Board Games & DND: What Do You Do About the "Creepy Guy/Gal?"

If you're running events, you'll eventually encounter one of them: those people who just have a knack for making everyone around them uncomfortable. Sometimes the problem resolves on its own: they come once, and then never again. Other times it becomes a larger issue. If it's not addressed, it can drive people out of your group. But what can you really do?

Figure Out Whether Or Not They're Malicious

Some people are creepy. Flat out. Others are just socially awkward. Come on: we're nerds. A lot of us have no idea what we're doing in public. It's a wonder we're allowed out on public. 

Take some time to reflect on the behavior that's really bothering you. I'm autistic: it took me a long time to learn to make eye contact. A lot of people find that unsettling. Isolating the behavior that's bothering you is the first step towards figuring out what's really going on.

If someone's socially awkward, you can work with them. You can find ways to help them improve. If someone's malicious, there's nothing you can do about it. In fact, let's just say:

Don't Always Give the Benefit of the Doubt

It's easy to try to see the good in people. But you need to trust your gut. If something is bothering you, you need to do something about it. Too often, people remain silent because they don't want to get involved in conflict. They assume that their feelings are less important than everyone else's. And that's how malicious individuals thrive: on silence.

If you're running a group, you have a social responsibility to those inside of it. If someone is being sexually or verbally abused in your group and you don't do anything about it, it's on you. When you start organizing things, you have to take the good with the bad. 

Call Them Out Immediately

Now first, this is important: calling someone out doesn't mean insulting them or degrading them. It doesn't mean attacking them. It means correcting their actions to make it expressly clear that you don't approve of it. 

PLAYER: Do you want some of my gold?

ME: We can't trade gold.

PLAYER: I'll do it anyway, if you make it worth my while. (slurping sound)

ME: That's inappropriate and not acceptable here.

It's important to correct these issues as they arise, because it's the only way to mitigate the discomfort right away for the surrounding players. 

Further -- sometimes they don't know that they're being offensive. We've run into a few people from different cultures who genuinely didn't know that their sexual remarks could be construed in that way, especially from cultures in which men and women are less than equal.

Take Them Aside and Talk to them One-on-One

PLAYER: Look, every black man that I've ever dated...

ME: Alright, let's stop that train of thought right there.

PLAYER: I'm just saying every black man I'VE ever dated had no problem with me saying that.

ME: This can all be construed as racist, let's stop -- 

PLAYER: HOW COULD I HAVE A BLACK CHILD IF I'M RACIST?

Our culture is conflict avoidant. It absolutely is. But once someone becomes the "creepy guy/girl," they have initiated the conflict. It's up to you to stop it. If they don't stop once you call them out, it's time to have a one-on-one talk with them. 

  • Don't pull other people into it. It may sound great to say "members of our group have complained," or "you made ____ uncomfortable," but take it from experience -- all that means is that the person is going to go to each other member individually and bully them into agreeing with them. You want to make it clear that you find their behavior unacceptable.
  • Be critical of their actions, not them as a person. "Some of the things you said were sexually inappropriate." is better than "You are sexually inappropriate." A personal attack, however warranted, is always going to be met with defensiveness. And with that in mind...
  • Expect them to get hostile and defensive. It's the natural reaction. They may calm down later, or they may not, but they're probably going to get angry early on. After all, if they were reasonable people, this issue wouldn't arise.  

And By the Way... Check Yourself (and Others)

One thing I've noticed, as a woman, is that women can get away with saying way creepier things than men can. And that's because, well, women are less of a threat; most men aren't afraid of most women overpowering them. But just because there's a rationale behind this doesn't mean that it's acceptable, certainly not in 2018.

It's true that sometimes the only thing that changes a "creepy" statement into a "welcome" statement is the attractiveness of the person saying it -- and that isn't OK either. Beautiful, handsome people already make more money and have better health -- they don't need to get a free pass on being weirdos as well. Be an equal opportunity guardian, and it'll be clearer where the lines are drawn. 

Ultimately, sometimes people have to take a leadership role. It isn't fun, especially when you just want to have a good time with some cool people. But, as a bonus, it'll probably give you a story to tell for years to come.