Responding to Lines & Being Shut Down

edited June 2011 in Play Advice
We've developed social technologies for expressing your discomfort in games: lines, veils, "Try a different way," simply walking away. There are others, too.
Those are really good technologies to have, and to develop a comfort in using.

However, it fucking stings to be on the receiving end of any of them. It sucks to feel judged.
The choice to post this thread now was triggered by Todd L's thread, but is in no way "about" that thread.
Instead, it's about a difficult part of the making-art-together process that we're in.

I've got two questions, and after asking each I'm going to respond with a personal story about them.
I'd like people to stay close to these questions when participating, and to try to highlight their experiences above all else.
Feel free to only answer one or the other - I feel like we need more #2 responses than #1 responses, anyways.

1.) When you felt judged during a gaming session, how did it feel and how did you react?

This story is interesting, because the person who I felt judged by did everything right - spoke up early about her sensitivities, couched her concerns in gentle terms, suggested alternatives, and stayed positive (making the concern about the story we were telling, and not about the people telling it).

At the last slot of Fabricated Realities, Daniel ran Ribbon Drive. While people were sorting themselves into games, Carla (not her real name) expressed that, "I am looking to play a game without lots of murder and sexual violence." We definitely recommended Ribbon Drive over the other things that were being offered - Monsterhearts, Apocalypse World, and Polaris. As we were setting up to play, I think someone might have probed her about that comment, and she'd described this play experience she had with Monsterhearts that she didn't like. While all she really said was, "It was just too dark for my tastes," and "there was some sexual violence in the game," my take-away message from that was: Whoever wrote that game is clearly an offensive pervert. I wrote that game.

This primed me to be hyper-sensitive about any lines that Carla expressed. My reptile brain was priming itself for conflict. During the stage in Ribbon Drive where you decide what kind of road trip everyone is playing, I suggested that we were a poor inner-city family trying to escape social services. I'd just finished watching Season 1 of Shameless, and felt inspired to play in that vein. Carla expressed a concern with playing a poor inner-city family, because it was easy to drift into tokenism and caricatured versions of the poor. She also expressed a discomfort with playing out family mental health issues, which was also wrapped up in my pitch.

She explained these "soft lines" really even-handedly, but I felt like my ideas were being judged. I felt like this was the second time a game of mine was on trial within the span of an hour. A lot of these feelings were pretty irrational. Irrational feelings often rise up when you attempt to make art together, with strangers who have different buttons and viewpoints than you do. I tried to keep my feelings inside my chest for long enough to process them, and realized that when I feel judged in a game, my first reaction is to get paranoid and defensive.

The game turned out to be awesome and fun. Carla's character (a young idealist who recently "quit the internet") was awesome, and my character (a horny twelve-year-old who fantasizes about sleeping with his brother's girlfriend) was awesome, and each other character was awesome too. But it felt like it took a lot to move back out of that defensive territory.

2.) What social technologies do we have for dealing with feeling judged?

One thing that helped me get back on track, emotionally, was to remember that everyone comes to the table with different stories. It's rare that a person is condemning you; it is more frequent that they're reacting to their own contexts and their own experiences. When I was a support worker, and spent 10-20 hours a week supporting someone with violent hallucinations, I remember trying to sit down to play Don't Rest Your Head. It was difficult. I had to shut a lot of ideas down in order to feel okay playing that game. It didn't make the other players "bad" for wanting to explore that terrain; that terrain just wasn't going to fit smoothly with my recent experiences.

So, my one and only tool in my "dealing with judgment" toolbox at the moment is a mantra: Everyone is carrying different stories.

It's helpful to remember, in the moment, that there's a lot of reasons that the other player might want to draw a line or avoid a certain play topic. Maybe their mother is bipolar and suicidal. Maybe their father is in prison for the very crime that we're about to place into a Fiasco story. Maybe they deal with X as their day job, and they want to play games as a way to avoid that. Whatever the case might be, everyone is carrying different stories, and are likely to be filtering your creative input through those stories. Remembering that helps me to avoid taking shit personally.

But that one tool/mantra isn't enough, really, to deal with feelings of judgment during play. What other tools exist?

Comments

  • Man, I hear you. Talking in a nuanced way about people's perception of stereotypes is HARD. Doing it when one person feel stung is even harder. When two of you are feeling stung it's practically impossible.

