Years ago, with a different group than I run for now, I had a friend who was a “colossal dick” at the table. He was a spot-light stealing player.  He had a solution to everything and wanted to take the party lead role in everything that was done. He was a friend of ours. Everyone was polite and didn’t overtly challenge him, but the frustration levels spiked every time he interrupted someone talking or stood up, looked at the map, and said “This is what we’re going to do!”. I laid out a situation with a well lit courtyard crawling with guards, at a party they were trying to infiltrate. He decided to sneak directly through the guards, failed a sneaking roll, but proceeded to tell me how the guards wouldn’t see him anyways. The party’s thief was trying to pick a lock on a huge basalt door and really getting into the attempt, he cast a spell to unlock the door, saying it would be quicker. Something had to be done for the whole group.

Why Is The Player Like This?
The first step in dealing with a player like this is figuring out why the player acts like this. Is the player dealing with self esteem or self confidence issues? Is the game the place he or she is trying to grab some control in their life? Are they not picking up on social cues? Step back from the situation and ask yourself why the player is like this. What is the root cause, because that is what you want to attack, especially If the player is one of your friends and you want to make the situation better long term.

The Root Cause
Usually the root cause of a situation like this is esteem or confidence based. The game is an outlet for the things the player can’t do anywhere in real life. Using the single hero template found in movies and books, the player probably sees their character as the heroic lead and the rest of the characters, and by extension the players at the table, as sidekicks and supporting cast. This notion has to be undone in some way.

Some people will pickup on hints that you drop. “Ok THIEF, how are YOU going to get the REST OF THE PARTY past this obstacle.”  Emphasizing words that reframe the situation or intently focusing on another player while talking are ways to politely control where the spotlight is pointing. You’re not outright saying that it is X person’s turn, but using your body language and position of authority as the Game Master to control the spotlight and which player is in control of the situation.

Confront, Off To The Side
Some people aren’t going to take the hint , and you’re probably going to have to tell the player that their actions are disrupting group fun. Do this off to the side. It’s pretty common sense, but frustration levels in a situation like this can run high, and it can feel very satisfying to take someone to task in front of a group. However, that isn’t going to help get the game back on track and EVERYONE having a fun time. Ultimately,  you need to confront the player, but in a way that gets  them back in line with the group, especially if it is a friend who is the player.

Confront Politely
To make the player understand, you need to make sure they know that it is their action that is causing a problem. You also need to do it in a way that lets them jump right back into the game without making them feel ashamed or fuming about the situation. This will get them lashing out even more at the table. Whatever you have to say, try to phrase it as non-confrontational as possible, while still letting the person know they need to change their actions long term. That is not something easy to do.

Fulfill The Base Problem
A long time ago, I had a player like this in a long term game. I realized he was hitting some hard times and using the game as a chance to take control. He was a decent guy and I didn’t want to see him ostracized by the group for his actions at the table. I pulled him aside a few times and got him out of the mindset for about an hour each game, but eventually he lapsed back into it. Other players started talking to me about the game, and I had to do something bigger.

Final solution? I ran a solo adventure for his character, over the course of 10 hours in one day. We hung out, talked a lot, gamed, ordered pizza, etc. I made sure to let him know about the issues in the game and the things people were saying about it, but only after he knew everyone was still friends with him. He spilled a lot of his problems and apologized for “being a colossal dick at game”. After getting a lot of his control issues out in the solo adventure, without feeling the need to perform in front of everyone, he felt a lot better, at least when he came to the table. Like a lot of problems people have, he realized he had it, but didn’t feel like he could stop.  Running the solo game helped him redefine what the group game was about for him. It was an almost immediate change at the table. He decided to switch characters a session later, saying he didn’t want to keep playing with all the bad stuff attached to that character.  The game went on for a year and everyone had a great time with it.

So have you had this problem in your game? How did you deal with it?

27 replies
  1. Patrick Benson
    Patrick Benson says:

    I WAS this problem in a game! 🙁

    I’m an aggressive person, and if the group does not make a decision in the game I’m going to force a decision on the group. Yep, this is a flaw of mine that I constantly need to check myself on. I also do this at work, and I push people to get things done.

    Why? Because I can’t stand being idle. I have a deep seated need, or perhaps an instinct, to have to move forward on all of my endeavours. This has benefits as well, but I have a tendency to forget about the other guy.

