Generosity Isn’t a Contest

I had an… unforgettable dinner this past Saturday night with the local live-action roleplaying players that I’ve been gaming with for the last handful of years.

I took a break from gaming with them last summer after my surgery, initially due to the inconvenience (I couldn’t drive, and the sling was uncomfortable), and then due to the fact that when I weighed the fun vs. the toxic behaviors the group has, I found I’d rather be spending my time doing things like building Future Proof Games.

The dinner on Saturday was to get folks face-to-face to talk about a big issue in the group: they lost their regular gaming location at the end of 2014. Some games have had to be canceled, but folks have been very generous. People have opened their homes to host a game or two, and one person rented hotel rooms for us to game in.

That night, though, I heard something pretty disgusting — a denigration of people’s generosity, at times in the same breath as an exaltation of their own (the below is paraphrased, in part to remove names).

  • “Well I got late notice of the change in location,” one said. (I knew this to be untrue.) “I spent all this money to help host game at my house, and we’re happy to do it in perpetuity.” They were grinning, chest up in pride.
  • “Well, someone doesn’t like gaming at people’s houses,” another said, speaking of a player who had paid for a location out of pocket.

Wait… What?

Listening to these people criticize others’ help — especially knowing that the group will have trouble raising much money — was appalling. This is a attitude of ingratitude and one-upmanship I want no part in.

Just earlier that day, I’d read this comment thread on Reddit regarding Codes of Conduct and when/how to remove someone from a group due to abuse. A portion relevant to this dilemma:

A significant slice of the internet seems to have a different agenda [than making peace] — conversation is a game to win, by making the other person surrender — and I try to avoid it because life is short and it’s actually a losing game for everyone involved.

One player has completely withdrawn from the local group courtesy of the remarks made at that dinner and the criticism of their help.

I… am on the fence. Part of me wants to talk to people, try to explain why what they’ve said and done is unhealthy for the dynamics of the group. But there are so many unhealthy behaviors in this group that it feels like I’d be taking on a Sisyphean task.

Generosity isn’t a damn contest. The people opening their homes are awesome. The people spending money are awesome. The people spending hours submitting applications to churches and community centers are awesome. The people keeping track of the conversation threads to ensure this effort is organized are awesome.

There’s no prize for being “most awesome while being an ass to others,” and aiming for one is a losing game for everyone involved.