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Thursday, June 3, 2010

Variant: When is it OK to quit a game?

Angry Baby hates to lose

I was speaking with a friend of mine and the question came up, when is it OK to quit a multi-player board game, and what is the proper etiquette for doing so?  I looked around online and was very surprised at the divergent views.  Everything from, "when its not fun anymore" to "as long as it doesn't impact the other players" to "well if they are playing by the wrong rules" found supporters.  But I found very few people with my take.  

When is it OK to quit a game?  Answer: Never. 

Alright, maybe not never, but close enough.  In my opinion, the biggest sin in gaming is the spoilsport.  This is the person who complains incessantly throughout the game (everyone is entitled to bemoan a bad roll or two) no matter what is going on.  The spoilsport may be the person who, after realizing he won't win, decides that rather than try a come-from-behind strategy, he's simply going to play kingmaker and throw his support to a favored player.  

But, the worst spoilsport of all, is the I'm-taking-my-football-and-going-home kind. It's a bit of a cliche, but playing the game really should be about the gameplay and strategy - not about victory.  Enjoyment should come between opening the box and reaching the end of the game.  If you win, neat.  But you should also be able to cheer the victor when it isn't you.  If you adopt that mindset, it really makes games a lot more fun. 

Getting up and leaving the game inherently changes the game dynamic.  Games with area control or competition (Catan, Power Grid, Ticket to Ride) are dramatically impacted as there is suddenly a vacuum of space, or at least less competition for where the absent player would have expanded.  In card games, there is suddenly an influx of previously unavailable cards that can dramatically change strategy.

But most importantly, it puts the rest of the players in a bad position.  They can finish playing their game, but now they have the quitter pouting in the corner reminding them that he didn't have fun.  It also puts a real damper on the joy and camaraderie of playing with everyone.  Or, they can stop playing the game where they were all having a good time and cater to the quitter's selfish whim.

No, if the game just isn't for you, it's best to tough it out to the end.  Even long games eventually end.  Bite the bullet and see it through.  Then, the next time the game is suggested, you can politely decline.  Better to voice opposition to the game from the get go than to quit in the middle.

The only times quitting a game in the middle is defensible is:
  1. All the players are clearly not having much fun and its a mutual decision to cease; or
  2. The game has gone on many hours longer than anticipated (I'm looking at you, World of Warcraft) and if you don't leave, you'll fall asleep on the drive home.
Other than that, quitting a game midway through is the peak of selfishness.  A game is a communal endeavor of enjoyment.  

Or am I wrong?  When is it appropriate to quit a game midway through?


  1. I mostly agree with you. Typically, board games in my household end with total domination or around midnight. We definitely ended Lord of the Rings Risk one late night. We will stop trying to stop people from winning Munchkin after a while, but that's not the same as quitting. My husband can get mad and stomp out, but he hasn't in quite a while. Oh, once me and my sister declared world peace in regular Risk.

    Girls Are Geeks

  2. I've done a few mutual cease & desists. It's only been incredibly long games or ones when no one was having fun. Mostly monopoly. (I was a kid.) Star Wars Monopoly sucks.

  3. "Monopoly sucks."


  4. Yeah, at some point RISK ceases being fun and becomes more a chore. As long as everyone is happy with world peace, I think it's just peachy.

  5. The only times I have remembered quitting games midway through is by agreement of everyone playing, and based on a time issue, such as mom wants the dining room table cleared off for dinner.

    The only time I could see quitting halfway through a game might be if you are playing something new, and it is not what was expected and noone is enjoying it. But other then that, I think you agreed to start the game, suck it up and play.

  6. Been playing Drachenhertz on BSW. Only 5-7 minutes online, yet someone quit on me last night mid-game cause I was whippin' him. He just said, "cya" and left. Poor form.

  7. Yeah, if there's an agreement in advance, or some kind of time limitation, that's a different story.

    And, if everyone is having a miserable time, then I think stopping the game and moving to something more entertaining is a good thing.

  8. Yeah, I see this a lot online. I've been in the Starcraft II beta and people will quit out at even the first minor setback. Unfortunately, there's not much you can do about it online.

  9. I agree with this in principal. Lord knows I've lost my fair share of games, happily too. But online, the rules change.

    People have a sense of aniniminity and don't feel that there will be any repercussions to acting out and making the game not-fun. They will specifically target someone and go out of their way to make the game miserable for them. They completely forget that it's a game and it should be fun (in addition to mentally stimulating). And when you decide to spend an hour playing a game of Catan, Ticket to Ride, etc on line and some &#**!(@ is not going to play with the common courtesy of the rest of the players, then yes, It's ok to quit.

