What Do You Say?
by Pat Conlon
What do you tell others about Diplomacy? You know what I mean. Many of us
have respectable jobs with a fairly traditional image: bank managers, Army
Captains, trucking company executives, lawyers, etc. We strive to uphold a
certain, stable image in these jobs and we carry that image over into most of
our personal lives. The president of the bank would not be impressed to see one
of his bank managers pissing in the sink at a crowded rock concert. Your average
general would take a very dim view of a captain who frequented transvestite
bars. So, what do you tell other people about Diplomacy?
Dip is a game, and serious people don't spend much time on games. They're too
busy raising kids, working towards the next promotion, or trying to get into
that exclusive country club. Worse, Dip is a wargame, something that most people
look upon as an activity for pimply-faced geeks after the science lab has closed
for the day. Do you have an image in your mind of what the average Dipper looks
like (and acts like)? Now I have met many wonderful, level-headed people in New
York, Chicago, Madison, and San Francisco who just happen to play Dip. Despite
all of them, what persists in my mind is an image all con-goers know from the
hordes of role-players and fantasy-freaks. I'm sure most con attendees have been
on an elevator with a grossly obese, oily-faced, unshowered-in-three-days gamer
who's more gamey than a ten day old carcass and more loudly opinionated (and
wrong) than Howard Stern. If you caught yourself holding your breath during that
last sentence, then you know what I mean.
I thought that playing by mail would allow me to avoid that image. But PBM
only serves to reinforce and even exaggerate that negative image. Because we
generally lack an accurate picture of who we are playing and lack information
about these people outside of their continued interest in the game, our
imaginations take over and supply images for us. These images are the product of
the other person's letters and what we as recipients read into those letters. Of
course such images are further sullied by the occasional jerk, such as the guy
who's first letter to me in a new gamestart included this bit of diplomacy.
"I was going to compare you to weasel or dodo, but what would be the
point." And I've received worse. Some letters appear to be written in
pencil or crayon in large block letters by a ten year old. But the lack of sense
in the letter suggests a five year old and hobby records may show the person to
have been playing for the last 3 - 5 years!
Admittedly, not all dip-players look like a reject from a role-playing
circle. But there are many who fall somewhere in between the respectable citizen
and the nerdy teenager images, like the forty year old whom you suspect has no
life outside the 30 - 40 dip games he's currently playing or the thirty year old
with the ugly face, the foot odor problem, the twenty year old shell of a car,
and a great job as the night clerk at 7-11. You know the word I'm aiming for:
LOSER. All too often the world classifies people in one of two categories:
winners and losers. Even the best people sometimes catch themselves making these
judgements about others. The line that defines winners and losers is a vague
one, defined differently by different people. And (surprise, surprise) most tend
to put that line somewhere below their own perceived station in life.
Reprinted from Diplomacy World No.75