    I found that what works best for me is to always allow for at least five minutes of discaussion, and the to tell the group “I’m willing to follow someone else’s plan, but if we don’t make a move I’m making one regardless of the consequences.” It is a cue to my group that they are boring me, and surprisingly some of them really appreciate it.

    So I try not to be the bossy guy, and they realize that my being bossy is about being bored and not about being in charge (somewhat 🙂 ).

  2. farfromunique
    farfromunique says:

    I have a group that (for the most part) suffers from ADOS – Attention Deficit–Ooh! Shiny! – so I often find myself, as GM, breaking side conversations, etc. One of the things I wind up doing to keep the game moving is ask for a consensus decision, and then put an n+1 turns limit on it, with something in-game happenning regrdless at the end of those turns (n is how many players I have. This means that each player has a chance to make 1 comment, and then I can get a consensus, before (for example) a fireball goes off nearby, lighting a fire under them.

    I don’t like being the bossy guy, and I hate having to break up side conversations, so giving them a limit before something happens can help.

  3. valadil
    valadil says:

    Interesting article. Do you have any suggestions for players trying to play next to someone like this?

    Another player was very guilty of this sort of behavior in a Deadlands game I was in not too recently. The game was put on hiatus before these problems could resolve and I’ve always wondered if there were better ways to handle things.

    This particular player dominated whatever games he was in. Even in board games, he’d pass the dice around, tell people what to play, run any world mechanics, etc. I could deal with it in a board game. It was actually kinda nice when I was learning something new. But it crossed the line in RPGs.

    When I confronted the player he said that he was “asserting his reality” on the game and that it was my problem for not being assertive enough.

    I didn’t want to push him out of the spotlight entirely (he clearly needed it and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to anyway) so I tried to share scenes with him. I figured he’d still be the center of attention, but I’d get to play too. Nope, he ignored all my attempts at roleplaying. Even when I physically got up and got in his face he just went on talking to the GM as though I weren’t there.

    I talked to the GM about it, but the game didn’t last long enough for anything to change. I’m sorry if this turned into a whiny rant – guess I’m still a little bitter. I’m just wondering if there’s anything that can be done to help deal with these players, without being the GM.

  4. Patrick Benson
    Patrick Benson says:

    @valadil – My advice is that you as a player can’t change another player at the table if they box you out on purpose. That player has no incentive to accommodate your requests if he decides it is a competition of “reality asserting”. Your only choice at that point is to have the GM assert your request. The GM does have a way to offer the offending player incentive by capping his “reality assertion” when his “ignoring actual reality” quota fills up. 🙂

  5. Protohacker
    Protohacker says:

    I know I’m going to get flamed for this, but I feel it’s important to point out something you folks might miss otherwise. While it’s true that many problem players act out of a need for control or self-esteem, there is also another, very likely, possibility for their actions. Many gamers, more than you would think, are autistic. My son was diagnosed with Aspergers, a form of high-functioning autism. And he is your typical problem gamer. I now have a lot of familiarity with dealing with Aspergers since I ran a gaming group solely for them. But even in my “normal” gaming groups, I can recognize signs in some of my players. These types of people are more common than you think; there is a (admittedly, mild) correlation between high-functioning autism and intelligence.

    Autism can range from subtle to severe. Many people who are considered ADD, ADHD, etc may have, in reality, a mild form of autism (the key word here is may; don’t assume anything without a proper diagnosis). I know my son went for years being misdiagnosed as ADD.

    What you, as a GM or player, need to keep in mind is that this is a brain function. These people see the world in a different way than you do. You cannot get them to understand you or see things the way you do; their brains function differently. One characteristic of Aspergers and other forms of autism is that the person cannot empathize with others. His (this includes women as well, but this does seem to be particularly associated with men) world-view focuses on himself, so he does not have the ability to recognize or respond appropriately to someone’s body language cues that say, “I have something to say” or “I’m getting frustrated with this”. He cannot step outside himself to see or understand what is happening in someone else’s mind, therefore he continues as if he is the only person who matters. He’s not trying to be in control; he simply does not recognize that there are others with needs, too.

    But this doesn’t mean they can’t be taught things. My son, like others with Aspergers, hogs the conversation. This is because he cannot recognize the cues that say “I want to talk now”. One technique we used to get around this: we taught him to keep a stopwatch in his pocket. When someone started talking to him, he set the timer for one minute. When the timer went off, he had to let the other person do the talking.

