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The Great “Good Game” Debate

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Yesterday, I wrote about some of "The Unwritten Rules of Magic." One of the rules I listed was the following:

  • Saying “good game” as the winner, especially if it wasn’t a good game.

We had a couple people disagree with this concept in the comments:

yukaggcomment

connerriceggcomment

This is a topic that comes up every once in a while in the community, and it's always an interesting discussion to follow. Quiet Speculation's Ryan Overturf weighed in with his feelings, as well as the perspective he gained from pro player Reid Duke:

ryanoverturfggcomment

It's an open question: is saying "good game" (or in online games, typing "gg") as the winner of a match rude? Really, it all depends on intent and interpretation.

I won't say I have never said "good game" first as the winner. Sometimes, it's a really close match that comes down to one point of damage, and there are times when an opponent offers the hand in concession and I can legitimately say, "Dude, that was a really good game. Well played." I've done it on MTGO, too, but usually with a "vgg," and only when the game is actually particularly good. If the intent of the winner is to be sporting and praise the efforts of her opponent, then it's fine. This is certainly easier to convey in person than online, but it's case-by-case and situational.

Now, if the game was non-interactive, with mana screw or mana flood involved, or an extremely fast and lucky draw coming from the winner, then the winner saying "good game" can absolutely be construed as dismissive, sarcastic, and rude. If you want something to say as the winner in these situations, try, "Thanks for the games," a much more open-ended statement that doesn't imply any kind of quality to the plays made or the games themselves.

gg

Let's stop theory crafting about when "gg" is okay coming from the winner and when it's not, though. The reality of the situation is that almost every single gaming community out there finds a winner-initiated "gg" to be rude. All those links are just a fraction of what a single Google search on the issue had to offer. There is a ton of discussion about this question out there. There are always detractors who say it's ridiculous to take offense at something so harmless and minor, and yet the preponderance of the evidence suggests that many do.

Not to say there aren't exceptions, but if you blithely give the "gg" as the winner of a match, you are engaging in the very definition of anti-social behavior. The norms for social conduct in the gaming community are well-defined in many ways, and for more than a decade now (and possibly longer), a winner-initiated "good game" has been frowned upon, even earning penalties in some Starcraft leagues. You may personally not take offense at it. You can make all the rationalizations you want as to why it's okay and shouldn't bother people. But if you knowingly engage in a practice that many, many gamers consider rude, don't be surprised if people think you're a jerk.

Danny Brown

Danny is a Cube enthusiast and the former Director of Content for Quiet Speculation.

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33 thoughts on “The Great “Good Game” Debate

  1. I always say good game, and always mean it. I’ve been a gamer for 20 years, but I also played sports. If you’ve never learned to say good game to each person on the opposing team while giving them high fives, you missed out on a very important lesson about how to treat others with respect. And if you have a problem with someone saying good game when they win, maybe you need to look at yourself and correct your own issues. If you’re having problems interacting with other members of society in a respectful way, or always see it as bad, fix it. It’s going to happen whether you like it or not, might as well just get over it, because some people were raised differently. I find things like this happen in “gamer” communities more often because gamers, while being a diverse group, have a large percentage of members who are just socially awkward. All I can really say is get over it. Your own brain is telling you that it’s a bad thing when someone says it to you when you lose, while they’re just trying to be polite and respectful (usually). However, if they really are being disrespectful, don’t just sit there and take it. Say something to them. It’s time everyone just grows up and shows some respect to each other. And yes, that also includes the females that so many gamers don’t understand how to interact with. Tldr: don’t be a d***.

    1. Agree with you Sean. Since I was in Kindergarten soccer, in 1981, we were taught as a team to line up and shake/five the other team individually and tell them good game. Sportsmanship is both being a good winner and a good loser. And in a social game like MTG where variance is a constant companion, defining whether or not the games were in fact good based on that variance alone is ridiculous.

    2. I played sports growing up and we said “good game” after every game, save for the occasional renegade that would say, “you suck” instead. The difference was there really isn’t much luck involved in physical sports so “good game” was indicative of the fact that everybody came out to play.

      We’re adults now and Magic is a game with quite a bit of luck. Many of the games really are bad. It only takes seconds of thinking to go the extra inch and comment on the specific game and say, “it’s unfortunate that you got stuck in two for so long, you probably would have won if you hit your third land 1-2 turns earlier” than to just cookie-cutter in an end of game ritual. If your opponent is only worth two scripted words, then how sportsmanlike are you really being?

      I definitely acknowledge that some give a “gg” with good intention, but when you say that others need to “grow up” that really doesn’t paint your intentions as good at all.

      1. While I’m not usually a fan of Ryan’s articles, his response here I think highlights an important distinction that gets glossed over by the typical, stale argumentation. I think his point is extremely valid and resonates with me, personally.
        If you’re upholding sportsmanship as your claim, you should be investing yourself fully in a response that articulates that. Not offering a grudging “gg” by way of post-game necessitation as the loser, or an off-hand, two-syllable remark as the winner.
        Sportsmanship is at the heart of competitive competition, and I definitely agree with the exhibition of it. Showing empathy for the state of the game, and that of your opponent, is equally as important if we’re being intellectually honest.

        1. Very well said^. All to often using the term ‘good game’ (or worse using ‘gg’…I mean WTF are you texting me?…I’m right here!)..is pure laziness or deflection, not sportsman like at all, win or lose having a human connection is simple, and clearly not that easy for many, but still worth the effort…We aren’t playing basketball, baseball or another physical contact sport, but rather something much closer to a game of chess- now this doesn’t require us to have elegance or compassion or civility- but it sure makes it a lot more meaningful to me when I do….and if its got to be short I always use ‘thank you for the game’.
          my2cent anyway…

      2. I can see your point. However, it is slightly glossing over the fact that we choose to play this game where luck is a factor, and should therefore accept the fact that we’re not always going to be on the good side of the luck. If you’re going to let bad luck affect your ability to show respect to your opponent, maybe this isn’t the right game. We all lose to better players and we all lose to bad luck, in fact it might happen to your opponent the very next round.