    I'm not proud to say i've quit, but I have. Even when I've been winning. It's not because I'm afraid I'll lose, it's because of the other player who refuses to play like an adult. My time is finite. I have no interest in spending it with someone whom I have no respect for. And like I said, I've lost my fair share of games online. This is not some random "I'm not going to win" thing. This is more about mental health.

    But maybe I'm alone in this.


  10. I pretty much agree with the article on when it's appropriate. Most of my group isn't super competitive, but even the ones who are will be decent enough sports to finish out the game.

  11. No, I'm with you on this. In life, if you sat down and one player was utterly obnoxious, cursed at you, intentionally delayed his turn, or otherwise was unable to operate within the bounds of common human decency, I think you'd be right to stand up and walk away.

    It doesn't usually happen because most people are civil in face-to-face meetings. Online its a different story and sometimes the worst in people come out. If your online opponent is acting like an asshat, I have no problem with quitting out. No need to put yourself through that, and he'll only enjoy berating you more if you stay in.

  12. Monopoly in my family was very cutthroat, involved numerous shady side deals, and no one could leave until we had bankrupt Dad, so we always finished that one. Although, sometimes I finished in debt!

  13. I once made the mistake of playing with my cousin, who was in business school. I was about 12. I quit that game because he was ruthless and I was overwhelmed.

  14. This is generally just a question of maturity and civility.

    Though I have to agree that if you play with someone who is verbally abusive or acts "childishly", I think its alright to call them out on it and refuse to play. However, that being said, it also depends on the relationships of those involved.

    One thing though is that people often mistake "not having fun" and "getting beaten in a game". It happens that sometimes circumstances, one's own mistakes, and possibly the actions of others, result in being in a really bad position where victory is no longer possible. In games that take some time to play with a group (like Wealth of Nations, Le Havre, Puerto Rico, Twilight Imperium, Dune, and any game that might take 5-8 hours) this results in a feeling of futility. However, this is NOT a good reason to quit, or grief for that matter.

    I was in a game of Acquire where due to my own mistakes I got boxed out, and I realized 45 minutes into it that I would be totally drubbed and that I could no longer really affect the game, and there was still at least 20 Minutes left. However, I could not quit as I was playing with my family and to quit just because you're losing is something that I would never do.

    Usually if you play in a group over time you develop meta gaming quirks as well as factionalism and rivalries. This will usually make some games a chore particularly if your plays are hindered by an alliance or you're on the receiving end of what might be construed as griefing.

    And its unfortunate, that sometimes you can't always objectively discern griefing. If someone does decide to be kingmaker when the rules of the game allow it, its really a question of meta-game etiquette: that we all compete individually and fairly.

    I have a group where the more "aggressive" players and the more "rational" players are more-or-less allied against one another in games. This can result in games where competition becomes stratified along sub-group lines rather than every individual for himself. This can be very annoying for the "rational" players particularly in games with conflict (strategy games in particular with "military" action). You'll often hear one of the "rationals" saying why are you attacking me? He's the threat!

    On an unrelated matter, one of the group is a "sore winner" (if there is such a thing) who likes to moan about mistakes he made particularly when he wins. This can be really annoying, but I have never walked away from a game because of it.

    I think that its better to have several different groups of individuals to play with to minimize the contempt and conflict that familiarity can bring.

    Ultimately, it depends on whether you can get over the peculiarities of others, learn to be tolerant, and act in a sportsman or gamesman-like manner. If you can't then walking away may find you walking away for good.

  15. Let me run this one by you:

    The players: You, your brother (doesn't even try to hide that he hates you, goes to great lengths to poison everyone else against you,) his girlfriend (the type of girl that stays loyal to her abusive, psychotic boyfriend despite multiple hospitalizations and opportunities to leave) and his best friend (also a bit of a weasel.)

    The scenario: You're ahead in the game when your brother decides to play by a different rule, one which has been debated before and so should be undisputable. This change puts him at a clear advantage, and of course everyone else backs him up. so now they are ALL playing by this new rule while you still have to play by the old one, because if you say anything they will all just lie and say it is the same rule they are playing by.

    You are no longer having fun. You have been edged out and excluded ALREADY, for no reason other than that you are "the big bad big brother." Surely this is a scenario in which it would not only be reasonable to quit, but appropriate, right?