    Now, I’m not saying every problem gamer is autistic, but they are more common than you think (think classic geek personality). What I’m trying to say here is, don’t just assume the person is acting out or has self-esteem issues, but is otherwise a normal person who will change just because you’ve asked him to. There are a lot of autistic gamers out there. If you suspect you have one at your table, I recommend you read up on Aspergers syndrome and maybe try some of the techniques we use to teach them how to interact with others.

    Sorry, long post, but I felt it needed to be said. Flame on.

  6. Scott Martin
    Scott Martin says:

    I’ve played with people suffering this flaw often. I used to suffer it myself– in part, it was a decision to play the hero and let others be the sidekicks.

    As a fellow player (or GM) it can be very frustrating; I know I’ve stewed while a player steps off for solo sidequests, sucking up the table’s chance at gaming with their personal time. Or when they decide to solve the group’s problem solo, cutting everyone else off. Thanks for the article John.

    Protohacker: Do you have any other techniques like the stopwatch? I know that as a GM, keeping track of spotlight time can help fight this problem– what tricks help a player share or pay attention to the needs of others?

  7. Patrick Benson
    Patrick Benson says:

    @Protohacker – I don’t think that anyone will flame you for your post, but it does lead to an interesting discussion.

    I don’t agree with what you have stated. My nephew has Asperger sundrome and he cannot control some parts of his behavior while my experience with many problem gamers is that they choose to act the way that they do. A person with Asperger syndrome does not understand that there is a problem with their behavior, but many problem gamers that I have met will change their style for a period of time until the situation blows over and then return to their previous habits. Sometimes for a brief period, sometimes for periods of weeks or even months. People with Asperger syndrome don’t do that, because they can’t. If they recognized the problem at a social level they would not have the condition.

    Also, Asperger syndrome and other forms of autism appear in 71 of 10,000 people according to The National Autistic Society. That means less than 1% of the population has autism and even less have Asperger syndrome. Yet the rate I which I encounter problem gamers is substantially higher than 1 in 100.

    I just do not think that what you have stated is accurate. 1 in 100 people that I meet most likely have a form of autism, but there is no correspondence between that statistic and gaming. Even if we go by the concept that gamers tend to be of higher intelligence we could still triple the amount of people with Asperger syndrome amongts gamers and the number of problem gamers is probably still greater than 3 in 100.

    Your reasoning that we should not assume that a person who does not respond to social cues like body language is not without some type of condition is very sound. I just do not think it is as common as your comment suggests that it is.

  8. John G.
    John G. says:

    My compliments to the author; I think we’ve all had the misfortune of playing with / running for this sort.

    @ Protohacker: Nope, no flames here! I think you may be onto something. (It wouldn’t explain all of my problem players, but it really might explain a few of them…)

    Like Scott, I wouldn’t mind hearing more techniques for managing player time and attention.

  9. Cole
    Cole says:

    Never forget one important thing: You as a player or GM should be having fun.

    If to have fun, you need to leave the group or kick the guy out of the group, just do it.

    I dealt with four players with the issues mentioned above. My efforts, over the years, didn’t make a single bit of difference in any of those cases. All it made me do is think about quiting the hobby.

    Things got much better once I started focusing on what I game for: Having fun!

  10. Kurt "Telas" Schneider
    Kurt "Telas" Schneider says:

    @valadil – If a group discussion and GM intercession failed (or failed to take place), and this behavior continued, I might “impose my reality” on him with a right cross. But I’d probably stand up, close my book, call him the worst roleplayer I’ve ever seen, call the GM a spineless mollusk, and state for the record that I would never game with either of them again.

    @Protohacker – I’ve got (self-described) Aspie friends, and fellow gamers who are just socially maladjusted nerds, and the difference is pretty significant if you know what to look for. As Patrick mentioned, one literally can’t help it; the other doesn’t care.

    While the exact approach will vary from group to group, I am of the opinion that the person with the disability (or whatever we’re calling disabilities these days) should be the one to ‘take point’ on dealing with it. This is not to say that the rest of the group can’t help out, but I’m not going to change everything I do just so that Shorty McAttention can continue to ignore social norms. Again, this is only my opinion, and not a flame.

  11. John Arcadian
    John Arcadian says:

    I love getting great responses like this, I hate being in a position where I can’t respond fully to them! I just traveled down to Atlanta for Dragoncon, and won’t be able to make full responses to everything.

    @farfromunique – As GM, you do have to be a bit of the bossy guy. It’s part of the role. You are responsible for keeping everyone on task. Knowing lots of people who are ADOS, I have one crucial piece of advice. You have to , oooh what does this button do! . . .

