Reverb Gamers: Worst Game

Question #22: Describe the worst game you've ever played in. What made it so bad? Did your fellow players help, or make it worse?

It was Gaelcon. 1995 or so. D&D. I was running it. There were six players. One of them couldn't string a sentence together, and seemed to hope that by rolling the dice, he'd convey his intentions. One of them drew on the paper tablecloth - drew very well, I might add - throughout the session, not really participating otherwise. And two of them appeared to know the entirety of Monty Python by heart, and took every single sentence I managed to get in as a cue to quote something, both of them in near perfect unison. Further, any time anyone mentioned horses, they'd sit there pretending to knock coconut halves together, and making clip-clop noises.

I didn't run a game at a convention for about a decade after that.

To their credit, the other two players tried hard, and one of them said he'd have bought me a stiff drink if Kilmainham had a bar.

There is a silly streak in gaming. I don't mind it, as long as it's kept behind closed doors and doesn't bother the horses. Personally, I don't get it. I can see how Paranoia, for instance, is a funny sort of situation, but it's always struck me as a Cold War-era form of desperate comedy in the face of an incomprehensible threat. Much like the more modern Laundry game, although the Laundry is more existential and less daft. And if you're inclined toward silly games, interruptions, and not being able to get a word in edgeways, well, on you go. Just keep it away from me.

Which is not to say that I don't use any elements of comedy, or that my games are all serious. There have been plenty of segments, events and characters that were surreal, comedic, or just plain bizarre enough to make people laugh. But they've never been silly. Silly is cheap.

Further, the particular kind of silly that leads to non-stop Monty Python quoting, well, it isn't funny. It's vaguely amusing if you know the exact thing that's being quoted, but otherwise it's an out-of-context quote of something that depends on good delivery to be funny. So it's just frustrating for everyone else, and I can't honestly see the enjoyment in it for the quoter, either.

But it happens a lot, even if not to that degree. Gamers absorb references and pop culture like few other subcultures do, and can often reproduce them at a moments notice, even if they're decades old. The plots of episodes of Firefly get redone in games worldwide, over and over and over. I know of one gamer who can be relied up on bring up Gilligan's Island at any opportunity. I'm not sure if Gilligan's Island was ever aired in Ireland, so the references are pretty lost on the rest of us. And in latter years, Community and Big Bang Theory get quoted, and they're strong enough in the geek zeitgeist that many people don't quite seem to understand that I've never seen them.

Maybe it's because I don't watch much TV, and maybe because even then I will very, very rarely watch something more than once. I think there are two New Who episodes I've watched twice, and one of them was because a downloaded episode was of extraordinarily poor quality. So I don't end up memorising sections of dialogue.

These days, with the added gravitas and confidence of a further 17 years in gaming, I reckon I'd tell those players to either shut up or push off. It might be rude, but it wouldn't have been such a mess of a game.

Posted by Drew Shiel at February 9, 2012 11:01 AM

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