  • It seems kind of odd to bring into a discussion of lines & veils, stuff to avoid hurt in the game, but if you want to play these games you have to accept that you will feel a sting now and again, and condition yourself to not shut down and get aggressively defensive or withdrawn.

    By this I DO NOT mean that silly people with issues should just be less sensitive (sensitive coming with a heavy subtext of "shut up, b***h"), most people who engage in games where they have any damn sort of thing at stake probably already get plenty stung, lines or no. I mean that a part of making the social technology of lines work is not seeing their use as a direct attack on you. And that takes some getting used to, some self-training. A few swallowings of pride, a few deep breaths.

    Lines & veils need to come with an additional intruction for recipients: "also remember, this is not about you" in my opinion.
  • Posted By: McdaldnoWhen you felt judged during a gaming session, how did it feel and how did you react?
    It really sucked. I did something creative and people didn't like it. I got upset. Like the first time I got a C on a writing assignment, or someone made fun of a story I wrote on the Internet. How dare you criticize my brilliant work, don't you know I was really smart in high school? Receiving criticism/judgment is a skill that can only be developed with practice, time and consciousness. Naturally I don't give every judgment equal weight, but I have to be able to receive it to make this decision. Learning the skill of receiving judgments is also known as "maturing".
  • Posted By: JDCorleydecision. Learning the skill of receiving judgments is also known as "maturing".
    Oh this.
  • It's definitely funny because it's often hard to separate "Would you like to play a game and it's about sex and violence" from "I want to play a game about sex and violence." and when someone shuts that down, they're shutting down your interests and preferences. If you're the kind of person (like me) who tends to attach some degree of identification with preference (the whole "I am what I like" fallacy) then having someone reject what you're into feels a little like a person rejecting YOU.

    For me, I only ever run into this with groups that are more "story games" engaged. Sex and violence in my more traditional D&D group is really my purview - as the DM I'm the one "making up the story" and then it's less about telling the stories I want to tell as it is about getting everyone on board with a story that I know we'll all enjoy. I don't push boundaries in that group.

    There've only been a few times I've been on either end of the ick-factor feeling in games and I've always tried to power through it - if someone is narrating something that makes me feel uncomfortable, I tend to perceive it as somehow significant. Generally, I just kind of tough it out and decompress later - because I guess that's what I'd want someone else to do. I want my "serious" gaming partners like my sex partners - good at telling stories, giving of their time and the spotlight and game (at least once) for just about anything. I aim to be the same way.

    RAMBLE RAMBLE RAMBLE - There's a post in there somewhere.
  • edited June 2011
    1.
    I really like to use the term "called out" instead of "judged". The word judged turns the person establishing boundaries (ie: a line or veil) into the aggressor, when in fact, the reason they have those boundaries most likely has to do with them living with oppression. If I think someone is judging me, I get pissed. If I think I'm being called out, I pay attention because I don't want people around me to be triggered by my actions.

    When I get called out, my first instinct is to defend my own self image. I don't want to be sexist, racist, a homophobe; so I would try my best to invalidate the person calling me out. I've learned, at the cost of several friendships, that what I need to do is listen, assume they know what they are talking about, and to let them know they are heard and that they have my support. It is normal to be racist, homophobic, and sexist. Oppression is all around us, I didn't invent it, but that does not relieve me from the responsibility of acknowledging someone who feels oppressed by my actions or in my presence and giving them my support.

    2.
    Non Violent Communication: also sometimes called NVC is an awe-inspiring conflict resolution technique.
    Anti Oppression workshops: go to as many as you can.
    Mens Groups: start / join a men's group so you can talk about these experiences with other men

    3.
    A side note about monsterhearts and other awesome / dangerous games
    Facilitators need to establish good boundaries before the session, esp. at cons. Vincent Baker says somewhere, that its not enough to just tell someone to play a game in a certain way, you have to DESIGN it into the game.
    (edit: I said this last part) We, as game designers, need to design safety into our games.
  • "Whoever wrote that game is clearly an offensive pervert."

    When you drew this conclusion you were being solipsistic. There are countless reasons for her to say what she did and to latch onto one possibility, which non-accidentally is wrapped up in the idea that she's thinking about you, is silly and not a little harmful. Look outside yourself for reasons others act the way they do.