    @valadil – Patrick’s comment is good. I’ve been in your situation. I’ve got one friend who is so charismatic and strong personalitied, that it is hard to outshine him when he gets going. The comment your person made though … yeah. It seems like exactly the type of thing the player in the article would do. As a player, my advice is this. Take more turns, jump in with more of your own actions. Lose any fear you have about doing it, and finally: He says you aren’t assertive enough, be assertive and politely attack his premise. “I don’t buy that at all. Asserting your reality makes the game suck a bit, mind toning it back?” Be as polite as you feel you need to be, but keep a little stiff backed un-dauntableness in there. You’ve got to say its not fun for you in a way that shows no weakness, doesn’t escalate the confrontation, and gets things to a better place. Easy huh? Yeah, not at all. Any social situation bears with it all the ills and pitfalls of having to deal with other people’s problems, but it is worth it to take those steps, even when you fall flat on your face.

    @Protohacker – You’re right, there are a lot of people out there with issues that cause these kinds of behaviors. Those are a separate case that needs to be treated differently. The person who has problems recognizing social cues needs to be incorporated into the group and their issues worked around so that everyone can have a great experience. The person who deliberately tries to steal the spotlight and take over the game because of self esteem issues . . . needs to be incorporated into the group and their issues worked around so that everyone can have a great experience. Different approaches need to be taken in each case. If Asperger’s syndrome is the root cause of disruptive behavior, different steps need to be taken to combat the issue and make the game fun for everyone. The stopwatch is a great idea. Another idea is to use a “conch shell”, some bean bag or soft thing that can be thrown around to table to say who gets to talk. Someone holds their hand up to catch it, that is the group acknowledged, decided on and discussed beforehand cue to pass off the conch and the spotlight. I’ve used this in games where there were no spotlight hogs, but just to control the flow better. You bring up some very good points, thanks!

    @Scott Martin – You’re welcome scott. It is always weird to write about someone you know, especially in a negative light.

    @John G. – Thanks. It is a fairly common gamer behavior that gets taken to extremes.

    @Cole – Sometimes there is no getting through to people. It is INCREDIBLY frustrating as the GM to crash against this problem again and again, and if it is a repeat offender, there is always the option of asking them to leave the group. Extreme yes, but also necessary in some situations.

  12. Protohacker
    Protohacker says:

    Well, first guys, thanks for listening. I appreciate that you are willing to consider this.

    Yes, I hear the numbers (which are rising, btw, but I can’t tell if that’s because there are more autistic people being born, the signs are being recognized more, or people just have more need to label), so I take the numbers with a very large grain of salt. As they say, there are lies, damned lies, and statistics. Anyhow (and this is greatly simplified, so bear with me), brain function can be thought of an analog scale ranging from functional to dysfunctional (and even those definitions are suspect). Where is the line that crosses from functional to dysfunctional? Is there even a line? Where does “autism” fall in this scale. Is it even a set part of the scale? Maybe, there are autistic “hot spots” at several places along the way from functional to dysfunctional. I have no answers for this and after dealing with the doctors, psychiatrists, etc, I’m of the opinion no one does. I, myself, exhibit many autistic traits, but am very much not autistic according to the doctors. So, dealing with this topic is fuzzy, at best.

    If you do, in fact, ever have to deal with someone with Aspergers or autism, please keep in mind–this is not a disease or problem. It is a different way of perceiving the world. They are not wrong or bad, they are just different. I can’t stress this enough. They only “suffer” from autism to the extent that it shuts them out of our world. They cannot adjust to you, so it is more productive if you learn to adjust to them. Personally, I find it fascinating to work with autistic children. Trying to understand how they think really expands my own world-view. And they have such an unusual perception of the world. The ideas they can come up with are truly remarkable. But, I digress as usual,… oh shiny!

    Something that is a long-shot, but may help. People with Aspergers and autism in general like routine. They do not adapt to change at all well. Keep things as consistent as possible. Same character (in my Asperger group, I didn’t ever kill off characters; the players would just write up another identical one anyway), same food, same chair, etc, same everything you can. This will help to calm them. Don’t tease them for wearing the same clothes; they need the routine of those clothes to feel comfortable.

