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Of course, he threatened me...
[04/21/2003] [Glen]

I was reading a message of Girard's in one of the threads, and he reminded me of a behavior I see occasionally and that I find particularly abhorrent: the threat. (Disclaimer: Girard mentioned someone else making a threat. He didn't do it. ) Many times I have heard someone say something along the lines of, "If you do that, I'm going to hunt you down and keep killing you" or, worse, "I'm going to kill you in every battle game we play if you do that."

Some people feel a need to supplement their fighting skills by threatening other people. Worse, I don't see them threatening the good fighters. They threaten the newbies and the weaker fighters. They bully those who are already weaker than them.

This sort of behavior is bad for the game. It discourages people from fighting and intimidates those who are already intimidated by the better fighters, the magic, or by sheer physical presence. It makes people upset, removing the "friendly and fun" atmosphere everyone enjoys. It makes the bully look like a Grade A jerk, and no one wants to spend their weekend socializing with a jerk.

If you find yourself making these sorts of comments, the best advice I can give you is to shut your pie hole. You're not impressing anyone, and you're not making any friends. You're just upsetting people and making them dislike you. Since presumably you're here to play, driving people off the field by bullying them is hurting you directly by giving you less people to play with. You're also doing yourself a disservice by denying yourself the full combat experience. The thing that you're afraid of and that you're trying to bully the other person into not doing is something that a better fighter would overcome, not avoid. Surely you'd like to be a better fighter. So face the problem and find ways to overcome it. After all, what are you going to do when someone you can't bully tries it?

If you see someone making threats to another player, you have a number of options to mitigate the effects of the on-field bully. The easiest option is to counter words with words. A few sarcastic comments can serve to take the wind out of his sails: "Can't win without supplementing your meager skills with threats, can you?" or "Don't listen to him. If he wasn't afraid of you, he wouldn't be trying to talk you out of it." Words of encouragement to the victim and words of scorn to the bully both work. The advantage of this approach is that you can use it whether or not the bully is on your team, or even if you're a reeve.

If words don't work, or you're more the physical type, more direct action is possible. You can simply go over and kill the person making the threats, though this is generally frowned upon if the guy is on your team. As a reeve, you can dock the guy a limb, or even a life, for unsportsmanlike conduct. There is never an excuse, even "I was role-playing", for making threats about killing people in future battle games. For people making threats about killing someone for the rest of the current battle game, the much-abused "I was role-playing" excuse will surely rear it's ugly head. Don't buy it. "Role-playing" is not a synonym for "being a jerk."

If you're the one being threatened, you've got the most power. As soon as the person utters his threat, do it. Whatever he is trying to talk you out of, immediately do it. Teach him that threatening you brings instantly whatever he was trying to avoid. Then do it again. Do it for the rest of the game. If he was threatening to kill you in future games, make it your sole job to cheese him in the next game. Play monk and give him the Sanctuary/Dagger drum-roll every life, or give him an extended Finger of Death every life. If you're a better fighter, just hunt him down and kill him. Every life. I once had someone who was a better fighter than me threaten to kill me for the rest of the day if I did something. I did it anyway. Then I played druid for the rest of the battle games and kept him permanently petrified or killed him with extended Fingers of Death. You can almost always accomplish your objective if you're not worried about surviving afterwards. I didn't contribute much else to those games, but he never tried bullying me again.

If you're a low level newbie with no skills, you may be thinking that you're helpless. You're not. Almost every field has someone who is willing to help out the little guy. Someone you can go talk to who'll be willing to help you out. Perhaps you cloak it in role-play, hiring Thorn the Generic Mercenary to help you kill Billy the Bully. Maybe you just get a small pack of your friends together. Even if somehow you can't retaliate effectively, by simply never giving in to threats you will eventually deter this type of behavior.

In addition to vigilante style justice, there are "proper channels" a person can go through. A direct-approach person can go talk to the person doing the bullying, pointing out their problematic behavior and asking them to desist. Alternately, for the less confrontational, there are the champion and the monarch, who can be asked to intercede. Finally, there are the "generic people of authority", those that people listen to whether they're in office or not. Sometimes you'll find these people have more real authority than elected officials, because people respect them and are used to listening to them. They're often more than willing to help out, just because of the nature of their personalities.

In-game bullying is just another form of out-of-game threat, and has no more place in Amtgard than a punch to the nose. It drives people away and hurts the game. Everyone has a responsibility to curtail this, and everyone has the ability to. Whether people choose words, actions, or "proper channels", everyone, regardless of skill or experience, has some recourse other than accepting it.

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