Diplomacy Emotions Survey Results Reveal...

No Smoking Guns
But Lots of Dripping Daggers!

by Larry Peery


Here are the results of the Diplomacy Emotions Survey (DES) I announced last January.


The DES revealed a great deal about the emotional feelings Diplomacy players experience during their play of the game, but it said even more about the state of the hobby, although not in so many words exactly.

The DES form was distributed in two venues: the PBEM hobby; primarily through its publication in THE DIPLOMATIC POUCH, but also in a direct email mailing to a wide variety of hobbyists; and the PBM hobby in a hard copy mailing to many publishers (asking them to reprint it in their publications) and the players in the WWPDC. The responses were enlightening to say the least.

"Frankly, I think that you must be a little crazy. For what do you need this list?
Probably also I am a little crazy because I reply to your crazy request."

There were a total of 100 useable responses, perhaps more but the earliest ones to TDP were unuseable. Eighty-five percent of the responses came via email. Eighty percent came via TDP's response form. Fifteen percent of the responses came by snail mail, mostly returned copies of my original DES distribution. As far as I can tell only two hobby publishers, one email and one snail mail, reprinted and distributed the DES form. Thus, it would appear that the responses would be skewered in favor of the PBEM hobby. However, based on the data I have seen, I don't think that is the case.

"Your email address: 'Dont have one. Don't want one.' "

What about geographical and linguistic distribution? Forty-four of the responses are known to have come from the United States. Twelve email responses did not indicate a national origin. Most were probably from the United States. Eight responses came from Australia. Seven came from Canada. Three came from the UK. One each came from New Zealand and Hong Kong. About 77% of the responses came from hobbyists for whom English was their first language. For the other 23% English was their second language. In addition to the above countries the following responses were received: France (4), Norway (3), Sweden (3), Belgium (2), Italy (2), Denmark (2), Brasil (2), Netherlands (2), Spain (1), Germany (1), Israel (1), and Finland (1). In my view it was a random sampling, but it was not a representative sampling of the hobby's geographical distribution. But once again, I'm not sure that that matters. As for linguistics, I suspect from the few comments I received that a few respondents may have had a minor problem understanding what some of the listed emotions were, but most seemed to have no problem in this area. Interestingly, only two respondents did not want to see the results.

What sub-hobbies are represented in the DES? Exactly half of the respondents indicated they were PBEM players, or at least basing their responses on a PBEM game or games they had played. Twenty-six percent indicated a FTF playing experience. Ten were using a PBM game or games. Nine said a FTF Convention or Tournament event was the basis for their responses. The rest said some combination of these or other.

What about time in the hobby? One respondent did not answer this question. A few also mentioned that while they may have played the game many years ago (in school as a student for instance) their total length of actual playing time was considerably less because they had not played for years. In percentages here are the numbers of respondents in each category: Less than One Year (6%); About One Year (30%); 1-2 Years (15%); 2-3 Years (4%); 3-4 Years (6%); 4-5 Years (6%); 5-10 Years (20%); 11-15 Years (8%); and 16+ Years (4%). Unknown (1%).

So what did they say? Well, here's a look at the raw data without any interpretation. I've put it into a table format and all numbers represent percentages with some rounding-off to make things come out properly. (See Table One.)

What does it mean? Just about anything you want it to. Still, for a first attempt it does suggest a few things which might, or might not, be confirmed by further study. First, note that of the 150 possible response cells (30 emotions multiplied by 5 categories of response) only 128 were used. Twenty-two were not used at all. These choices did not appeal to anyone. Fourteen cells were used by at least fifty percent of the respondents. Obviously, these choices appealed to quite a lot of respondents.

Here's a ranking of the thirty emotions based on the total number of response points they got. The lower the number, the fewer number of respondents and the less time they felt the named feeling. The higher the number, the more respondents and the more time they felt the named feeling. A perfect low score would be 100. A perfect high score would be 500. (See Table Two.)

Eighteen of the emotions listed received less than two hundred response points, indicating the respondents were either rarely or not thinking about them at all. Twelve emotions received response points indicating they were at least being thought about on a routine basis.

Of the thirty emotions listed, I would classify six as positive (Hopeful, Smug, Ecstatic, Mischevious, Confident, and Happy). Twenty-three were negative. One, Lovestruck, was a ringer. It entirely depended on how you interpreted it. All six of the positive emotions were in the bottom one-third of the list, indicating that these positive emotions were among the most frequently experienced by the respondents. The ringer was at the top of the list, indicating hardly anybody (only four respondents) was thinking about it at all.

"I hate playing women --- I dislike stabbing them."

Here's a few thoughts on some of the individual emotions listed:

Exhausted: Not a major emotion, with nearly two-thirds of the respondents indicating it was of little importance.

Confused: Although most respondents said they were confused only rarely, fourteen percent did admit to being confused often.

Ecstatic: Almost evenly divided between the not at all and rarely, and the routinely and often groups.

Guilty: Apparently playing Diplomacy doesn't lay a guilt trip on anyone, with nearly ninety percent of the respondents indicating it was not an emotion they experienced at all or only rarely.

Suspicion: This was the high point getter, with ninety percent of the respondents saying that they experienced this emotion routinely or more, and a whopping thirty-six percent saying they were constantly suspicious. It's definitely a game that brings out the paranoia in us.

Anger: Thirty-six percent of the respondents said they never got angry playing Diplomacy. Forty-four said they rarely got angry. Only six percent said they got angry often.

