time. This is a problem I'm sure a lot of us can relate to from all walks of life. Whether it's those of us who remember the NES and how much work you sometimes had to do to get a game to work, or more directly dealing with a problem player at the table. Today, I want to talk about the latter there.

Identifying The Problem
I currently work in a help center and when we are filling out the tickets for whatever issue the client called in about there are two fields that need to be filled out. The first is 'problem in' or what the client thought the problem was when they called. The second is 'problem out' which is what the problem actually was. For example, someone could call because their email wouldn't download new messages when in fact the problem was that their computer wasn't configured to use the wireless network so couldn't even get online let alone to the mail servers. As much of a hassle as this is, it points out a very important fact: the actual problem may not be what we perceive the problem to be.

For a more gaming based example, a player might feel that the GM isn't giving them enough chances to do something and shine as an individual. This is a common complaint you can see in a lot of games, and sometimes just for particular sessions. However, in my experience as often as the problem is the GM not giving each player enough time to do things, it is also the case of one player hogging the spotlight. You know the kind, the guy who always wants center stage, or the girl who has to get the killing shot in or they'll make a big fuss.

Why do I bring this up? Well, because you need to know where the problem is before you can address it. In the example above, talking to the GM can help somewhat with the problem, but it can't solve what the core issue is, and that is what you want to do.

Addressing The Problem
When you have the problem identified, you can then try to take steps to resolve it. How you resolve it depends on the problem in question, but generally I've found addressing the player in private is a good first step. Note that for this, I will refer to the GM as a player as well, because they are in their own way.

There are things to considering for discussing the issue with the player though. For example, some people have personalities that make it hard to bring these things up with. Some people are better at talking these things out; they just know how to do it in a more approachable manner. Sometimes one person is just a closer friend to the person causing the problem.

However it breaks down, the person who addresses the problem first should be the one who feels most comfortable doing so, and who the person being spoken to will also feel comfortable with. You don't want to put that person on the defensive, because then nothing will get done. A proper conversation on the other hand can address the problem and also reveal the root causes of it which can also be addressed to make everyone happy.

Unfortunately, these private, off-to-the-side conversations don't always work. In which case the group may need to address the matter as a whole. At this step it should be the GM bringing up the matter, and they should be as fair as possible. Note the problems and ask people to agree to pay more attention to the fellow player's needs. Of course, if the GM is the problem, then someone else will need to bring it up. Either way, you want to do this fairly and objectively. If someone gets defensive, not much good will come of it.

Can't Be Fixed
In general my opinion is that anything can be fixed. That doesn't necessarily mean that it is worth it to fix. This is where we get to the crux of Tourq's post, sometimes it just isn't worth the fixing. Sometimes it is cheaper to just go separate ways or get a new dirt bike. If you do find yourself reaching this step, you need to be up front and clear. Try to stay objective, but clarity is more important. If you are leaving the game, let the GM know why - you don't have to make a show of it - and leave. If they ask about it, point out what you've tried to resolve the issue. If you are kicking someone out of the group, let them know why. They should know what is happening, why it is happening, and that you were trying to work it out before. Sometimes this will get the message through and things will improve - hurray for second chances - sometimes it won't. But being clear about it can make for less hurt feelings all around.

Your Thoughts?
Have you ever had to ask a player to leave the table? How did it go? Was there any fallout? How did you handle the early steps?    

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