Social skills – Are gaming geeks as bad as they say we are?

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Close Up Of Businessman Attaching Name TagBy Paco Garcia Jaen

On my way back from a family trip, I sat down in the train and got out my Gigax Magazine #2, eager to get started and find out what improvements have been made from issue one. Not what it needed that many improvements, mind you.

One of the articles I read – rather voraciously, I hasten to add – was Jess Hartley’s “From One Geek to Another. An etiquette guide for gamers”. The article states the intention of the series is to help us geeks interact with each other by discussing and working on our social skills.

“Together, we’re going to tackle the trials and tribulations of social interaction, professional protocol, and relationship challenges that are uniquely geeky in nature”. Although I do take issue with this statement, it’s not what shocked me the most, I must admit.

What really left me amazed is that the article is a guide to “the lost art of introductions”. Yes, friends, how to introduce people to a group. Because apparently we don’t do it.

During the family trip I mentioned at the start of this article, about 32 relatives of both close and extended family came together for a meal and catch-up. Needless to say there are people in that group I don’t know. Quite frankly, I am only a member of the family because I have been accepted as such, not because I am married or otherwise blood-related to anyone there. That meant I had to interact with, or introduce myself to people I have no idea if I have anything in common with. And I am notoriously bad at small talk. Seriously, other than the weather and the traffic, I am lost. I rather talk politics, religion or social issues. But then that doesn’t go down well sometimes, so one has to be cautious.

“Hi, I’m Paco, Martin’s partner, what side of the family are you from?” was all I needed to ask to find out who the person was. From there it was very easy to go into stories about how the relatives parents interacted, where they lived, etc. Afternoon sorted!

It would appear, though, that geeks have a problem achieving that state of getting to talk to each other, and I’m wondering if that is actually true.

Ask any tabletop gamer and most of us – the ones with common sense, at least – will be quick to tell you that we don’t really have much of a social problem and we have friends. Otherwise how are we going to play our games?

We try to dispel the myth that we are a breed of shy, socially awkward and reclusive lot who fear the sun and babble in the presence of women. Most of us – again the ones with common sense – make a true and proper effort to be inclusive and accepting of others, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation and general background.

And yet, someone feels we need an article to guide us through the lost art of introductions.

For real?

I am not going to say it’s a bad article, by the way. It’s well written and it is to the point and Hartley is a great writer who’s proven her talent and skill many times in the past.

Perhaps it’s me being weird here, but I can’t remember the time when someone came into my group of people with the intention of staying and “Hi! I’m Paco. Nice to meet you!” didn’t come out of my mouth.

For an introvert, I am a very sociable person and there is a huge tradition in my family of being hospitable and polite. I grew up in a shop and dealt with customers since I was 8, so I realise maybe I am the odd one here because talking to people has been a part of my upbringing at both personal and professional level.

But is the average tabletop gamer really that devoid of social skills? Have I disconnected myself from the attitudes and behaviours of other gamers so much that I can’t recognise this trait?

And if I have, are we much closer to the socially awkward, shy and reclusive image the world has so carefully mocked and treasured for the last few decades than we want to believe?


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