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The Problem with Drama (and Amtgard Burnout)
[04/08/2009] [Shalingh]

Let's face it: We are gluttons for drama.

Somewhere, across the internet, a player has just snorted at the very suggestion that they'd be involved in any sort of Amtgard dramatic happening. Over the past few years though, I've seen even the steeliest of people dissolve into name-calling. It's opinion, mostly; arguments about rules changes, knighting suggestions and conflict resolution. But more than that, it's the personal bullshit that floats around all of us, whether we want it to or not. You know what I mean. Think of your home group or Kingdom. I bet you can think of one girl you know who is considered a slut and one guy who is considered an asshole (and for equal opportunists, a man who is considered a whore or a girl who is considered a bitch). Maybe you don't feel that way, but someone does. Some group does, and it's widespread enough that you know that the image exists.

In Amtgard, we have an interesting scenario: Individuals come from different age groups and locations in an attempt to make a cohesive environment. Or, in terms that make me sound less like a jackass, we have a short amount of time to get to know a lot of people, particularly at events. You have to drive, team up, fight, roleplay, eat, drink, and sleep with people you may have met thirty seconds ago as they walked over to introduce themselves. In the real world, things don't quite work this way. You may go years without getting to know someone at work or school. In Amtgard, you may need to get to know someone quickly because they've just been added to your belted family or company, and you need to work together.

This is where players who start young can learn at a rapid pace the joyous fact perhaps best phrased in “The Simpsons": Some people are just... jerks. Not that they're bad people, it's just that in non-Amtgard life, you wouldn't spend time with them. They talk forever, they cheat and slough during games, or they're huge braggarts. I don't know. Maybe it isn't even game-related. Maybe they chew with their mouths open and hit on your girlfriend. Something is grating on you. Maybe others, too. And then you'll start to discuss how you feel about them, and it'll get heated, but you'll still put on your complacent face and field with them. God forbid you'd actually speak to this person and tell them your problems face-to-face! This inevitably leads to something explosive, either on field or online, and now everyone is talking about it. Drama.

Take a knee, padawan, and heed my words:

Anger leads to drama. Drama leads to burnout.

Burnout. It's a term that some of us use to describe a combination of stress and apathy.

How many of you have been sitting at home, puzzling over your Amtgard career, when suddenly the idea comes into your mind: Maybe I should just quit? Quitting. Leaving. “Retiring." This shouldn't be confused with “outgrowing,” where someone feels that Amtgard doesn't have a place in their life anymore. I'm speaking about quitting with that bitter aftertaste in your mouth. The concept has probably danced across your consciousness at least once. A reeve makes that one call that you feel breaks the camel's back, you fail a Crown Quals entry you were sure would pass, or maybe the level of tension in your home group is starting to interfere with real life, never mind weekly fields.

It's the indicator that you've been pushing yourself too hard, or very little has been going the way you expected. You miss a field day out of that lingering sense of depression about you and the game. Then missing the next one is easier. You slack a little and then figure you can slack a little more since you're already slacking (I'm talking to myself and others like me who have dozens of A&S projects drawn up and unfinished). If you're of a particular disposition, you get a little touchy on the forums. Staying home and slacking off leaves you with more time to criticize others which gets you into fights, causes drama, and makes you less inclined to go if that were possible. Burnout is wonderful, isn't it?

So, how do we fix this? How do we cut back on drama and keep people happy?

1. Realize that other people are not you.

Not everyone has the same opinions as you but that doesn't mean they're not valid. Sometimes you could disagree with everything that is emitting from another person's mouth but that doesn't mean that their idea has zero merit and zero thought.

2. Realize that not everyone can be friends.

Up until recently, I figured that everyone could be friends with some effort. Y'know, that we could all have hippie drum circles and sing “Kumbaya” until the sun came up. That isn't really the case. Some people aren't able to mesh well and we need to accept that as a whole. But, that comes with a small clause: Not everyone can be friends but you shouldn't make them enemies. Be civil.

3. If you gossip, you're aiding drama.

Everyone likes to chat and catch up and that's fine. But try to stray away from things that are pure speculation or things that aren't, frankly, any of your damned business. It's splendid that Cheryl slept with Daniel but not everyone needs to know. On that note, listen to both sides when serious accusations are made or you're not being fair to either party.

4. Do unto others as you'd have them do unto you.

Cliché, I know, but it's true. You don't get to say that someone cheats and then get upset when someone accuses you of the same. If you want to throw stones, that's fine. Just understand that people will think it's cool to throw stones at you.

5. Help a brother out.

If someone looks like they're swamped, offer to help. It's easy to get overwhelmed by all the things required of you as a player when combined with the things that are happening in your every day life. The more helping hands are offered, the more likely someone will cave and accept. Be understanding.

6. Honesty: Still the best policy.

I'm writing this out as much for myself as for everyone else: Don't let things fester. What's worse, years of pent-up anger and resentment exploding at an inopportune time or snapping at someone at the time of the incident? While they're both bad for various reasons, it's better to be honest and upset so that it has time to heal and resolve. Y'know, before your venom rots you from the inside out.

And, finally,

7. Whether it's a game or a sport, Amtgard is not yours alone.

This is a wake-up call to some. Amtgard, no matter what you do or how you play, isn't yours alone. There are people who feel that Knighting is “winning,” that getting the most kills in a battlegame is the end-all be-all, and that being the best garber makes you the best person in existence. This game, whether you choose to be social or not, doesn't just involve you. Consider the people you know and how what you say and do is affecting the world around you.

With a little more acceptance and understanding, Amtgard can be a (slightly) better place for everyone.

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