    Just don't be solipsistic and you'll be fine.

  • Posted By: shreyas"Whoever wrote that game is clearly an offensive pervert."When you drew this conclusion you were being solipsistic. There are countless reasons for her to say what she did and to latch onto one possibility, which non-accidentally is wrapped up in the idea that she's thinking aboutyou,is silly and not a little harmful. Look outside yourself for reasons others act the way they do.Just don't be solipsistic and you'll be fine.
    But Joe actually is an offensive pervert.

    (Joe is not an offensive pervert, everybody.)
  • aww man, now I have to look up "solipsistic"
  • in case anyone else has an "english problem"

    Solipsism (play /ˈsɒlɨpsɪzəm/) is the philosophical idea that only one's own mind is sure to exist. The term comes from Latin solus (alone) and ipse (self). Solipsism is an epistemological or ontological position that knowledge of anything outside one's own specific mind is unjustified. The external world and other minds cannot be known and might not exist. In the history of philosophy, solipsism has served as a skeptical hypothesis.
  • Figuring out how to deal with being called out takes practice. It hurts, at it can threaten how we define and perceive ourselves, but, in the long run, I've found it has (painfully) forced me to grow as a person.
    Having someone you can dialogue with afterwards in order to decompress and figure out what upset you about the experience is helpful- and would even be interesting to schedule in at the end of the game.

    (The rest of this is more about how to avoid situations where people end up feeling judged)

    I do think its important that we all think about our language when establishing lines/veils- especially (and I don't think this happens a lot), saying what you do want from game play as well as what you don't want.

    And its probably worth considering how you pitch a game, as a facilitator, at a con. I personally don't think Monsterhearts (or any game) has to be about sexual violence or murder, and would only include that in the pitch if most games played trended towards darkness. Our game had zero sexual violence, and the murder that did occur was mainly off screen, not described in detail, not gratuitousness.

    I am going to advocate, once again, for bringing up the ideas of play "Nobody Gets Hurt", "I Will Not Abandon You", and "To the Pain" in pre-game discussions. Those, for me at least, help define the thematic style and tone of play a bit better than Lines and Veils alone.
  • Posted By: skinnyghostIt's definitely funny because it's often hard to separate "Would you like to play a game and it's about sex and violence" from "I want to play a game about sex and violence." and when someone shuts that down, they're shutting down your interests and preferences. If you're the kind of person (like me) who tends to attach some degree of identification with preference (the whole "I am what I like" fallacy) then having someone reject what you're into feels a little like a person rejecting YOU.
    Well, they are rejecting a part of you. Your interests and goals are important to you, whether they be leisure time pretendy goals or goals for where you want to eat lunch. Disappointment or upsettinessitude is natural in such a situation. It also is an opportunity to question your own goals and interests. What if they're terrible, are you ever going to learn that from someone who just supports you in everything you do and thinks you're great?
  • Posted By: shreyas"Whoever wrote that game is clearly an offensive pervert."When you drew this conclusion you were being solipsistic. There are countless reasons for her to say what she did and to latch onto one possibility, which non-accidentally is wrapped up in the idea that she's thinking aboutyou,is silly and not a little harmful. Look outside yourself for reasons others act the way they do.Just don't be solipsistic and you'll be fine.
    "Just don't be solipsistic and you'll be fine."

    Hey Shreyas, this advice is really unhelpful for me, because it's really inaccessible. To draw a parallel, it's like telling someone who struggles with race issues that they should just "not be racist." It turns out that unlearning impulsive, ego-driven behaviors is really hard.

    I'm suggesting that I'm not the only one who needs to unlearn some stuff when it comes to criticism, and am inviting others to explore the topic with me.

    How do you go about not getting stuck inside your own head, when people voice criticism or boundaries?
  • Posted By: Troels KenLines & veils need to come with an additional instruction for recipients: "also remember, this is not about you" in my opinion.
    Thanks, Troels. This line is what I was trying to get at with my "everyone is carrying different stories with them" stuff, but you hit it more succinctly.
  • It can definitely be difficult to know up front what you want and don't want out of a game, not knowing it advance what other people want and where it might go. That can make discussions of stuff in advance insufficient to avoid all problems. When some stuff is only discovered in play, it seems inevitable and sometimes a person will have to be shut down.

