Psychoanalysis and the Gamer

So my biggest problem with the games I’m running right now are:
1. Most are too big (have too many participants).
2. There are too many.
The most recent development in this is, of course, that the Star Wars game came to a screeching halt on pre-game on Friday, two sessions before I’d planned to wrap it up.
So I’ve been thinking a lot about the games I run, why I run them and how I get into certain situations that leave me with bad endings like the Prince of Alderaan got me. Also recently, I got one of those personality evaluations at work, via the Insights system and, while it’s not perfect, it does pretty damn well with only twenty-five questions, and says a lot about my strengths and weaknesses as a … well, person, actually, but also as a gamer. Here’s some excerpts, applied to the problems I mentioned above.

The Good

Doyce is sympathetic, empathic and affable and can be very effective in using his concern for others to ensure involvement.

I should note that this is a work-oriented eval, but it certainly applies to any group gathering/function, which makes is unusually salient for gaming.

Although his feelings are deep they can change quickly with his mood. He tends to be light-hearted and sunny, and because he constantly seeks to avoid painful experiences, he tends to steer away from personal anxieties.

It is a storytelling weakness of mine that I do not enjoy the scenes of personal confrontation — it bothers me less if I’m playing one of the people involved in the scene, because I know *I* don’t mean it. I’m considerably less sanguine when a scene calls for two players to be in conflict, because I’m always worried that someone’s going to take something personally.

He likes to be remembered and appreciated for the services he continually seeks to offer to others.

Well, sure. I suppose that’s obvious. If folks don’t seem to be enjoying what I’m doing, I have to question why I’m doing it.

He tends to be fiercely loyal to his friends, prepared to sacrifice his own wants for the needs of the other person.

This is one of those bits that answers the question of ‘why do I always have too many games running, and why are there almost always more people in the game than I intended?

He pays scant attention to negative, pessimistic or divisive situations or conclusions.

Again, that’s a story type that I don’t really focus on… it’s one that personally stresses me out in a game, though I don’t mind writing it into a story.

He needs to be appreciated for himself and his service, and he can be highly sensitive to indifference or criticism of the support he offers or provides.

Yeah. This is the bit that I focused on when I started to feel like hammered shit after permanently canceling the Star Wars game. Any prematurely ended game makes me feel like I personally screwed up. I hold onto that for a long time.
Don’t believe me?
Music in the Wires, Shadowrun, Dark Conspiracy, Worlds Beyond, Fallen Cities, Keys to the Pattern, Brokedown Palace 1 & 2, BESM Haven, Cull, DCM 1 & 2, Prince of Alderaan.
Those are the campaigns I’ve started up and failed to complete to mutual satisfaction since 1991. The facts surrounding each still bug me. Doesn’t count the ones that never officially got started.

Able to cope with a number of projects at once, Doyce gets a lot of enjoyment from the social aspects of his projects.

Umm. Duh. On both counts.
This next bit is funny:

He tends to live for today with a “you only go around once” philosophy. Doyce displays fierce loyalty to and for people who report to him. He enjoys socializing, but likes to plan his entertainment for maximum effect.

That would be a gamer, yes.

He is prepared to attempt almost anything, but his work needs to be active rather than theoretical. Optimistic in outlook, he is rather impulsive in decision-making.

“This game looks cool. I think I’ll start a new campaign for it.”
Ugh. If I could have the days back that I’ve wasted trying to back up that lead-in statement.

Compassion, caring, warmth and contented relationships are important to him. He probably prefers more relaxed social interaction. Do not assume this to be an indication he is not serious.

Slowly, I’ve really begun to hate when people ping down ‘digressions’ when we’re playing DnD (I give out exp when I digress… it was a bad idea, not for game balance, but because I spend more time arguing about that or telling the pinger to ‘hush’ than the digression would have taken.)

He prefers communicating vocally rather than through the written word.

And this is why I suck at PBEMs, as a player or GM.

Looking for perfection in a relationship can result in a sense of vague dissatisfaction with the reality of the way things are.

GOD. That happens all the time. I am an Idealist. I’ve realized this. I’m trying to get better 😛
Decision Making

Doyce will usually encourage democratic or even consensus decisions, as opposed to them imposed autocratically.

“I’ll run what you guys want to play.”

In decision-making he may prefer to apologize for exceeding his authority rather than getting permission in the first place.

The preceeding has nothing to do with my gaming style, it’s just funny because it’s so true.

In his attempts to please others he may make promises he cannot fulfill.

Word, as the man said. This very thing is usually why I end up with seven people playing in a game I’d originally planned for four. 😛

Doyce’s key strengths:
. Creative and future orientated visionary.

I will toot my own horn and acknowledge that I almost always have a really good idea of what the ‘main story arc’ is going to be.

. Assumes both authoritative and democratic leadership.

Which is really just being a GM. I wonder if this is my personality or if I learned it from GMing. Chicken, meet egg.

. Can act spontaneously.