    As far as teaching someone to interact better, most of the methods are geared toward young children and may not be well-received by adults (I know my 20-year-old son hates being reminded of them). One method is to teach them how to recognize emotional states in another person by showing them pictures of happy faces, angry faces, etc and teaching them, “this is a happy person, this is an angry person, etc”. Then, they are taught a socially appropriate response to that emotion. In short, they are taught to recognize a happy face and are told to smile in return. If your player is unable to recognize frustration in others, then teach him what frustration looks like. If that seems too silly for you, have a cue (anything from a prop to a code phrase) that tells him someone is getting frustrated. People with Aspergers are generally quite intelligent (although maybe not so much willing to learn, good luck with that part). You also have to tell him what you want him to do at that point (when he gets the frustration cue). Just try to keep it consistent. Don’t tell him to say this one time, then do that another. It will have to be the same response each time, even if that response doesn’t quite fit all “frustration” occasions. Remember, they need routine. You should also talk this out with your other players, so everyone knows how to react to the situation consistently. Obviously, you need different cues for different emotions (anger, boredom, happiness, etc). You want to keep it simple, no more than two or three cues, so you don’t overwhelm anyone. You may have to let the smaller situations slide and just deal with the larger problems.

    If you do use something like the stopwatch, make sure everyone follows it. And everyone should get the same amount of screen time. The amount of time will depend on the number of players–too much for each player and the others get bored. Something that can be passed from one person to the next is ideal. When it goes to the next person, start the stopwatch. After the time is up, the prop either goes back to the GM or the next player. I use one minute for each person. It’s sometimes a little short, but I also have a lot of players and many have the same ooh, shiny! problem. The GM will also need to set some rules to make sure that one person doesn’t hog the prop (only goes around the table in one direction, GM keeps prop and sends it to whomever he feels is next in line, whatever works for you).

    And last, I have not found a good work-around for this one. Some do have short attention spans. (Btw, ADD, ADHD, etc are unrelated to autism. People with autism can, in fact, focus on a single task, frequently to the exclusion of all else.) Anywho,… ooh, shiny!… there are those, however, who are both ADD and autistic. This is directed to them. In my Asperger group, we play for only about 20-30 min, then go on to something else. Sometimes we come back to the game, sometimes not. In my non-Aspergers group, I have two start times, one (earlier) for the regular players and one (later) for the player with Aspergers. Since the Asperger’s player is my son, he can’t always arrive late (I generally have to pick him up), so I bring my PS3 with me to the games. He plays on the console until we’re ready for him and sometimes after if he’s reached his limit at the table (the PS3 is in another room, so he doesn’t interrupt us). It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s the best I’ve found so far. If you have any better ideas, let me know. I value your input as well.

    Again, long post, sorry. Maybe someone should write a hot-button article on this? hint hint

  13. Protohacker
    Protohacker says:

    @Patrick Benson – Yes, the numbers are about 1 in 150 and rising. But, there is a correlation between high-functioning autism and intelligence, so these number are higher for the top two-percent of the population. Since there is also a correlation between intelligence and gaming, it is reasonable to apply the higher numbers to a typical gaming group. I don’t have those numbers, but let’s use yours–3 in 100 people.

    Keep in mind, this is also just recognized autism. It is difficult, at best, to define autism, since it doesn’t really have a defined set of symptoms–it’s a ranged scale. So, someone can be mildly to severely autistic. The mild cases are likely to go unrecognized. So, the numbers could possibly be higher than even these. Who knows?

    But, back to the example. Assuming 3 in 100 intelligent people are autistic. That’s 1 in 33 people. This means, if you walk into your average game store where they’re running games, statistically, there is someone in that store with autism. And he’s at someone’s table.

  14. LeighBarlow
    LeighBarlow says:

    Excellent article and some really interesting comments. I agree with most people here, in that, one reason does not answer why every player is self centred (rather than selfish). With some it may be brain function, others it could be upbringing, yet others it may be their current situation.

    I am of the opinion that a lot can be done by the GM. As has been said, if you have a player hogging all the game time to the exclusion of others, the GM can ‘time manage’ this. We have a couple of players who have a tendency to want to do everything. In a room they will examine something at the same time as interrogating the prisoners, and looking for secret doors. I’ve solved this by using a (kind of) turn based system: simply going around every player asking them what their characters is going to do, and then, starting with first one, playing this out. If the demanding players interject during someone else’s action I simply point out that they are still busy doing their thing as all this is happening concurrently.

    As @John Arcadian says, sometimes, as the GM, you have to be bossy. As a player you have to trust the GM and if they haven’t spotted it, point it out.

  15. DrSteve
    DrSteve says:

    Also another tip GM’s can use. Placement around the Table. Put the spotlight stealer at the far end of the table and put the Quieter ones nearer to the GM. aslo breaking up side talkers can help too.