    Honestly, I have better luck in finding a good rhythem with people when the premise or structure of the game itself helps mediate some of these issues, but often that means that everybody has to know about or have read the game in advance, in order to all be on roughly the same page. Like, if you're playing Poison'd with a bunch of people who've read the game, know what they're getting into, and have enthusiastically embraced it (NOTE: I have not actually done this, but would like to), you're probably in better territory than trying to bring up the same kinds of sensative issues in PTA or some other game that doesn't explicitly include those things. Even then, though, people may be excited about a game like Poison'd for completely different reasons, so it doesn't always work. There's a whole lot of people that I would NOT want to play Poison'd with, no matter how excited they were about it. Ew! And if I was preparing to play with a bunch of people I felt comfortable with and one of them sat down at the table, would I get up and leave? Hard to say. I hope I would, but it would be awkward either way. Can leaving the table be a way of shutting down someone? I bet so.

    Another possibility -- which can overlap with the other one I mentioned -- is just to play with folks who you feel you know or trust relatively intimately, so the existing social relationship between you serves to mitigate or completely avoid a lot of the hurt feelings.
  • #1.

    Usually when I pitch some idea and nobody likes it, I might take a second to consider whether I really do like the idea or whether I'm wrong. If I'm not wrong and I still like the idea, I just put it away and save it for later. Nobody expects monogamy in gaming, and nobody will like every one of your ideas.

    Aside: It's been said about Rick Rubin, that you'd be hard-pressed to find somebody who doesn't like a single album he's produced, but you'd be even more hard-pressed to find somebody who likes all the albums he's produced.

    #2.

    Well, how do you not drink when you're an alcoholic?
    How do you control your anger when you have a short fuse and a hot temper?

    You identify triggers and behaviours and such, and you learn ways to deal with them, avoid them, see them coming and diffuse them. (right?)

    I mean, Shreyas is right. The problem is where you made the leap from hearing her express a preference to interpreting that as a personal judgment on you. That immediate emotional reaction isn't something you can control, in and of itself. How you deal with it is. When you find yourself reacting in this same manner, you have to stop, take a step back, and check yourself:

    Did she reference you specifically? If she did, she's judging you. If not, then it ain't got shit to do with you. Really. She said "I don't want theme X, genre Y, content Z," yeah? That's a statement about something other than you, and it's a statement of preference covering the immediate future. She didn't say "that XYZ stuff is bad/wrong/stupid." She didn't say "anybody who likes that XYZ stuff is bad/wrong/stupid." She said "that XYZ stuff? Not now." (yes? no? is that accurate?)

    So, check yourself. What you feel isn't what was said. What was said? Figure that out.

    Now, what do you do with that?

    She expressed a preference (an exclusionary preference). That means if you introduce "theme X, genre Y, or content Z" into the game, she'll be upset (which is bad). So, ask yourself:
    1. Do you require XYZ? If yes, leave. If no, keep going.
    2. Do you have anything to contribute other than XYZ? If no, leave. If yes, well shit son, try that out.
    3. Does all your other stuff get shut down too? If yes, leave. If not, one more question.
    4. Does your other stuff, and the other peoples' stuff, interest you? If not, leave. If yes, play.

    If you leave, leave as much as you can behind. So you couldn't play with somebody one time, so what? You've left games with people you like, and you've played with them again afterwards. You can't play with everyone all the time, and you can't play with anybody anywhere at any time. Or you can stay for a game that might become rewarding later on, but will probably be disappointing.

    If you stay, it's really the same thing on a micro-scale, with each contribution, isn't it? If nobody picks it up, you should probably just let it lie. If somebody picks it up, responds to it positively, keep going with it. Right?

    Also, an important point: She did reference your game specifically, right? Would it be fair to say that made you more defensive than just the rejection of certain themes? You also have to keep in mind that your art isn't you. It's an expression of preferences that you've spent time and effort on, no doubt, but if your game = you, how can you sell two different games? Anyway, if the involvement of your game in a comment gets a stronger reaction from you, that's another thing you need to be aware of and mindful of.

