You've got to admire the Japanese. Gracious in defeat even at the worst of times.
On August 15th 1945 many people of Japan heard the voice of their Emperor for the first time. The recording itself barely made it from the palace to the radio operator – it had to survive a coup d'tat attempt that would have seen it destroyed so contentious were Hirohito's words.
It was called the “Imperial Rescript on the Termination of the War” and in it Hirohito informed his people that the tide of World War II had turned against the Japanese. The Soviet Union had joined the war against Japan to satisfy their treaties with the British and most infamously two terrible atomic bombs had been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki events that would forever shape Japanese culture. The broadcast became known as the Gyokuon-hs or “Jewel Voice Broadcast.”
The Japanese were exhausted and had no choice but to accept the terms of the allied Joint Declaration – there was no doubt as to the victor. More importantly the defeat had come with a terrible cost in human lives and international prestige counter to the ardent hopes of every Japanese person. It is said that after the Emperor's announcement most Japanese people retreated to their houses to quietly contemplate its import. (This was the Japanese version of “steaming.”) In short the atmosphere between America and Japan couldn't have been more poisonous and the proud Japanese people couldn't have been feeling much worse.
Obviously on September 2 aboard the battleship Missouri America GG'd them anyway.
A lot of you have probably asked yourself this question after winning a match of Magic: “Do I GG or do I not GG?” I'm here to try to help you answer that question. Right here right now I'm presenting the GG Guidelines.
1. Don't say “GG” if an opponent is steaming.
No wonder the Americans extended the hand – they had no idea the Japanese were on tilt and were probably looking forward to seeing them at World War Paris to discuss which country's popular culture could produce more shut-ins. Most Magic players however aren't as stoic as the country of Japan and if you play competitively you can expect to see a lot of rosy cheeks and flaring nostrils before your career is over.
You see a GG isn't a statement – it's an offer and a question. In fact there should probably be a question mark at the end. “Good game” essentially translates to “I'm cool with the result. U mad?” It's pretty easy to tell when an opponent is steaming. Listen for furious exhalations of breath. Look for incredulous headshakes and the glassy Ivan Drago stare.
You might be wondering why you should have to tiptoe around someone else's hot temper and sure that's a valid question. If you haven't even been upset about anything in your life then by all means cast the first GG stone. If you have though and if in that moment you could have used a little understanding from your peers rather than someone digging that needle in a little deeper hopefully you can then understand an opponent's emotional need to be left alone and accommodate it. I mean hell you just won the match. Do you want the fillings out of your opponent's teeth as well? Or maybe the brim off of his fedora? Or some part off of whatever other stupid thing he's wearing for no reason?
I'll say it right now…I understand steaming. Yes it's frustrating. But Magic is an emotional game sometimes and we're all guilty of getting a little hot under the collar. I'm not condoning guys who berate opponents but every player should have a right to brain-sauna in silence before pairings go up again and they have to go once more unto the breach.
This rule is important because it covers you in the case of an opponent who is flat-out wrong. Sure he's wrong to be upset sitting there petulantly playing with his scarf thinking about how he had 20 outs for five draw steps when in fact he had no outs and he gave you all five draw steps with poor play. A “GG” in a case like that still gets you absolutely nowhere so why do it? Just let him be.
2a. Don't say “GG” if the games were not interactive.
Sometimes the general trends of Magic will turn against an opponent's interest. In those cases there's little need to run the rub-ins. Quite simply if you can't be bothered looking at your opponent for clues as to how he'd receive a GG you can instead look at the games you play for a couple of hot tips about the appropriateness of any given gesture. I'd like to think that even a novice player can spot tell a good game from a poor one but considering all the evidence to the contrary here are some ground rules anyway:
Don't offer the GG if:
-an opponent dies without playing a single non-land card
-an opponent takes more than 1.3 mulligans per game
-you turn 1 or turn 2 kill your opponent
2b. Don't say “GG” if you got lucky your Sealed deck was 300% better and/or if you made more/worse mistakes than an opponent.
This goes hand in hand with 2A. Sometimes players get into trouble because they don't know how lucky they've been or how many mistakes they've made in a match marring their post-match GG attempts with fail. I suspect this is part of the reason that Michael Jacob isn't known for congeniality after a tough loss. We've seen him break down the subtleties of a Magic game in spellbinding videos on this very site. Heck one time he talked for so long about the possible permutations of an opposing Faerie player's hand that I had time to drop a deuce use the sink as a bidet and sit back down before the Thoughtseize was even resolved.
Subsequent to a GG from a loose opponent I imagine MJ feels as Sherlock Holmes would feel if forced to listen to the rub-ins of a Podunk police detective who caught Moriarty by conducting random raids and getting lucky on the second door.
“Well you know I just had a hunch. You know what that's like don't you Holmes? High-level police stuff. Though I actually wasn't even there for the bust I was relieving myself in the alley adjacent. Got him though. Hey Holmes! Check the scoreboard!”