  16. Patrick Benson
    Patrick Benson says:

    @Protohacker – I wouldn’t use that “3 in 100” number because it is a gross exageration that I suggested for an example. My experience is that 1 out of 10 gamers is a social misfit. The kind of person who just doesn’t care about manners or social graces. Not a person with a different type of brain function, jut plain old rude.

    Now back to the numbers. CDC’s 2006 report puts autism occurring in 1 of every 166 births. The numbers were on the rise in the 90s, but that was because the numbers weren’t being kept very well before the federal governement recognized autism as a disability that is eligible for funds used for special needs care and education. So the cases beign reported suddenly shot up just because people were finally asking “Is this child autistic?” and now the numbers are going down. We don’t knwo why for sure, but most likely because physicians are better trained in diagnosing autism then they were at the beginning of the 90s (they were many incorrect diagnoses of autism once people were actually looking for it). This is why the numbers are now decreasing according to many sources (not dropping dramatically, but dropping still).

    Now going by that 1 in 166 number let’s say that half are autistic and are capable of playing an RPG. Now let’s say that half of that group actually wants to play RPGs. These are generous assumptions. That puts the potential number of autistic RPG players at 1 in 664. Even if we assume that all of these autistic players are problem players (and I doubt that they all are in that category) we still are nowhere near the 1 in 10 personal experience that I have of a prick who happens to be a gamer.

    The numbers really don’t justify the idea that autism is a highly prevalent condition amongst gamers. If that were true there would be a great deal of research on the matter from those studying autism (“Why are my patients who have high functionality all players of RPGs?”). These are professionals trained in the art of observation and the scientific process. They would have discovered the trend IMO.

    Now using my nephew and a few of his freinds from a group that belongs to who all have autism and are capable of playing an RPG, or participating in activities that are similar, as an example I do not see how a gaming prick exhibits that same habits that an autistic person does. My nephew covers his ears whenever a loud noise occurs. He isn’t playing, he is probably in discomfort because his hearing is highly acute. I don’t see that kind of reflex, or insinctive behaviour amongst gaming pricks. My nephew and his firends might behave in a way that one could misinterpret as being rude, but their behaviour still has a sort of persistence that demonstrates extreme focus and ignoring of social cues, but not of actual disrespect or contempt. Gaming pricks show their disdain for others.

    Plus their is one clear sign that the example that Joh is using is not of an autistic person from my experiences – John’s problem player stopped his rude behaviour after a single day of discussing his problem in a very social activity. Autistic people will not have that kind of an experience. They need professional treatment from a medical doctor, and a good friend cannot make te social issues that they face disappear after a single day of talking.

    It is obvious that you are passionate about this, and I do not meant to take away from how important it is that we are aware of the unique conditions and needs that others might have. Autism for some, but it could be something else for others. I just don’t believe that the 1 in 33 number is accurate at all. I also don’t want a legitimate prick being pitied when my nephew is goign to be unfairly judged during his lifetime. One person might be an asshole who should learn to play nice with others, while the person with autism is genuinely dealing with a problem of trying to make sense of social situation that their brain does not function well with. I prefer the assholes get their acts together and not have the burdens of others as an excuse for their behaviors.

    Again, just my opinion so taht you know why I feel the way that I do.

  17. tman
    tman says:

    Nice article! This is a problem almost all of us will run into a few times in our gaming life.

    When I have a player with this tendency, I find a couple of things help:

    A) Break the action down into rounds. Yes, Mr Spotlight, I know that you are single-handedly defeating the enemy army. Next player, what are you doing? Oh, picking the lock – right, gimme a roll. No, Mr Spotlight, you aren’t casting Knock, you’re fighting the enemy army on the other side of the board. Next Player? (and so on and so on) I find that the other players quickly figure out that they can do whatever they want if they find something interesting outside Mr Spotlight’s bubble. And I make sure there’s something else to find!

    B) If one person knows the “best” way to handle every situation without the others input, they will usually get to handle every situation without the others input. Around the third time he finds himself in combat without any backup because he didn’t listen, Mr Spotlight will do one of two things: 1) bitch because he got caught out by himself or 2) figure out that he got left by himself. This will usually lead to a pointed discussion where the group will explain that they voted to go left while he went right. You’re free to go right if you want, but we all went left because that’s where the majority of us wanted to go. No, it doesn’t matter that your plan was “better”, we went the other way.