    So anyway, that's all the stuff I do instinctively, just written out.
  • Posted By: Johnstone
    So anyway, that's all the stuff I do instinctively, just written out.
    Thanks, Johnstone! That's all super helpful stuff.
    I especially like "If you leave, leave as much as you can behind."
  • I'm terrible at taking criticism. Sometimes I bring it up with the criticizer - "ouch. That actually kinda hurt. What was so terrible?" If negative thoughts linger, I might use some of the techniques from the book Feeling Good on systematically identifying and mitigating negative thoughts. Or I might write a forgiveness letter to the person who hurt me (but not send it) - it's a nearly magical way to stop wasting brain cycles on bad feelings.
  • "You also have to keep in mind that your art isn't you."

    EVERYONE REMEMBER THIS, PLEASE!

    Also, its inverse: "You are not your art - people can create things that are not representative of who they are."
  • Joe,

    Here's another trick... at least one I use.

    "What's the next idea?"

    By that I mean, practically and concretely, I focus on the next idea, come up with the next idea or wait for someone else next idea.

    I try to never make my ideas about me. I consider myself grateful that ideas show up in my head. I share them with other people because that seems like what I'm supposed to do with them once they arrive.

    In Steven Pressfield's The War of Art he warns against thinking you are your ideas or identifying yourself or your value with your work or your ideas. He says he believes in Muses. He says the opening from T.E. Lawrence's translation of the Odyssey, where the story teller asks for inspiration before beginning work each day. I don't say the prayer, but I've adopted the attitude in everything I do

    These days nice people are saying nice things about my writing. I throw them off all the time by saying, "Thanks. I listened carefully and tried to do the craft well." I never make it about me.

    If an idea gets shot down I have utter faith there's always another idea. Always. This is one of many strengths I've noticed I have over other writers around me.... I don't ever get hung up on one idea or project. My job is to keep generating ideas. It's a habit I've built over time, with work, but worth it. Not only does this give me a catalogue of ideas to work from, but it means I never get attached to my ideas, I'm never precious about them, I don't identify them with me.

    They're not my ideas. They're just ideas. I have no idea where they come from or whether they'll be of value. I just listen and try to communicate them well. And if I fail, I think, "Cool... what's the next idea?" And then I toss another one onto the sacred fire of collaboration and see if it burns well.

    The advantage of this in RPG play is that it is never about me.. it's about this magical, mystical thing that's happening in the middle of us gathered making all this happen in ways that are really quite extraordinary... and clearly larger than the sum of individual players' parts.
  • Christopher, that's really a nice summing-up of something I've noticed recently for myself. I have a lot of ideas I think are great, but really don't click with my community of play. I used to (and, let's be honest, sometimes still do) find this intensely frustrating and it led to a lot of doubts about my self-worth and self-image as a creative person and "good gamer."

    I've really found it liberating to have a whole portfolio of ideas floating around at various stages of half-completion, revision, or brainstorming. When I burn out or hit a wall on one, or somebody shoots a hole in it, it is powerful medicine for me to just change my subject for a while - move to a different thing and trust that I'll either go back to Thing One and fix it, or I'll make something else even better soon enough.

    I wouldn't go as far as "not my ideas." I'm intensely proud of my work. But I do try hard not to invest that feeling in whether anyone other than me approves of it. I create for me first, and if others get joy out of it, that's a great bonus.
  • Posted By: Mark WI wouldn't go as far as "not my ideas." I'm intensely proud of my work. But I do try hard not to invest that feeling in whether anyone other than me approves of it. I create for me first, and if others get joy out of it, that's a great bonus.
    Since we're focusing on this:

    I take pride in my craft. That is something I know I do: I tighten up dialogue, I clarify description, I make sure what the characters want in a given scene is clear... and so on. I see myself doing that, can check in and say, "Hey, how's this scene playing?" and re-work as required.

    But ideas. I honestly don't have any idea how they arrive. They're from the ether or beamed down with Martian Telepathy. I mean, I really don't know.

    I'm not arguing the point against you. I want you to take pride in what gives you pride. I'm just saying for me, I know what the work I can do is... and then there's all this shit that, really, when I try to think about how it got in my head, I have to be honest and admit I really don't know where it came from.
  • I was going to say a couple things earlier in the convo; it may or may not have already moved past the point where they're useful or add anything -- if so I apologize.