        Getting past this hang up will help you not just in magic but in life. You’ll be more relaxed, happier, and tilt less frequently. It’s an easy change to make, and I guarantee you’ll be glad you did.

  2. Good game comes from sports. Before the first Magic card was printed Larry Bird was saying GG to Magic Johnson. This goes back to the beginning of games. It is not a measure of quality of the game but of the respect one has for one’s opponent and the effort that the opponent put into the game. Magic is flawed in that the randomness of the game inherently brings with it a certain number of non games. And of course most magic players werent varsity basketball players so there is then a level of misunderstanding. So the issue of GG in Magic is really an issue of magic players not respecting the game and the other player.

  3. Haven’t read the comments, apologies if someone else has said it:

    If you’re playing online, and you’re the winner, it is NEVER okay to type gg or vgg first when your intent is to point out that it was *actually* a good game. Stop being lazy, and actually type out REAL WORDS.

    1. I have played against many people on modo who are from non-english speaking countries. The precoded responses are a good way to convey simple messages between people who can’t speak a common language. Sometimes I play against people who use those and then say “no english” or some other to convey they don’t want to chat. Then there are people who can’t type quickly. Are they jerks for not iterating fluently the nuances of the game?

      Aside from the language exception, I think you should read the comments. Your response shows that it is you who are being a dick. If you get mad at me for trying to be nice that makes you the internet troll. I won’t pay the toll at the bridge.

  4. “almost every single gaming community out there finds a winner-initiated “gg” to be rude”

    This is inaccurate. At best you could say “there exist people in every gaming community out that finds these ‘gg’s offensive”. If you google “saying gg after winning”, of course you’re gonna see these results: you were practically filtering for people who think like you. If I googled “Magic is ruined”, of course I would see a lot of forum posts by people who are very unsatisfied with Magic. Does this mean almost every single player wants to quit Magic?

  5. Personally I believe that a “Good game” at the end of a match is a matter of good sportsmanship (for the reasons previously mentioned). Anecdotally the situations in which one has been offended by the offer was not rectified by an explanation of the unfortunate randomness. Some people are just pissed off after a loss and nothing can be said that isn’t taken as patronizing or dismissive.

    However I believe yuka raises an important point regarding the statement – “The reality of the situation is that almost every single gaming community out there finds a winner-initiated “gg” to be rude.” The sheer fact that it’s discussed indicates it is not as universal as this sentence claims. While this leaves the question unanswered, perhaps the best we can do is evaluate the situation (you’ve been playing with this person for the last 20 to 50 minutes) and estimate how they’ll interpret you’re offer at the end and act appropriately. I’ll almost always offer the good game with an outstretched hand (and discuss the games if it seems my opponent would be receptive to it), but if my opponent has been hostile or generally poorly sporting throughout the match it’s a simple handshake which even then is sometimes too much.

  6. Saying good game is just showing respect. Are you offended by someone saying Thank You? Your anger or disappointment shouldn’t lower your respect for your opponent. Suck it up and move on.

  7. I feel that I am stating the obvious here but how it can be interpreted is contextual. There is no universal rule to communication that can be applied at all times without looking at the whole situation. And as much as 95% of the information conveyed is body language and tone of voice. Even “thank you” can be said with a sarcastic tone. If you play against a friend and you won after a heated battle where both had a good time and were at the top of their game, the winner can say gg. If its said by the winner after the opponent had awful draws, made many mistakes because of tiredness etc…it can be taken as smug or ironic. They did not had a good time, they did not win and you just invalidated their feelings and perception of the game. That’s rude. In case of doubt, remaining silent is the best option, always. Winning generally feels good, losing feels bad, and there is no need for the winner to state what is obvious to him. Sportsmanship is accepting victory gracefully and humbly and defeat stoically. At the beginning and the end of a game, I usually just bow my head slightly and thanks the other player for taking the time to play against me. There are very few people that can take the wrong way your gratitude for them being your opponent.

    1. It’s absolutely contextual, and that’s why the arguments against GG are more relevant than those in favor. Yes, it can be just a good gesture that can be well-received, and often will. It might not be though, and that’s important to know if you’re actually trying to be respectful. Respect is about knowing what might bother somebody, not expecting people to like what you deem respectful.

      I try not to say good game if my the game wasn’t good or if my opponent was upset afterwards. That’s what respect is. Avoiding what might be problematic. Not engaging in what you deem to be acceptable.

  8. Magic is unlike both sports and chess in several elements that make “good game” rude in certain contexts. While in each of these arenas sportsmanship is of paramount importance, just like Magic, only in Magic is the element of luck so strongly emphasized. Also only in Magic is the social element so strongly emphasized. There’s a reason we sleeve up, pay entry fees, and travel to tournaments, and it’s just to turn cardboard sideways.

    “Good game” is better than nothing, and it might not always be rude, but I’d go so far as to say that a mere “good game” never really cuts it. If the game really was good, I expect some meaningful and insightful comment. If the game was bad, “Ouch, your/my hand was ridiculous” is better. I like “Good luck with the rest of the tournament” if there are any rounds left. “Good game” increases in value from a non-native English speaker, but when a fluent person is willing to play out a hand of Magical cards with me, yet offers nothing more upon the conclusion than “Good game” in lieu of the innumerable pleasantries that might have been offered instead.. well, that’s kind of sad, really.

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