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Spearweasel Was Right
[12/19/2006] [Randall]

Amtgard is a big game, and it draws one of the most diverse crowds of players you can find. Why then do we only use two words to describe ourselves? Even though we’ve got fighters who sew, roleplayers who fight, and all manner of mixes and blends in between, everyone in the game seems to be assigned into one of two categories: stick jock or flurb. Because that dichotomy ignores the large number of Amtgarders who truly fit into neither category and those who fit into both, and because the two terms are neither equal to nor opposite of each other, that isn’t really fair.

Furthermore, both terms were created essentially and fundamentally as insults. People who want Amtgard to be something grander than touch tag at the park disparage the ditchers as stick jocks, while the fighters who can’t stand the thought of hearing yet another persona history use the term flurb to express their disdain. We’ve basically divided ourselves into two groups of people we wouldn’t want to drink beers with.

Of course, the stereotypes seldom fit. For every jackass snarling at newbies and swinging illegal swords, there’d be half a dozen other people who just wanted to ditch but aren’t bad people. And for every poorly socialized eternal newbie prattling about his night elf World of Warcraft character, there’d be a slew of kids who just love the idea of a game with magic and garb. Despite that, both terms have found wide use by both sides as slurs.

These days, it’s far more desirably to be accused of being a stick jock than a flurb. Stick jocks are accused of being able to fight and are thought of as being the cool kids, whereas flurbs are considered to be incompetent, incapable, and irritating. How did this happen? When did stick jock stop being an insult? Time was when a stick jock was someone who ditched to the exclusion of all activity and never wore more than a baseball cap and a bad attitude, but the stick jock label these days is proudly claimed by anyone with a modicum of talent who loves to fight. Three things changed stick jock from an insult to a compliment.

”It’s okay. I’m taking it back.”

First, the term was used for more than just its intended target. Well-garbed jerks started earning it, as did ungarbed nice guys. The fact that the stereotype didn’t always fit meant a wide variety of people were accused of stick jockery. These people accepted their label.

Second, the stick jocks started fighting back. This attitude is displayed very well in Zumat’s article on the topic, and can be summed up by saying that stick jocks realized they were the movers and shakers in the game. Stick jocks ran for office. Stick jocks ran feasts and events. Stick jocks won Arts and Sciences tournaments. And stick jocks pointed out that most of them were just normal folks without bad attitudes – normal Amtgarders who wore garb, played magic classes, and secretly had a persona history scrawled on their ten-year-old waiver.

Third, the stick jocks found that some very good Amtgard role models were included among their number. When people winning Olympiads started being considered stick jocks, stick jocks found some respectable and friendly fighters with talents ranging from sewing to singing who they could look up to and admire.

In short, stick jocks took the term back.

“Even if it could be saved, you can't save it because you’re not black!”

Flurb is a term in flux. More and more new players join the game and proclaim themselves flurbs without realizing it was meant to be an insult. Older players who don’t fit into the flurby mold very well accept the label as well, and add their non-flurby behavior to the mix. This becomes more pronounced as flurbiness comes to be associated in the minds of flurb and non-flurb alike with activities rather than personality. The day when the term started becoming acceptable was when people were called flurbs for enjoying personas, roleplaying and magic rather than for being unpleasant to be around.

This is the same thing that happened to stick jocks. Just like with the stick jocks, flurbs and non-flurbs found themselves using the term in a friendly way to refer to people who liked their Amtgard to be just a bit more, well, flurby. Secondly, a few people accused of being flurbs stood up and accepted the moniker even though they may not have deserved it – and this added talent to the pool of flurbs. And third. . .

. . . the problem is that there is no third, because there are no flurb role models. Whereas stick jocks have fellow stick jocks to look up to, emulate and admire, flurbs have no such inspiration. Where are the flurb role models? And what does it take to be one?

In the end, it may be that any of us could be role models for flurbs. It could be a roleplay tavern at Clan with some Knight of the Sword flurbing it up, or it could be the Iron Mountains wearing striped shirts and playing Quiddich. It seems we’re all a little bit flurby, or we wouldn’t be playing this game, just like we’re all a little bit stick jock, or we wouldn’t be drawn to a game built around swinging foam. Maybe Spearweasel was right when he called himself a stick-flurb and preached about flavah.

Words have power to hurt, but they also have power to uplift. Think about that the next time you call someone a flurb – or get called one yourself. Do not forget that when it comes right down to it, we’re playing Amtgard together. We are all stick jocks; we are all flurbs.

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