    Something that people have a hard time with is distinguishing "please stop that, you are hurting me/you will hurt someone" from "you're a bad person."

    A particular instance of this would be distinguishing "hey, that was a racist thing to say" from "you have just shown that you are a Racist" where Racist is an identity normally reserved for fellows in sheets with burning crosses. That's just one example of the pattern, but it's a very common one.

    I don't know a good way to resolve this. I think that in some ways this confusion is itself a part of the machinery of a problematic social system. If we think of Racism as something done by villains in stories on TV and old documentaries from our parents' time, then we don't have to examine what's going on in front of us.

    Maybe white people my age, who grew up in the 70s and 80s, are particularly susceptible to this problem; the big civil rights battles had been fought, and, at least on the face of it, won, before our time, and so we all took it for granted that we were Not Racists; that Racists were the bad guys and they'd been shown what for. Being called out for saying or doing a racist *thing* feels to us like being told we're major Bad Guys. That is, if we haven't learned to make that distinction. That's why it's a good idea to learn to make that distinction. (And of course the difficulty one can encounter in making that distinction in a concrete situation is something Mcdaldno was talking about in the first place.)

    OK, that's one thing. The other thing I was going to do was second Ross Cowman's recommendation of looking into Non-Violent Communication. You know how sometimes you read a book and it's a really big deal, because it gives you a whole new way to think about things? The book about NVC that you can find in any big bookstore was one of those books to me. And yes, learning how to hear that someone is being hurt by something you're doing, and learn from that, without taking it personally, is a big deal in NVC.
  • I'm not sure this will help, and i'm not wanting to tangent too much, but i just wanted to say it's really great to see all this honest thought put into receiving the shutdown. But moreover i'm really glad to see there's another side to the affect.

    I'm a prude. I'm a conservative. I'm a straight edge. I'm a really easily offended or frightened person. I get queasy something fierce, and a lot of art can make me ill. But i feel there's always a boundary to push in passionate art. I don't feel that urge myself, but i'm romantically captivated by the people that really think, live and explode in directions that take them far into the new.

    I'm always terrified to tell someone that their ideas don't appeal to me just because i'm uncomfortable with the topic. It's really easy on my end of the conversation to be lost feeling like you're immature, naive, or just uncool for rejecting a profound interest on grounds of personal discomfort. I'm often scared to admit when a game turns me off, because i know it can sound like a judgement. And i do NOT want to make people feel judged.

    It's easy to say 'we don't have to like the same things to like each other.' But sometimes there are real threats to revealing where your passions divide. Relationships can be blunted by the rejection of ideas. I wish i had an answer for #2. But i don't. I just know it's a real thing to think about. I'm glad it's getting words put together here. And i'm sorry to anyone i've ever said "I don't like it" to on any level that hurt, it was not meant to sting.
  • Wait, I thought the whole point of social roleplaying was to try to create shit that other people find cool*, and that it's necessary to distinguish "Cool!" from "Not cool!" Having my creativity judged and found wanting is inherent to why I play. It's a good thing. I'm glad when it happens, because then I know we're actually playing.

    If I want everything that comes out of my mouth to be treated like gold, I should go play by myself.

    Joe, am I addressing your topic, or do you really want to talk about feeling judged for stuff other than creative contributions in play? Accusing glares or other moral outrage beyond mere words of "not cool"?

    *Take that as broadly as possible. "Appropriate to why we're playing," perhaps.
  • edited June 2011
    Yeah, I'm baffled by all this "I shouldn't be hurt when people disapprove of what I do", yes you should, if you're giving 100% and doing your very best, you should be disappointed and hurt when people say "not good enough". That's not all you should be, of course, and it shouldn't stop there, but you shouldn't disinvest in what you're offering to the point that it doesn't affect you if someone says "that's a stupid idea".
  • Having ideas judged poorly is not the same thing as taking it personally. Or, rather, it doesn't have to be.

    I mean, maybe it's part of the job of doing this that has toughened me to this or something, but I don't have time to sit around and feel bad. I need to come up with the next idea.
  • edited June 2011
    Dave's attitude is a good one!

