Series Info...The Medium #14:

Fresh Blood

by Karrin Dailey
July 14, 2003

Last month I wrote an article advising new players on how to integrate themselves into the MU* community, and I figured it was only fair to turn the tables and take a look how those of us who are well established can welcome new players. Why bother welcoming new players? Because without them, the medium grows stagnant. Even if your clique contains only the best players, it’s only a matter of time before ideas are exhausted and burnout settles in. With new players, you get new ideas, new stories, and a fresh perspective that can add a new dimension to what’s already going on.

Recently I’ve branched out from my normal gaming to experiment on games whose genres I’d never tried before. I was, in essence, the newbie. I think it was important to step back into that role and experience the medium from that perspective, and it’s daunting. When you’re the new kid, and you join in on a game where everyone knows each other, and everyone else has an established character and story, you’re the odd one out. Sometimes it can feel like the oldies are ganging up on you, or at the very least blithely talking over your head with no concern as to whether you’re there or not.

I was lucky. After a few days of asking politely for RP and being declined (I took my own advice and didn’t take it personally, and remained polite even after being told no), someone in my character’s faction invited her to a group gathering. It was an in, and I had a chance to display my mojo. I’d like to reiterate to new players that it does matter that you remain polite and optimistic, but it also introduces my point to older players that a kind gesture can go a long way in turning a virtual stranger into a fellow player.

Make the Effort

New players don’t know the ropes as well as an established player. They don’t have the connections, and their characters don’t have the storylines in-game. It’s difficult for a new player to break in, and a little effort on the part of players and staff can help the new kid get into the swing of things. If you’re an established player, and you see a newbie lurking in the wings, why not invite them to RP? All it takes is a little creativity to find a reason. If your character is so anti-social s/he would never interact outside his/her group, then talk to someone whose character is more social, point out the newbie, and see if there might be a party willing and able to make a good connection. Whatever the means, the end goal is to get that new player involved before s/he decides the game is a lost cause and never logs in again.

RP staff can help integrate new players by arranging public events where new and old players alike can convene for a reason. Public events can be a hassle, and if they’re done to death, people might stop showing up, but once in awhile they can be a great way to get people together. You don’t even have to be RP staff to do it either if your PC has a reason to host a public or quasi-public event. Is your character a rich philanthropist? Throw a charity auction and invite the public. Does your character have strong political ties and would like to get his/her name put out there before a big election? Host a campaign fund raiser. Spoiled rich debutante? Have a party to celebrate the next IC holiday. Not all RP has to be cutting edge do-or-die stuff. An important element of RP, especially in a setting that relies on social interaction, is making connections.

If you’re not sure about getting to a scene with a total stranger, why not draw the newbie out on the public channel? When people are chatting OOC, that’s usually a good way to find out whether or not they’re a moron. If, after a bit of harmless channel banter, they don’t seem like a lost cause, you can steer things toward RP and see what pans out. What matters is that you make the effort. If you don’t bother with new players, why should they bother with your game? By avoiding the newbies, you might dodge a few bullets, but you might also be passing over a real gem, whereas if you make the effort, you might have to deal with an idiot or two, but you also might find a good thing before it’s gone.

Set an Example

Like it or not, you represent your game. What you do and how you act is going to give the new player the first impressions s/he is going to have of that game throughout his/her time there. Be nice OOC. Follow the rules. Pay attention to your spelling and grammar. If the newbie makes a mistake, be kind when you offer a correction. If you come off surly and self-important, you’re going to make your game look like an elitist snob factory, and it’s not going to be worth it for a new player to try to break in. A newbie has enough challenges to face just being the new kid. Having to deal with your bad attitude isn’t going to help matters.

Even if you aren’t rude, whatever mistakes you make, a new player is going to have every reason to think that this is how things are done. For example, if the game has a policy against @tel’ing from one location to another, don’t do it in front of the new player, or if you do, at least have the decency to point out, “I’m not really supposed to be doing this, but…” Maybe it’s hypocritical, but it’s better than the new player perpetuating a behavior that’s going to cause disruptions later on or getting penalized for following your bad example.

It’s better not to be hypocritical at all, though. If you do catch yourself saying that you’re not supposed to do something, but you do it anyway, you’re still not setting a very good example. Just because you’re an older and more established player doesn’t make it okay to take a ‘do as I say not as I do’ attitude with a new player. While all players represent their games to some extent, the players of feature characters and members of staff should especially focus on putting their best foot forward when introducing a new player to the way the game works. People are going to learn what they’re taught, so if you want a new player to get it right, start out by getting it right yourself.

Don’t Assume

Not all new players are idiots. Not all of them have never sat down in front of a computer before. A few faux pas that come from genuine inexperience does not make someone a gibbering moron in all areas of MU*dom. Also, not all players are adolescents trying their hand at gaming for the first time. For all you know, that newbie on the other side of the screen could be old enough to be your parent, and they might well have published works in your genre of choice. So don’t be patronizing, and don’t act all superior. There are new players out there who are bright people, and while they might need a little slack in terms of getting used to the unique social nuances of the medium, that doesn’t mean they’re babes in the woods, there for you to manipulate at will.

Just remember that gamers come from all walks of life. Gaming is no longer the hobby solely of Mountain Dew chugging pasty-faced geeks in basements. There’s all kinds of people getting into the hobby, and with a medium such as MU*, not only are you getting the avid gamers, you’re also getting people who are interested in interactive storytelling. If seeing a newbie on the WHO list makes you cringe, try to readjust your attitude – that new person could be a highly intelligent, well educated, socially adept person. Then again, they could be a gibbering mouth-breather, but you never know for sure until you take a chance. I’ve found that many people will rise to the moment if given a chance, i.e. if you treat someone like an intelligent individual, they might just act like one.

In Conclusion

Dealing with newbies isn’t that much different from dealing with anyone else. They’re people. They’ve got their own share of flaws and talents to bring to the virtual table, and if given a chance, they might just surprise you. The only real difference between the established player and the new is experience in this particular medium. So don’t recoil in horror from new players because, after a few months, they’re going to be players just like anyone else, if they’re given a chance to get into the swing of things. As with most people, if you just treat a new player the same way you’d like to be treated if you were in his/her place, you’ll probably do just fine.

Fresh blood – without it, the medium won’t survive. Remember that the next time you see unfamiliar faces. Make the effort to welcome them. If new players aren’t integrated, and the game you’re on becomes stale and lifeless, the fault won’t lie with the new players; it’ll rest firmly on the shoulders of the established folks who let them get away.

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