When Gamers Go Bad: Dealing With A Problem Player

My life would be sad and empty without the friends I’ve made at our game club. These are the guys and gals who have stood by my husband and me through the trials and tribulations of the last year and a half, and in turn, we’ve been there for them. Even the club members outside of our usual gaming group are far more than mere acquaintances. It’s a big happy family, and I’m proud to be part of it.

Just like in any family, though, sometimes there’s a bad seed. I’m not talking about the one who’s a bit more socially awkward than the rest of the group, or the one who’s a little bit annoying, or even the one who really needs to take a bath. I mean the troublemaker. Whether they’re simply a douchebag or are actually in trouble with the law, they just don’t fit in and are making others uncomfortable. Having this sort of person at the table takes away from the enjoyment of the game – and there’s no point in gaming if it isn’t fun.

Since we’re a club and are open to anyone who wants to come by and check us out, we have had to deal with this sort of thing a number of times. It can just as easily happen in a game group at someone’s home, though. Advertising for players can turn out less than acceptable personalities. Or a player can bring an acquaintance to the game, unaware that they don’t play well with others. Whatever the circumstances, it’s not a fun situation, but it’s one that must be resolved before that bad seed puts down roots. That means removing them from the game.

How To Nip It In The Bud

Most people don’t like confrontation, and tend to put it off until everyone’s bottled-up emotions explode in a nasty display of yelling, crying, and name-calling. You can avoid that mess by taking care of the problem before it reaches the boiling point. Here are some tips that may help.

Talk to the GM. The GM has the ultimate say in who plays at his table. Maybe he’s not aware that the problem player is a problem; from his end of the table he can’t hear the sexist or racist remarks that the Problem is making, or see that he’s lying about his dice rolls. Perhaps he hasn’t heard about the Problem having recently been in jail, or that he’s overstayed his welcome at another player’s house and is refusing to leave. Your GM has to be informed of any trouble at the table.

Talk to the other players. You need to know everyone’s concerns, particularly if the Problem is especially troublesome to one or two members of the group. If anyone is so upset by the Problem that they’re considering leaving the game just to get away from him, things need to be resolved pronto.

Decide what you want to say and who’s going to do the talking. Typically, the GM should do the talking, but if there’s another player who would rather do the dirty work (or is simply better at confrontation), go for it. Make sure you have a clear plan for what you’re going to say. Sitting the Problem down and just blurting out, “You’re an asshat and no one likes you!” won’t go over well, if it’s even taken seriously. But saying, “Look, your unwillingness to follow the GM’s rules are disrupting the game, we’re not comfortable with your prejudiced comments, and your temper is scaring some of the other players,” lays out what the issue is.

Don’t confront the Problem alone. I do not advocate ganging up on anyone, even a douchebag. That said, you don’t want to be the only one in the room with the Problem if the intervention goes poorly, especially if you want him out because of his violent tendencies. It also lends more credence to your argument of “Your actions are making everyone uncomfortable” if you have others with you as back-up. Just make sure your back-up will actually back you up, and won’t just sit there afraid to say anything.

Be firm. Sometimes, the Problem doesn’t get it that he’s being asked to leave. Don’t wuss out and let him back just to avoid more confrontation. Remind him that the issues at hand have been laid out for him, that the groups’ feelings haven’t changed, and that he is no longer welcome. Don’t back off until you know the message has gotten through.

What About Second Chances?

If you think the Problem deserves an opportunity to get his crap together and be a better person, by all means let him know that he has a chance to redeem himself. Occasionally, people don’t realize that they’re being an ass. Every person that’s been asked to leave the club since I’ve been there was given warnings. Ultimately, they were all still asked to leave because they didn’t make any changes, and the relief that they were gone was nearly audible every time.

The game table is a place where you should feel safe, secure, and happy. If someone is diminishing those feelings for you and your friends, life is too short to waste any more time gaming with them. Take care of the problem before it turns into a cluster, and everyone will be better off.

How have you dealt with problem gamers? Have you ever had to kick someone out of your group?

About c

By day, Connie Thomson (aka Ariel Manx) is a mild-mannered shoe salesgirl, geeking out about insoles, outsoles, and shanks. But when night falls, she takes her turn at the helm of 4 Winds Fantasy Gaming, where she writes, edits, and does layout for table-top RPG products. Regardless of her persona, C is always a fangirl, bookworm, and craft diva. (Email C or follow @arielmanx on Twitter.)

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