Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Arguing Corkscrews

I like wine. I don't know it very well, but I'm open to taking advice about it, what to pair it with and such. I listen to wine arguments and discussions with a bit of detachment because even if the people arguing are knowledgeable and passionate, they're engaged with things that are outside the scope of my simple "I would like a good glass of wine" perspective.

It gets utterly surreal when they start arguing about corkscrews. There are, it turns out, lots of different ways to open a bottle of wine, all of which are potential subjects for argument. What throws me is that this is not even about the wine (at least not in any way that speaks to me) yet the arguments can get even more heated than those about wine. As someone who just wants to open the bottle to get to the deliciousness inside, it's off-putting.

Gamers argue about corkscrews all the time.

Now, don't get me wrong, it can be a lot of fun to argue about corkscrews with other people who also Care Deeply about them, but it's easy for the corkscrew argument to overwhelm the discussion, especially as it gets heated. It becomes hard to see that for many people, the right corkscrew is the one they have, and they're happy with that. And when you describe in no uncertain terms how their corkscrew is crap and how the only good corkscrew is this other kind, then the best case scenario is that they think you're a jerk, and the worst is that they decide that maybe beer enthusiasts will be a trifle more welcoming.

Disagree about the corkscrews if you like, but don't forget that people are really here for the wine.


  1. But sometimes you've been so into the wine, you don't even know that you also care about corkscrews. most of the conversations about corkscrews just go right by until someone says something so wrong and aggravating and flippant about corkscrews that you ARGGH and ERRGH and why can't you just --gah--

    ...and you realize somewhere in the middle of that how much you justt care about everything involved with wine. You love drinking the wine, but everything else that comes with it matters. Sometimes you can't ignore someone dismissing something as unimportant that you know for sure *is* important.

    But in the end is about the wine, and you're right: You can't ever forget that.

  2. @Gamefiend There's a paradox to it, because once you reach a point where corkscrews matter, they become REALLY interesting to you, and you want to talk about them. Lord knows I do. I think the real trick is making sure everyone else in the conversation is similarly engaged.

    If they're not, I'm not sure that should _kill_ the conversation, but it'd be silly if it didn't change it.

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  4. Wait, what's the corkscrew in this metaphor?

    Is it the game system - which is opening the "wine" of the player's interactions at the table? Funny how the D&D corkscrew ruins the wine for me, but the Geiger Counter or Lady Blackbird corkscrews deliver delicious.

    Or is it mechanics within the system? Like, Shock's conflict resolution is a hard corkscrew to use, but it gets at that wine once you know how to use it - whereas D&D's whiffy task resolution corkscrew sometimes doesn't get the wine at all ...

    Or is the corkscrew, like, dice and miniatures and character sheets and stuff? Yeah, one corkscrew is pretty much as good as another for me, there.

  5. @ Jamie
    I believe the "corkscrew" is any topic of minutia in gaming. So all of your examples are spot on.

    The wine would be the actual fun gaming experiance.

  6. The corkscrew that started this thinking was a passionate defense of randomly generated stats in the face of the horrible offense which was selecting from an array.

    -Rob D.

  7. I think the corkscrew appeals to wine fanatics because it's part of the experience. The rituals surrounding the drinking. It becomes a whole sensual experience, rather than utilitarian consumption of alcohol.

    For some gamers this might mean that they have particular preferences about dice, or they have to arrange their rulebooks / character sheet just-so. Or maybe they passionately believe in speaking in-character as much as possible. Or character creation must be approached in a certain way. Regardless, for them it's part of the full gaming experience; they've found the way that feels most pleasing to them, and they can't believe that you cannot see its superiority. :)

  8. Corkscrews would be something that makes *no difference whatsoever* when actually enjoying the end result, and would only matter in the ritual of enjoying the wine. In gaming that'd be like what color your dice are, or if the players use official character sheets vs making their own.

    If the minutia being discussed actually does make a difference (box vs bottle, french vs chilean, white vs red) then it depends on what you hope to get out of your glass of wine. Some people don't care a bit about any of that - they just want strong wine, and lots of it. For others it does make a difference and it's why they talk about that stuff.

    I had *no idea* what this metaphor was about until I read your comment this morning Rob. :)


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