Alan, "Son of Hett"
Be forewarned, this is a long, personal entry. The answer to this post (and to any post complaining about this, that, or the other kind of people with regard to gaming) is: To each his own, therefore play games with the kinds of people who meet your particular requirements and do not play with those who do not meet them. And if you cannot, then try to be tolerant.
Salvador Dalí's The Persistence of Memory.
Within a few months of joining the Geek, I had learned a new term: analysis paralysis (AP). I also learned the extent to which it seemed most people despise it (the condition, not the term (although one person did complain about the term)). New comments or discussions about it appear probably every few weeks or so. It has become a peeve of mine, but I am aware that I am in the minority. Hell, resentment of AP has even found its way into discussion over at RPGG: QOTD JUL 8: What are your strategies for dealing with players who took forever on their turns? I had no idea AP was even possible in an RPG.
To be fair, the RPG discussion is not so much about AP as about players who do not pay attention to the game at hand, thus do not know what to do when their turn arrives. That revelation caused me to wonder if a similar truth exists within the complaints of boardgamers, or if they simply do not like slow players.
I am a slow player. I am a slow person in general. I do not do it purposefully to annoy others; I simply exist in a different chronostate than most — to put it more colloquially, I live in island time. Some of that is by choice. Some of it is by genetics. I was diagnosed late in life with Attention Deficit Disorder. Most people believe they know what that means. Here is a slightly more clinical perspective. My frontal lobe does not function within the range of what is considered normal. The frontal lobe is the part of the brain that handles what are known as executive functions, such things as decision-making, prioritizing, impulse control (a subset of decision-making, and part of the Hyperactive element of ADHD), and so forth, and to a certain extent time-keeping (oddly not a function of the part of the brain labeled the temporal lobe). In my family I am lucky to be male; frontal lobe dementia seems to run on the female side of us. That is an entirely different monster; it is similar to Alzheimer's. My mother and my grandmother both died from frontal lobe dementia.
People who believe in water dowsing and the alignment of planets would point out that I am a Libra. I do not believe in that sort of thing, but it does make a good point of reference, measuring everything on the scales. I need all available information in order to make decisions, and I make decisions by analyzing all of the available information. Every new piece of information starts the process all over again. Every new piece of information geometrically increases the complexity of the decision tree. I hate going to the store because I just need this one thing, but there are twenty different kinds of the thing on the shelves; it is agonizing to have to process all of that.
You would think that I would avoid modern boardgames like the plague because of all of the decisions involved, but I love boardgames. I need boardgames. A certain amount of my self-worth is tied into boardgames, into the mastery of them. I am an intelligent person, yet I have failed, by popular measurements, at many things in life. It causes me to doubt the usefulness of this supposed intellect of mine. Succeeding at boardgames is an incremental confirmation that I am not a complete dolt. This is what I mean when I say I play boardgames to win. This is why each decision in the game is significant for me; I need to be certain it is the correct decision.
Then there is my sense of time. I am at odds with the modern world. My internal clock ticks at the pace of the Sun, with the passing of hours. This is true of all of us really, modern clocks be damned, the result of million-year-old evolutionary coordination with the passing of days, of lunar cycles, and of seasons. Much of the world, however, has been habituated with the ticking of seconds. I blame robber barons and industrialists, capitalism, corporations, and culture, so I cannot really blame individual people for their enslavement to it. People have children and chores to tend, sleep to be had, jobs to arrive to — lives that demand more time of them than the hobby table can be permitted to steal. I understand.
But it also irks me as much as I annoy them. People act as if their very existence is somehow on hold while I take my turn. Given the presumed social intent of gaming, can you not be adult enough to converse with the other people at the table while I decide my move? Go grab some chips or a drink or something. Hell, play a different game on your phone that you love to stare at so much anyway. Am I becoming irritated and petty? Yes, but given the nasty kinds of comments I have read concerning reactions to slow players, I believe I am allowed some leeway here.
I say to thee, sir, goeth and masticate a bagge of phalli.
None of this is new. I am certain there were Romans exclaiming, "Tempus fugit, Plodicus! Hurry the fornicari up!" just as there were Greek philosophers extolling escape to the countryside for the sanity of a slow pace of life. I believe in the slow life. I have the luddite microbadge (and, yes, I get the irony here). I prefer paper to digital, candle light to electric light, the chorus of wildlife to the cacophony of urbanism, and long games to short ones.