    BTW, Option B works in real life too. 🙂

  18. DrOct
    DrOct says:

    @Patrick Benson – I’m unclear what point it is you’re trying to make, or even why you’re so passionately trying to make it. You seem to be quibbling with just about the least important part of what he said, statistics on the prevalence of Autism/Aspergers.

    Ok, so Autism and Aspergers are reasonably rare… I think the only point that Protohacker was trying to make was that it’s a common enough condition that people should be aware of it and try to figure out if the person they’re dealing with is on the Autism spectrum. I don’t think he suggested anywhere that all, most, or even a lot of the problem players someone might deal with would have some form of this condition, just that more people than many people might think have some form of Autism/Aspergers and so you should be aware that you might be dealing with such a person. He then went on to give a lot of detail, much of which I thought was good advice on not only how to deal with such a person but also how you might spot it, so you know what you’re dealing with. So… what exactly is your point?

  19. Patrick Benson
    Patrick Benson says:

    @DrOct – I believe that his point does not apply to the situation that John is describing. Yes, autistic people with Asperger syndrome might be encountered while playing an RPG. And yes, we should consider that possibility when dealing with others who do not seem to be behaving in a way that we expect other to behave.

    But I do not agree with everything that Protohacker has said as it applies to the original post. I think we should not say “This person might be autistic.”, but instead should think in terms of “What is wrong here?”

    IMO Protohacker presented the idea that a gamer being autistic is a very likely scenario, and I am saying that it is not that likely compared to meeting an autistic person in any type of environment. Yet I believe that the number of rude gamers, or just socially inept gamers, is much higher then what the number of autistic gamers is.

    Now my point and Protohacker’s points have both strayed from the original topic. That is fine, because discussion is part of what Gnome Stew is all about. And the reason I make passionate arguments is because I believe that what Protohacker is suggesting will not be as useful as he believes it will be. We don’t have to agree with each other, and I appreciate how polite he has been in his argument and I hope that I have shown him the same level of respect and politeness with mine.

    But probably the biggest reason that I am so adamant in making this point is that I don’t want my nephew with Asperger syndrome to be associated with people who are just plain rude. There is a clear distinction between the behavior that John pointed out in the article and the behavior that autistic people display IMO. I believe that Protohacker’s comments blur that distinction in a way that I don’t like, so I said what I felt and that’s that.

  20. DrOct
    DrOct says:

    @Patrick Benson – Well, perhaps your nephew doesn’t display all of those behaviors, or even any of them, (the range of behaviors that can be associated with Autism and Aspbergers Syndrome is quite wide, so an experience with one person is certainly not going to tell you how everyone is going to behave) but I have met and interacted with many Autistic/Aspergers people who in fact did display many of those sorts of behaviors, especially when they either found themselves in stressful situations, or when they hadn’t gotten much help with learning how to deal with these sorts of situations. Many of them just need a little bit of help, and the problem can easily be taken care of to the satisfaction of everyone. Which, I think, is exactly the real point that Protohacker was trying to make.

    I don’t think Protohacker was trying to suggest that the situation presented by John WAS someone with Aspergers, in fact I know he didn’t because I’ve gone back and re-read what he said. What I think he was trying to say was that SOME, not necessarily all, of the issues mentioned by John could ALSO be explained in some cases by someone having some level of Autism/Aspergers. He never suggested that all, or even most “problem gamers” were a problem due to being on the Autism spectrum. He simply said that more people than many might think are on that spectrum, and that his own son was just such a person.

    He was in no way suggesting that all people with Autism or Aspergers are jerks or “problem gamers” just that some of them may be, and if you look out for that it may help you deal with someone who’s behavior seems strange in a way that benefits everyone.

    I think a careful reading of what he actually wrote would make it quite clear that he was not in ANY WAY suggesting that most problem gamers were a problem because of Autism, but was simply suggesting that people keep an eye out for it and then suggested a few things that might help. This is just good advice for life in general, not just in a gaming context. Chances are at some point in your life you will have to deal with someone (probably many people) who has Autism or Aspergers. Knowing that, and knowing a few things to look for, will help you figure out the best way to interact with them. I don’t understand why that was at all controversial.

