EATING PEAS (by Tom Russell)

Mary Russell

Tags gameplay, peas

I don't like Cards Against Humanity. I think it's fairly rubbish mechanically, it's devoid of the social dynamics that I like in multiplayer games generally and party games in particular, and as for the gross-out humor, as Paul Simon once said about dogs in the moonlight, I don't find this stuff amusing anymore.

I don't own Cards Against Humanity, and I don't seek it out. A handful of times - usually when hanging out with people who don't know what a combat factor is or who aren't particularly interested in the difference between full-cap and incremental - that's been the game on the table, and I'll try to be a good sport about it. I don't much like it, but I'll suffer through it for a half-hour for the benefit of others.

Side story: we're friends with a couple who own a lot of CAH - hundreds if not thousands of cards, including customized cards with their names on it. One of them is a friend from way, way back. The other half considers himself to be a "competitive" CAH player and likes to talk about "strategy". I think that's a little silly but he's always won every time we've played, so maybe he's on to something. Anyway, the last time we got together, Mary and I really weren't in the mood for that game, and beforehand we asked the other part of the couple - that old friend of ours - if they could possible steer Mr. Strategy away from CAH this evening. Our friend's response? "Oh, thank goodness. I really hate the game."

Which just goes to show you that people will put up with an awful lot for the sake of their friends and their significant others. (I used to celebrate every fourth of July by watching 1776 three time in a row, and Mary is still married to me!) I might not always like the game on offer, and if asked I will be honest about it not being my cup of tea, but unless the game is really odious - and heck, Cards Against Humanity just might be! - or obnoxiously long, I'm going to try to be a good sport and play the thing to the best of my ability and without loudly proclaiming to everyone how miserable I am.

So, recently myself and a group of folks got together and one of the players was not a particularly good sport, didn't play the thing to the best of their ability, and did loudly proclaim how bored and miserable they were, and it kinda ruined the whole thing. Like a kid confronted with peas on their dinner plate, who eats them one at a time and only begrudgingly while making exaggerated gagging noises, adamant that they will only eat the bare minimum number of peas necessary to guarantee their dessert and not a single pea more, this player did the fewest things possible on their turn, determined to only do the bare minimum needed for play to pass to the person on their left, and to do that bare minimum as sullenly as possible and with regular threats to vomit.

And while with a kid refusing to eat peas this is frequently hilarious - maybe not for the kid, and maybe not for the parent who is desperately pleading with them to stop embarrassing them in front of company, but absolutely and definitely for the company whom the parent is being embarrassed in front of - with a game, and particularly a highly interactive one, this negative energy and lack of engagement sours the whole thing. Since the person "eating peas" is not enjoying the game, they're seemingly determined to make sure that no one else enjoys it either.

Though that's unkind, and I don't think that's true, either; I don't think it was intentional or malicious in any way. They were just utterly oblivious and apathetic to everyone else, which might actually be worse. It spoiled the whole evening. Said evening took a lot of coordination to arrange and a not-inconsiderable amount of travel on the part of the other participants.

Some folks might say that the obvious solution is not to invite the pea-eater when that game, or others like it, are going to see the table. And I could see the argument for not pushing someone to play something that's not their cup of tea; after all, I had no qualms asking that friend of ours if we could table the notion of tabling CAH. But really, I think the solution is not to invite the pea-eater back at all, for any games. It might be that all the games we play from then on were to that person's taste, and that we never experienced that again, but they've already showed us who they are, and how much they value the time, experience, and interests of the other people at the table. The person who throws a low-key sulking tantrum when the game isn't the one they want to play is no different than the guy who is funny and charming and engaged when the conversation is centered on one of their areas of interest, but can't even pretend to feign interest or to politely nod when the conversation goes in another direction.  And just as I wouldn't invite that guy to a cocktail party, I don't think I'd want to invite the pea-eater back to my gaming table. Gaming is, after all, a social activity, and the glue that holds it together - more than the rules or the bits - is the people we share it with, and the kindness and consideration those people afford one another.

1 comment

  • https://i.imgur.com/vBU2yqk.jpg

    Brian Train

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