    I'll add some more from a different angle:

    I also think that in any kind of collaborative endeavour like a roleplaying/game situation, you have to be aware that tons of stuff is being thrown around all the time. Sometimes an idea of yours will be rejected for all kinds of reasons that have nothing to do with the idea itself. Really.

    I'm a jazz musician, and I see this kind of thing all the time, every time I play: everyone's constantly coming up with ideas. Which ones stick? Not necessarily the best ones, or the coolest ones, or the most original ones. Once you realize that, you realize that while the rejection of an idea *can* be a judgement, it often (maybe even usually) is not.

    For your idea to be received, the others have to be in the right mental space to register the idea and feel capable of responding to it. Often it's the easiest ideas to grasp or react to that are picked up, as opposed to the "best", simply because it lowers the bar for entry.

    Your friends/players/colleagues might really like an idea you just came up with but still reject it for a variety of reasons, such as:

    Operating Power
    * They're simply too busy thinking about something else: their own contribution. They're so excited about *their* latest idea, that they miss what you're saying entirely. This is human nature, and it'll happen a bunch.
    * Similarly, they're concentrating hard on what they need to do right now, creatively, and are afraid of being distracted. Like a GM handling a combat in progress might not want to deal with your suggestion about what happened in the plot two scenes ago.

    Attachment
    * Similar to the above: they *register* your contribution, but they're really excited about something else, and it's just too much mental effort to figure out how to reconcile the two, so they pick one and stick with it. ("Wait, he wants robots in this game? But I thought the Duke was the guy's long-lost brother... how in the world will we? Oh, never mind, let's just get back to the brother thing.")
    * They like and hear your contribution, but they realize that accepting it will mean giving up on the thing they're planning to say. So they say, "Yeah, that sounds cool, but what about this instead?"

    Personal Discomfort
    * For reasons unrelated to you, they want to avoid this thing. It could be something serious, like it touching on something personal to them that's painful. But it could just as easily be something completely devoid of deeper meaning. ("Dealing with issues of immortality? Yeah, I dig that, but I just played two games about that last week. I want something different this time.")

    Fear of Not Being Able to Keep Up
    * Your idea or suggestion is really intense, perhaps ground-breaking. It sounds cool, but they're afraid they won't be able to respond at the same level, and thereby let everyone down. So they ignore it or shoot it down, because they're scared of facing creative block themselves if your idea was to be included.
    * Sometimes it can be a question of *skill*: your portrayal of a certain element of play could intimidate a person ("I can't match this level of drama/characterization/emotional intensity!"). So they reject it because they're afraid you'll leave them behind. But they might compliment you for it later!
    * Similarly, if the idea elevates the game to a new or different level, sometimes it's easier to ignore it for now. Maybe the idea sparks some interesting thoughts, but that person is really tired right now, and would rather file it in the back of their head. Your suggestion brings up so many different avenues for inspiration that they would rather shut it down right now, so they can deal with it at more leisure later. So they might come up to you tomorrow and say, "Wow, that suggestion you had for a game about slavery was really interesting. I just can't imagine how it would work. What did you have in mind?"
    * In other words, the person or group feels like they don't have the skills or attitude to do your idea justice. That's a serious compliment, although it may look like rejection at the moment, and it happens often in all kinds of creative or artistic situations.

    Simply Unable
    * Man, they love your idea or contribution... but they don't know how to follow up on it, how to add to it or make it better. They get excited about your idea, then realize they're facing a total blank when they think about what they're going to say in return. So they get scared and go for something else instead. Even though they wish they could. (This happens especially in artistic endeavours.)

    These are off the top of my head. I'm sure there are more, others. And that's without even touching the issue of "taste", which is obviously a huge one here: you may have ideas or directions you want to pursue that your friend doesn't, simply because you have different preferences for genre or style of play, or because they're in a certain mood that evening.

    Remember that gaming environments are pretty rapid-pace. Decisions are made really quickly, sometimes simultaneously (as when two people suggest opposing ideas at the same time). It's not at all the same as carefully considering an idea over the course of a week and then rejecting it. There's often a pressure to say something, move the game along, participate, etc. Not all game decisions are very carefully considered.

    So, sometimes the most interesting or innovative ideas are the hardest to pick up on.