  21. DrOct
    DrOct says:

    @DrOct – Reading what I wrote I want to reemphasize that I’m not suggesting that people with Autism are all jerks or hard to get along with. Quite the contrary. What I’m trying to say is that some people with Autism/Asperges can be difficult to interact with if you don’t know that’s what you’re dealing with. This can be especially true with high functioning people with Asperges as it’s not always clear immediately that they’re viewing the world differently than you are. My experience is that once you know that, (or sometimes just suspect it, since many people are undiagnosed or may not want to talk about it) its usually very easy to get along with such people, and they can be great friends and, yes, gamers.

    Certainly many, or maybe even most, people with Autism/Asperges are not problem gamers at all, but when you come across someone who seems to be ignoring social cues, it’s worth it to consider that they might be “on the spectrum” at some level or another. It’s not always the case, in fact it’s usually not the case, but it’s a good thing to consider and a good thing to have in your “social toolbox” which is really the point I’m trying to make.

  22. Patrick Benson
    Patrick Benson says:

    @DrOct – I disagree. I think that Asperger syndrome is something that people should be aware of, but I also think that it does not apply as well to this situation as you and Protohacker suggest it does.

    Using the logic presented of “Someone might have Asperger syndrome.” should be something to consider with problem players ignores the more likely scenario “Someone is rude.”

    We’ve already established that there is a 1 in 166 chance (CDC 2006 study) that someone is autistic and possibly has Asperger syndrome. The gaming community is not unique enough to warrant an increase or decrease in this statistic.

    Now telling people to be aware that others might have Asperger syndrome applies to life in general. Forget gaming, it might be an encounter at the bus stop or at work. It is good advice for any social situation.

    But implying that there might be more gamers with Asperger syndrome than the rest of the population, and encouraging untrained individuals to make what ammounts to an amateur medical diagnosis is IMO bad advice.

  23. DrOct
    DrOct says:

    @Patrick BensonUsing the logic presented of “Someone might have Asperger syndrome.” should be something to consider with problem players ignores the more likely scenario “Someone is rude.”

    I don’t know about you but I can consider a number of possibilities about someone. Just becuase I consider the idea that they might have Asperges doesn’t mean I can’t ALSO consider the (more likely) scenerio that they are just rude, or that they’re life feels out of control and they’re just trying to gain some control over some aspect of their lives, or that they’re drunk, or any number of other possibilities. I don’t think almost anyone would just consider one possibility to the exclusion of all others.

    I just think you’re reading too much into the posts. No one is saying “just assume that anyone who seems rude at the gaming table has Aspergers or Autism.” No one is saying that. He was simply pointing out that you might want to consider it. Consider. Not assume. Not to the exclusion of every other possibility. Just consider it. Just as you would in any other social situation.

    You yourself admit that it’s good advice to consider the possibility that someone you’re dealing with might be somewhere on the Autism spectrum. Why is it any different at the gaming table?

    You can certainly argue that the population might not be any higher among gamers than it is among the general population (though I do think there are reasons to believe that people many with Aspergers/Autism are likely to be attracted to gaming, as they are often attracted to things (like computers, and music for example) with defined rules and systems, which many role playing, tactical war, and board games have in spades), but you seem to be intent on throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Rather than saying something like: “I don’t think the population of people with Aspergers or Autism in the gaming community is likely to be higher than in the general population, so just be careful when you think about the possibility” you seemed to attack the very idea that anyone should even have brought it up as a possibility to consider.

  24. DrOct
    DrOct says:

    @Patrick Benson – Re-reading everything again, I think I’ve tried to make myself as clear as I can, and I’ve enjoyed this discussion quite a bit. But I think there is a fundamental misunderstanding somewhere between us about what the other is trying to say, and we don’t seem to really be getting anywhere, so I’m going to leave things as they are.

    Anyway, I’ll leave you with a quasi-related (though not directly related) link to a fascinating review of some of the scientific literature on Aspergers and Video Games. It’s really quite interesting, especially if you’re interested in Autism and Aspergers and learning.

  25. Patrick Benson
    Patrick Benson says:

    @DrOct – Thank you for the link. I think there is a disconnect here as well.

    As for the paper, I did not find it to be very well done. I was actually surprised that it was written by a teacher. It is a graduate student paper, so I can’t judge it by the same standards as I would a scientific paper, but I thought it jumped to many conclusions and made poor associations.

  26. DrOct
    DrOct says:

    Well it was my understanding that it was really just a review of literature on the subject, sort of a sampling of what’s out there, not really meant to be a real scientific paper (especially since it just involved looking at other’s research and involved no experimenting or research of it’s own). I think it has some interesting information and points to a lot of other places to go to find out more, but nothing more really. Certainly judged all by itself it is rather thin.

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