The CCG Thread – Offering the Handshake

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There was a big kerfuffle in the Magic: the Gathering community over the weekend because at the end of a match in a major tournament, on a live-stream, one player (the winner) offered a handshake to his opponent and the other player (the loser) refused to shake his hand.

I’m being a little deliberately vague here because honestly, it’s not about the people involved in this specific incident, it’s about the many, many, seriously many times that this happens all the time.

We’ve talked about Tilt before here, and this is sort of a subcategory of that, in that most of the time, this kind of incident happens because of tilt. And if I can editorialize for a sec, I want to make my position on this clear: Just shake your opponent’s dang hand, people. Regardless of how frustrating the game was, if your opponent was a human being to you (exemptions can be made if your opponent was a hideously awful/rude/angry/violent troll) acknowledge that they exist and shake their hand.

With that out of the way, let me dissect the main points and counterpoints here:

“The winner shouldn’t offer the handshake! It should be up to the loser to decide whether they deserve a handshake”

There is a generally unspoken undercurrent that the handshake is an act of concession – that you’re acknowledging the “win” so offering the handshake as the winner is acknowledging your own victory. But the thing about “unspoken” codes is that not everything means the same thing to everyone. The handshake is also a show of good will and camaraderie. Above everything else, whatever message it may be interpreted as, it’s a gesture of sportsmanship – the intent is (in theory, minus the aforementioned troll people) pure.

“Being offered a handshake when I lose is just rubbing the victory in my face! In reality it is you who is the rude one.”

Not to be harsh, but this has always struck me as barely buried salt. It smacks of projecting and stems from a single-minded focus on one thing – winning. But the way I see it, the handshake isn’t about the victory: it’s what comes after, in the moment where the current game ends and before the next game begins. Outside of the game, there are no winners or losers, and that’s where the handshake lives.

“Geerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrmmmmmss!”

This one I actually understand and agree with. At big tournaments there are sometimes hundreds of people, and if everyone is touching hands all the time, it’s a disease vector waiting to happen. That said, even if you don’t want to shake hands, acknowledge the other player. Give them a verbal handshake. Instead of just flat refusing, say “hey I don’t want to shake hands if that’s ok, germs, you know?” BUT THEN say “good game” or “thanks” or “good luck going forward” and really sincerely mean it.

Which leads me into:

Bonus round! The Inadequacies of Language Edition!

“Why should I say ‘Good Game’ if the game wasn’t actually good?”

This is one of the things I heard All The Time when I played competitively on a regular basis. You say “good game” and the other player says “ugh, no it wasn’t” and storms off. But the thing to understand is that “good game” doesn’t refer to the quality of the game itself – it refers to the quality of the person across the table from you. It’s “Thanks for playing a good game. Thanks for being a good sport. You’re a good human being.”

Hearthstone also has this in the form of the “Well Played” and “Thanks” emotes, combined with the lack of an in-game chat, which makes for this vaguely tense lack of context where you can never actually be sure how sincere the other person is. (Personally I have this weird feeling when they say “Thanks” after beating me when I’m playing a particularly experimental deck that just doesn’t end up doing anything? Anyway, Hearthstone is weird.)

Anyway, my main thrust is: When the game is over, the game is over. And when the game is over, you’re not opponents any more; you’re colleagues. Treat your colleagues like human beings.

Anyway, the weekly prompt: What do you think? Should human interaction just be completely outlawed and games reduced to faceless moving of bits of paper on the table?

Or, as always, feel free to talk about anything going on with you in the world of *CGs.