    I like the improv maxim, "do the obvious". Most of the time, what is needed is not a brilliant original idea, but just something that works, that fits in easily. The truly great ideas are often much *harder* to work with. Once you recognize how much need there is for those "obvious" ideas, you can appreciate better that, hey, you know what? When four people each come up with something really cool at the same time... often we can only use one of those suggestions, even if we really like all four, and we'll be making the decision on the fly. It doesn't mean the other three are terrible: in fact, for a healthy game (or any artistic endeavour) it'll often be the safer, more predictable, more basic idea that will be picked up. "Doing the obvious" is a necessary part of creative collaboration.

    Consider even pitching a group for what game they'd like to play. They might think, "No, Polaris takes too much dramatic skill, we're tired tonight. And Joe really wants to play a game about abusive relationships... but I'm afraid I'll let him down if we do that. I feel anxious about those options. But I can suggest a D&D module, because we've done that a hundred times before and it's comfortable."

    So, that's my advice: recognize that your creative impulses will be accepted or rejected on-the-fly by a whole group of people for a wide variety of reasons. It's not necessarily a judgement of the idea itself, never mind a judgement of the person who came up with it.

    Learn be able to flip a switch in your head and be ready to move on. Something flops? Forget it by immediately moving on to the next idea, the next challenge. Think, "What's next?" Or, better yet, try to respond to someone else's idea, instead.

    But move on to the next thing as quick as you can. Because, among other problems, when you're dwelling on being rejected, you'll be more likely to reject other people. Move on, instead, keep flowing with the game. Something cool will happen! What will it be? Be ready for it. The more you dwell on the ideas that are being rejected (whether yours or someone else's), the less you're participating in the actual game and the less you're ready to respond to others' contributions. You'll be doing them the same disservice instead of listening.
  • edited June 2011
    J.D., here's how I approach it:

    First priority: I'm invested in the overall play experience, which I know likely requires someone to shoot down my contributions at times.

    Second priority: I'm invested in contributing. I do need to say some shit that's cool. The more the better, really, within practical limits (I come up with a lot of stuff I think is cool).

    Third priority: I'm invested in any given thing that comes out of my mouth.

    So when someone shoots down my idea, and I just shrug and try to come up with another one, it's not that I'm playing without investment. It's that I'm way more invested in other stuff than the specific thing I just said. I am happy to be shot down (a) if it's a result of the group really caring about play, and (b) as long as I've been getting to contribute. In that situation, any disappointment and hurt I feel is so tertiary and fleeting that I have difficulty being sure whether I was disappointed and hurt at all.

    I'll grant that the safety net of a decent number of approved contributions can be hard to construct in certain social situations (e.g. cons), and that if I'm ever going to be hurt, it's by a stranger who has no evidence that I can contribute cool stuff. But, y'know, even then it's no biggie as long as they're playing toward the group's goals and they aren't giving me some condescending stare or something.
  • Paul, that's an amazing list! I've had some of those, but not others, so that's a bit of an eye-opener!
  • Paul,

    I think that list should be printed and put on the RPG fridge, or something.
  • Posted By: Christopher KubasikI think that list should be printed and put on the RPG fridge
    Seconded
  • edited June 2011
    Posted By: JDCorleyYeah, I'm baffled by all this "I shouldn't be hurt when people disapprove of what I do", yes you should, if you're giving 100% and doing your very best, you should be disappointed and hurt when people say "not good enough". That's not all you should be, of course, and it shouldn't stop there, but you shouldn't disinvest in what you're offering to the point that it doesn't affect you if someone says "that's a stupid idea".
    Aren't people mostly saying "don't shut down and start digging foxholes", rather than "feel no hurt"? Which seems to mostly be what you're getting at too? Just looks like a bit of a non-disagreement.
  • edited June 2011
    Thanks, guys. I'm glad my post made sense to someone. I think it could be improved if someone actually put some thought into it. I was just rambling!

    But this is really slick:
    Posted By: David BergFirst priority:I'm invested in the overall play experience, whichI knowlikely requires someone to shoot down my contributions at times.

    Second priority:I'm invested in contributing. I do need to saysomeshit that's cool. The more the better, really, within practical limits (I come up with alotof stuffIthink is cool).

    Third priority:I'm invested in any given thing that comes out of my mouth.
    Nice! Put that up on your fridge first.
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