The key of diceless gaming.

. High ego strengths.

A nice way to say I’m arrogant 🙂

. Can “go with the flow”, particularly where people are concerned.
. His glass is usually half full.
. Approachable and affectionate with friends.
. Articulate and active in communication.
. Highly resourceful around people.
. Sensitive to the needs of others.

Yeah. Well, that was the good stuff.

Doyce’s possible weaknesses:
. Does not enjoy working or being alone for long periods.
. Loses interest when the initial challenge has gone.
. Easily distracted from the routine.

Easily distracted. Yeah.

. May appear too smooth to some people.
. Overly concerned with the opinions of others.
. Over-compliant and easily led.
. Fails to recognize the finer nuances.
. Knows the answer before the question is asked.
. May exaggerate the significance of the event.
. May be perceived as too trusting.

Guilty. I have nothing more to say about this.

Strategies for communicating with Doyce:
. Be alive [duh, that always helps] and entertaining.
. Use lots of words and body gestures.
. Be spontaneous and harmonious.
. Adapt to sudden changes in direction.


. Sprinkle in praise, flattery and compliments.

True, but I’m curious if there’s a personality type for which this isn’t a good thing.

. Encourage him to stick to the agenda.
. Avoid unnecessary distractions – keep to the point.

Jackie read this and just laughed and laughed. I’m so glad I can entertain her after so long. 😛

When communicating with Doyce, DO NOT:
. Use destructive criticism or create unnecessary conflict.
. Overload him with facts, details and paperwork.
. Appear slow, sluggish or too formal.

These three things above seem so damn negative to me that I, as a person, have to wonder if they are ever a good thing — though objectively I know that they are.

. Do not get carried away by his enthusiasm.

Man, if my players in college had only known this, they would have saved themselves dozens of hours of effort from not making up characters for campaigns I never ended up running.

. Do not assume you will complete all of your agenda.

Har. Hardiharhar. Har. Yeah, Jackie laughed at this too.

. Do not speak too slowly or hesitantly.
. Do not talk slowly, mumble or whisper.

Justin’s learned those two.

Doyce’s possible Blind Spots:
He may be so focused about the feelings of others that he can be blind to important facts when the situation will mean hurt feelings.

Translation: he’ll agree to do things he doesn’t want to so that everyone’s happy, or at least happier. 😛

Highly vulnerable to idealizing relationships, he tends to overlook facts that contradict what he wants to believe.

Again, this isn’t oriented towards gaming, but it affects my perception of everyone I know, so…

He responds well to praise, but is easily hurt by negative criticism.

Bear with Thin Skin Ahead. Approach with Caution.

If he were more humble and modest

… which he isn’t…

he would recognize that he does have certain limits.

And the grand finale:

Doyce may feel pressured to make decisions and commitments too quickly, before he has had adequate time to consider the full implications of his actions.

He frequently overlooks his own needs due to his desire to please other people.

Which lead me to the place I’m in most of the time, overcommited, playing or running 2.5 games a weekend and mentally exhausted. (And people wonder why I use modules for some of the games.)
Possible upside: working on so many things at once keeps me from burning out on any single game too early. Maybe.


  1. I wouldn’t think that playing takes nearly the mental effort that running does. Sure doesn’t for me.

  2. I can’t speak for the others but…for me, it doesn’t matter what the game is. I always just think of them as ‘Doyce Games’. Which means they’ll be fun, entertaining and interesting. Period, end of story. So, to my point of view, /none/ of the games you’ve ever run in which I was involved was ever a failure. We just switched to something else, which was just as entertaining as what we were doing before. Sorta like flipping channels on t.v. if all that were showing were episodes of Star Wars, Buffy, Star Trek and other geeky goodnesses.

  3. Wow. You got all of that out of 25 questions? Seems impossible.
    BTW, you sound more interesting than I already thought you were. Go you!

  4. Actually, that’s a small portion of everything that came out — the final product is a 20 page booklet on do’s, don’ts, my Opposite personality type and how to deal with them successfully, and charts to differentiate between the me-i-project and the me-I-am (hint: I’m basically just like I am in public, only moreso 🙂

  5. And, to Percy’s post: thanks for reminding me that when it all comes down to it, I’m just being overly dramatic 🙂
    Seriously, thanks. 🙂

  6. Actually, they generally get your ‘basic’ personality type nailed down in five… well, ‘questions’ is the wrong word… five ‘frames’ (you can download the five-frame version of the thing for free from Each frame has four Qualities listed, and you rank each quality numerically from (basically) 0 to 6, with ‘6’ being “I am like this more than I am like anything else on this list, and 0 being… not.
    So each frame is really a sort of … well, with four qualities it’s probably wrong to say ‘triangulation’, but that’s basically how it works. Basically, each question triangulates your position on a big circle sliced up into personality types and intensities. With twenty-five such triangulations… it’s pretty accurate… so accurate that in the full version they actually chart two versions of you. “You at work” and “you at home”.

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