The Gassy Gnoll: Passion, Creativity, and Soccer!?!

Yes, you saw a word in the post title that may not really fit the Gassy Gnoll’s usual stomping grounds. I mean, sure – we gnolls sometimes behead an opponent (especially dwarves – they have the biggest heads) and kick it around the battlefield if we’re bored. But that’s not really soccer… Maybe Rugby. But I digress.

Last weekend I attended my eldest daughter’s soccer match up in Denver. Any time we leave Colorado Springs to go to Denver (north) or Pueblo (south) we know it’ll be a challenging match. Their clubs are usually more aggressive than we are on the field and always offer tough games. That said, we had a particularly aggressive team and a referee who let them get away with quite a bit of pushing and shoving on the field. Our girls persevered and we ended up winning the first match of the season despite these difficulties and as a result, passions were running high on both sides of the field.

When passions run high, we’ve all seen sporting events (soccer, football, hockey, basketball…) where things get out of hand quickly. And though it can sometimes be the players on the field, usually it’s the fans. In this case, we had parents get into a discussion after the game that quickly devolved into a shouting match replete with threats, shoves, and accusations. It was broken up by the referees for the game after us as well as parents and coaches from both sides.

Our girls are 11 years old. This is not professional soccer and even if it was, that behavior wouldn’t be tolerated. But words flew and things could have devolved further without intervention. There’s no need for this kind of behavior. They’re kids. It’s a kids game. Congratulate both sides for a tough game and move on. End of story.

By now you’re wondering what in the heck this has to do with gaming and I’ll get to that now.

Any activity that people get passionate about – sports, writing, music, art, acting – attracts a few curmudgeons now and again. Critics are a necessary part of any worthwhile pursuit. Positive reinforcement is great, but we need folks to point out issues we may not have thought about or things we may have gotten flat wrong. Nothing is perfect, whether on the side of the creator or the receiver. We strive for perfection, but life is usually self-correcting.

Gaming is the same way. In a good game, passions run high. Both sides feed off the creative synergy between them – GMs to players, players to GMs, players to players – and the whole thing presents a kind of feedback loop when it’s going great. And if you’re into your characters, sometimes in-game events can be seen as personal attacks.

Sport in childhood. Association football, show...

Sport in childhood. Association football, shown above, is a team sport which also provides opportunities to nurture social interaction skills. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The trick is divorcing in-game events from affecting out-of-game relationships. I know I’ve even felt “hurt” when a character I felt passionately about was treated roughly during a situation where he fell under the effects of a Confusion spell and was a danger to himself and others. They took care of him the only way they could think to do so – by tying him up. It didn’t go so well for my character (ex-slave) who really resisted being bound and eventually escaped… At any rate, I felt betrayed because my character felt betrayed. And that tainted much of the next few sessions of the campaign for me. I didn’t feel I could trust my fellow party members.

It didn’t help that during some point in that encounter we decided that the other party members hadn’t done what they did and chose to do it differently. So though my character (through the do-over) wasn’t really mistreated by his party, I as the player remembered what really happened.

Passions ran high and really I should have just shrugged it off and walked away. But instead, I stewed over it it… Just like the parents on the sidelines were stewing over bad calls and player behavior that could have resulted in harming our players.

Am I saying that passion is bad? Heck no. Without passion, life becomes a very boring affair. What I needed in that campaign and our parents needed to do last weekend was take a deep breath, repeat the mantra “It’s Only A Game,” and to walk away. Not only would that have been better for us in the long run, it would have offered our kids a solid example of showing the right behavior when things get out of hand.

Ultimately, whether we’re gaming or on a sports field, we need to keep our heads. The consequences of not doing so can be a high price to pay (losing face, losing friends, or worse).

Do you have examples from your gaming experiences that have gotten out of hand? Please share in the comments!

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