Reacting to drama in a Diplomacy game
One of the reasons Diplomacy is a great game is because the game is played by human beings and not automatons. A Diplomacy game is designed to create human drama. A Diplomacy game is full of conflict and tension that effects human emotions. A Diplomacy game is unpredictable because the emotional range of seven human beings in conflict is heterogeneous.
A lot of people play Diplomacy because they love gaming. Most of us understand that we are just playing a game and don’t take anything other players do in it (like when you get lied to and backstabbed by a friend) too personally. Veteran Diplomacy players shrug stabs off and congratulate the stabber for pulling it off. Being philosophical doesn’t mean you won’t try to extract revenge. It means the stab is not personal. You realize it’s in the game and part of the fun.
In the face-to-face (FTF) Diplomacy world, we stab and get stabbed. After the game, we drink a beer with our game enemy and laugh about the game, vote for the “I got hammered award,” and talk about the stab–how it was executed and played out, the look on your face—happily reminiscing about the game’s twists and turns with the very person who killed or maimed us. We are friends who love Diplomacy. We understand the treacherous ways of the game. Not everyone in the FTF world (or here) is an ideal Diplomacy player able to remember it’s all just for fun. The drama makes it difficult even for the most thick-skinned among us.
Sometimes people become emotionally unhinged and let their emotions rule their play. Diplomacy is not a game for everyone. It involves scheming, lying, and backstabbing. That kind of unethical action can cause the victim to become emotional. Recognizing that you may run into an emotional person while playing Diplomacy is a reality you should anticipate. It’s going to happen.
What if you are in a game with an emotional person? What should you do? First, you need to recognize whether the person’s emotional reaction is authentic. It could be fake. Feigning madness to convince you he intends to make irrational, emotional moves might be a ploy to stab you. Discerning whether he is an authentic madman or a great actor is sometimes difficult. Let’s say you determine the madness is real; how should you use it?
Unlike most of us, an emotional player is playing for reasons other than winning, getting into a draw, survival, or points. His motives are emotional. He wants nothing but to kill the target of his emotional wrath. Satisfaction of his honor is his most important objective.
If you are in a Diplomacy game with him, you could use the player’s emotional goals to advance your strategy. Once you figure out his emotional objective you can offer strategic advances of your units that also to help him to extract his revenge. Empathize with him and agree that the target of his wrath is deserving of his madness. Sometimes you can ride an emotional player to a solo. But doing so may seem like you’re flying a glider in the eye of a hurricane. You never know when the hurricane might turn and catch you in its swirly wind.
On the other hand, what if you’re the target of an emotional player? What should you do? First, talking to an emotional person rationally probably isn’t going to work. But maybe you can use drama and emotional appeal to divert the madness toward another. Meanwhile, try and convince other players to help you. If you see someone exploiting the other person’s emotion to gain strategic advantages, show the other players in the game how that player is doing it. Or you can try meta-gaming arguments. Emotional people are not good for The Hobby. Gamers don’t appreciate madness. It causes fear. It creates an unease. It disrupts the fun of the game. Your meta-argument might work even when the other player could benefit from the madman’s moves against you. She might be more repelled by the madness and the negative energy it brings.
Running into emotional players in Diplomacy is normal. It is one of the reasons why Diplomacy is a great game. The human element and the drama, make every game refreshingly unpredictable and unique.