Further Reflections From a Diplomacy Newbie
Stephen Lepley


Game number three is underway now. I started it convinced that I knew what I was doing. Man, was I wrong. If you're a newbie, just try playing some people that really know the game...Wow. I didn't even know if I was going to support myself after awhile. I have survived by drawing in those on the edge of destruction and joining with them. What a weird army we make!!! It has been noted that I have added confusion to the game! Well, that is at least something.

For this game and hopefully others, we formed a group dedicated to the proposition of playing a game with each other on an ongoing basis. So far, we are about half way into game number one. I'm not so certain that we have avoided any hurt feelings though. Despite the fact that we want to have a friendly club-like atmosphere, Diplomacy remains an emotional game.

As a new player, I have often wondered at what I consider to be the dark side of e-mail Diplomacy. There is something about the very nature of e-mail diplomacy that can cause offense and disappointment.

Let's say you plan to kill player X. You get good relations going with him, lie to him, lead him along. He now believes that you and he are going to conquer the world. Then, you ruin his game. Well done, right? Victory no longer seems very likely for player X! I don't think the average human takes that very well. And when I have an opponent that takes it badly, I feel bad too.

I question how healthy it is for some of us to play this game at all. People naturally get depressed and go through emotional upheavals in their lives. That is a part of the human condition. Add Diplomacy (a game which includes lies and back stabbing) to the mix and that person's situation can become more confused.

The fact that it takes several months to play an average e-mail Diplomacy game (and this spreads out the effect) doesn't help. If it all happened in one night then everyone ate a pizza and went home, that doesn't have the same effect. It may be this time element that helps create the e-mail effect. Being ruined and disappointed (in the game) or doing the same to others can add to any person's real-life emotional struggles. Especially as the months and years pass by.

I can't be the only one who has seen players totally fall apart (via e-mail) due to their game situation and some real life emotional situations going on. How many times have you gotten a note saying: "Sorry, my job, my wife, my life, my exams...too much pressure is making me react very badly to what you did to me"?

I'm not suggesting that Diplomacy be eliminated. I have heard from a few who decided to eliminate it from their lives, though, and for exactly the reasons I have mentioned. It's a "buyer beware" sort of thing. It's a good idea for all of us to be aware of how the game is affecting us and those with and against whom we play. I see a lot of potential danger in this drawn out e-mail game.

I shamefully must admit that sometimes I love it when they scream! :-)

(Sorry, Turkey!)

Stephen Lepley ( has made a career out of inspecting plastic film, taking care of his Chow Chow dog, and trying to get the Windows 95 virus installed on his Pentium.

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