I am not alone in that. Someone recently asked When did long games become a bad thing? There is much to read there, but I think the answer is that long games never became bad, rather that the culture moved towards short games. I am not surprised. I am a little surprised that long games were ever popular, given the culture, particularly in the US, with its obsession for timekeeping and convenience and consumerism. Long games do exist, thankfully. I am reminded of a gathering of boardgamers I attended recently, an informal boardgaming convention. One day, upon arrival, I noticed several people playing an 18xx game. In the evening, upon departing, I noticed the same people playing the same game (it is possible they completed one session and started over again, but that does not negate my point). Technically, player turn time and overall game time are unrelated or minimally related, but I suppose there are people who prefer long games but still complain about another player taking too long, at which point "long" is relative.
When I first became serious about boardgames (that is, last year, after a long run with gateway games and ignorance that anything more complex existed), the surrounding game Go attracted me. I was drawn to its simplicity, but more importantly I was drawn to its supposed Zen-like nature. I am sure the modern era has made Go players as impatient as everyone else, but I had the impression that the pressure of time was not an aspect of the game, that one could, without shame, spend ten minutes contemplating the board and its potential states before placing one's stone. I have some analytic hurdles to overcome still, that prevent me from enjoying or playing Go, but I still long for the idea of it, for that notion of a languid, contemplative course of a game over an afternoon or an evening or a whole day. Perhaps I misremember or I misunderstood, but my memories of first learning about Chess include images of the opponents seated across from each other while one stares intently at the board for some indeterminate amount of time and the other either stares equally intently or reclines patiently in waiting. I think perhaps that image in my mind later formulated how I imagined a boardgame should play.
I never understood the presence of these damned clocks.
Nowadays, such style of play is less a matter of desire and more a function of necessity, as earlier mentioned. I enjoy — need even — the cerebral challenge of certain kinds of games, but the cost is my mental gymnastics and a toll on the patience of my fellow gamers. Allow me to reiterate, though, I do not do it on purpose; it merely is how it is. For the most part, my friends are patient; they converse among themselves, they tend to each others' drinks and snacks, and they otherwise occupy themselves. But sometimes it gets to be a strain, either from them or from myself. If I try to be accomodating and rush myself in order to not make others wait, or if someone loses their patience and comments on the length of my turn, then I become anxious, I lose my train of thought, and I end up making sub-optimal or even detrimental moves in the game, at which point there is no reason for me to even be playing the game because I am not playing at my best.
... ? ...
I do not know what my conclusion is. I am not even sure this journal entry is about games.
When I originally thought to create a Geek journal, I was going to name it AP Style, a play on words for both analysis paralysis, and my attitudes toward gaming, and the journalistic stylebook of the Associated Press, the most common manual for journalistic writing. Johnny Vorthos is an even more obscure reference but conveys much the same meaning or intent. Still, perhaps I should hoist my flag and change the name of this journal to the original.
Or perhaps I should stick to role-playing games. I have never had a problem with making a decision in an RPG. I suppose that is because there is more verisimilitude in role-playing, one person simply pretending to be a different person, with the same ease of thought and action as one normally would have in an actual setting (albeit some of those settings involve space cruisers with laser cannons, or magic-wielding Elves). A boardgame, however, is much more of an abstraction, and the whole state of affairs (or most of it) is laid out in full for one to analyze in detail, with outcomes that are more apparent. Role-playing games are more story; boardgames are more game.
Those are different itches to be scratched. I want both. So I am glad I do not game with some of the asshats whose comments I have read on this site.
Ah, but I spoke of tolerance at the very beginning, so here is my olive branch. I know that I barely register the passage of time, but I also know that a gentle, periodic reminder helps me keep track of it. In my daily life, the use of a quiet alarm every 15 minutes serves as a modern replacement for my own, ancient internal chronometer. My wife has some sand clocks that she intended to use in her classroom but never did; they are set to 1, 2, 3, and 5 minutes. I will start taking one or two of them to games with me, to keep me aware of how long I am pondering on my turns. I will not use them as time limits, however. I do not need to ask anything of my friends — as I said, they are fairly understanding — but for those of you who throw ire at the AP-prone, make the effort to give less of a damn about the clock. And put your phone down, too ("Get off my lawn!"); well, unless you are playing another game on it while I take my turn.
I suppose it is time I buy that AP Positive microbadge.
Also, I can hardly wait to spend a year playing Europa Universalis.