3. Don't just say “GG” on principle.
Just don't do it. You aren't Pierre de Coubertin; you're just some guy. Also “GG” is useless as a universal handshake because so many people use it as an “eff you.” If you're the sort of baller who says “It's right to say 'good game' after a match – no exceptions. It's good sportsmanship” I need to ask you – what sanctified plateau of good-gamery are you trying to protect by pulling this move? What's the point? “Good game” is at this juncture marred beyond all recognition – its meaning is no longer universal. This isn't peewee hockey and you're not someone's dad trying to drill your personal views on sportsmanship into the impressionable mind of your soon-to-be-Sandwich-Artist son.
“Good game” has taken on a life of it's own in Magic. It's been used so often as a taunt by now that it's no longer suitable for rote deployment. If your argument is that it's morally correct and the onus is on the other guy to deal with it since you're just a happy go-lucky guy with no bad intentions I think you should probably stop being so self-righteous and start paying attention to how people actually feel rather than projecting your own version of “how people should act” onto everyone else.
4. Don't say “GG” before the match is over.
This is really obnoxious for reasons that should be obvious and this move is a big part of the reason why “GG” has picked up a lot of the emasculating taunt quality it currently has. This happens most often online and let's just say that it's no coincidence that the guys doing it are safely out of reach of their opponents. If you do this and mean nothing by it then you're clueless about how it often makes people feel. If you do this intentionally in order to get over on your opponent you are scum. Period. Keep in mind though there are exceptions coming at the end of this list…so don't start writing any angry letters just yet.
If you do finish an angry letter though my email address is email@example.com
Make sure you put “For The Lulz” in the subject line. In quotes.
5. Don't say “GG” if you're the winner.
Ok so the previous four suggestions ask a lot of the victor of a match. You need the empathy to spare a steaming opponent the ignominy of a defeated handshake the skill to perceive your own luck and errors and the humility to realize that your own perception of sportsmanship is not universal. It's hard I know.
Don't worry. Even if you're an uncaring and oblivious dreg of humanity your social worker will be able to write this one down for you and staple it to your Lakers jersey.
Here it is:
If you win don't say “good game.” If the loser feels it was a good game let him or her say it. Pretty simple. Saying “good game” as the winner of a match is just arrogant presumption on multiple levels.
6. DO say “GG” if you're the loser and want to graciously accept defeat.
The best use for “good game” without a doubt. Enduring the unendurable and suffering the insufferable. Fire off enough of these and you'll be ready for the Chrysanthemum Throne in no time.
7. DO say “GG” in response to a losing player's “GG.”
The only time when an on-principle GG works. Happy now Pierre? I bet you rushed onto the ice to shake Claude Lemieux's hand as well.
8. DO say “GG” if you're playing against someone who you're 100% sure is comfortable with the loss.
Many of you reading this article have probably been waiting for this one saying to yourself “I can't believe Tait would do me like this – I've said GG plenty of times as a winner and it always seemed appropriate. I'm not stupid; I can tell when an opponent would be receptive and when he wouldn't.”
Well this entry is for you people. Throughout the course of a match players can often get some idea of how comfortable an opponent would be with a loss. Often it's easy – like when playing a friend. Other times a report (Colbert pronunciation people) develops between players during a match such that it's obvious when a “GG” will be well-received. Heck if the players are friendly enough and the stakes low enough any “GG” can be appropriate.
There are limits even to this though. Even among friends I doubt a “good game” from the winner would be well-received while playing for say Day 2 of a Grand Prix. In cases where there are actual stakes just let the loser do it.
9. DO say “GG” if your opponent has been a rude jerk the whole match. (Optional.)
And this rule covers everyone else who was waiting to be absolved. If an opponent has been belligerent and hostile during the match all bets are off. Now there's some danger here – you have only your own judgment to go on re: what behavior is justified and what constitutes dickery. I'm going to trust you guys to wear the big boy pants and decide for yourselves because enumerating what is and is not bad behavior would be an entirely separate list of guidelines.
Suffice it to say that if an opponent runs the cheats wipes his butt with a Searing Flesh before casting it or pulls the premature Gatorade-shower GG on you when you still have outs he's probably earned himself a “knock him down a peg” GG in return.
Some other things he might do to earn a rebuke (good-natured or not it depends on the severity of his behavior) include:
1. Saying “What's the occasion?” when you announce a trigger that you missed one or more times during the game.
2. Reaching over to your side of the table and picking up a permanent you forgot to activate in order to “blow the dust” off of it.
3. Waiting until you cast a lethal Rolling Thunder then backing you up to your upkeep and saying “You didn't let me announce any effects during upkeep!” and killing your Manakin so it's no longer lethal. Bonus points if you're a little girl.
This rule doesn't mean to suggest that you should always run the comeuppance GG by the way. It's optional and while satisfying falls short of the classiness of just winning gracefully.
So there you have it folks. The Nine Guidelines of GG or the Good Game Guidelines or G3 or G-Cubed. Collect them trade them tell them to your friends throw them in the garbage. Your friends I mean.
BONUS SECTION: How This Article Came About
Like a lot of writers I keep a writing pad next to my bed so that if I'm struck by sudden inspiration in the middle of the night I can quickly wake up and scribble down my idea before I forget it and drift back to sleep.
I woke up one morning last week to find the following on my pad:
And so here we are.
See you next week.