Hysterical: A huge seventy-eight percent of the respondents said they never got hysterical playing the game, and only six percent said they felt that way routinely. Nobody admitted to feeling hysterical often or better.

Frustrated: About half of the respondents said they were routinely frustrated. Most of the rest said they felt that way rarely or not at all.

Sad: Sixty percent of the respondents said they never experienced this feeling playing Diplomacy, and thirty-two more percent they felt it only rarely.

Confident: Almost a perfect bell curve, with just a few more on the positive side.

Embarassed: Again, not a major concern. Eighty-six percent experienced it not at all or only rarely.

Happy: This was another big point getter, ranking number two on the list. Fifty-two percent of the respondents said they were Happy often or more playing Diplomacy.

Mischevious: Another nearly perfect bell curve, showing the respondents are frequently up to something. Could it be a stab?

Disgusted: Ninety-eight percent said they felt this way not at all or only rarely, but there's no way to tell whether they're thinking about themselves or somebody else.

Frightened: Again, a big tendency to the low numbers, with ninety-two percent of the respondents saying they felt this way not at all or only rarely, but four percent said they felt this way constantly.

Enraged: And once again, ninety percent said they never or only rarely experienced this feeling.

Ashamed: The lowest numbers of the negative emotions on the list, with ninety-eight percent at the not at all or only rarely mark.

Cautious: A complete range of responses, but with the drift toward the high numbers. Twenty-six percent of the respondents said they were constantly thinking about caution. Six percent said they didn't feel it at all.

Smug: The lower numbers dominated, but there were still forty percent who said they felt this way either routinely or often.

Depression: Very low numbers, only two percent at routinely and none higher.

Overwhelmed: Forty percent never felt this way, forty-six percent rarely felt this, and fourteen percent said they felt it routinely or often.

Hopeful: Again a complete range, with the higher numbers dominating. Eighty-eight of the respondents said they felt this way routinely or more.

Lonely: Ten percent said they felt lonely routinely or more, ninety-percent said they felt this way only rarely or less.

Lovestruck: As I said, the absolute low point getter. Only two percent said they felt this routinely and two percent said they felt it often. I wonder how they defined it?

Jealous: Dominated by the not at all numbers, but with a few on up the scale, and even two percent at both often and constantly.

Bored: Four percent at often, all the rest at not at all or rarely, about equally divided between them.

Surprised: Another bell curve, with the balance a bit to the low numbers.

Anxious: And still another bell curve, this time with the balance a bit to the high side.

Shocked: A very tight triangle centered on rarely.

Shy: Four percent for routinely, twenty-six percent for rarely, and seventy percent for never.

"I'm curious for the results, and also whether there is such a thing as 'the average Dipper.' I think there isn't. I'm also doing a survey (on how people want their games to end and how they don't want their game to end), and the resulting 'average list' is nothing like that of any of the individuals who are taking part in it."

So what do we know from all this? We know that most of us are usually suspicious, happy, anxious, confident, mischevious, surprised, and ecstatic when we play Diplomacy. We also know that most of us are usually not lovestruck, ashamed, hysterical, shy, jealous, depressed, cautious, sad, enraged, lonely disgusted, frightened or bored when we play. We may, or may not, be embarassed, guilty, overwhelmed, angry, exhausted, shocked, hopeful, smug, frustrated, or confused; depending, I suppose, on how the game is going.

All of this is nothing but abstract Peeriblah of course. It is very boring. Even I admit that. The excitement comes when you put your own real emotional experiences into those cells and decide how you compare with other Dippers. It would be great fun for me to comment on some of the responses I received from players who I know well. Alas, ethics don't allow it. Sure would be fun, though. I could talk about my own emotional feelings when playing Diplomacy, but that might not be too interestinganybody either. So, instead let's go back to some abstract Peeriblah.

Deja Vu Interludes

Have you ever sat and watched a FTF Diplomacy game being played without being able to hear the verbal communications between the players, being able to read their orders, or see the results of the moves and adjustments on the board? All you have to go on are the facial expressions and body english of the players. It can be a fascinating study in human emotions....

It has already been recognized that a game of Diplomacy consists of equal elements of drama and high comedy, with just enough tragedy thrown in to justify the occasional crocodile tears that some players shed over their losses. In fact, a serious play has been written based on the game; and a yearly "virtual reality" game complete with costumes is played in ...

Still, it is the human interaction around a classic gameboard that provides the best setting for studying Diplomacy and the entire spectrum of human emotions the game brings out in and of people...

Back to Reality

One of the big questions I had going into this project concerned how PBEM Dippers would deal with their "emotions" in games where they had never met the other players FTF. It just didn't seem reasonable that they would be able to evaluate their own, or anybody else's for that matter. As a FTF convention or tournament player I depend on that immediate physical contact to generate a major part of my emotional feelings and responses to the other players. I cannot ever recall getting as "emotional" about a PBM game. I can't conceive of getting "emotional" about a PBEM game at all, especially these deadline-every-day things some people play. Still; on reflection and after watching Mike play some of his computer games (which bring out all kinds of emotions he never displays at any other time), and thinking about the chess games between Kasparov and Big Blue and how they effected Kasparov's psyche; I realized that it is possible to feel and respond in an emotional way --- even in a PBEM Diplomacy game. Big discovery, right? :-) The bottom line, I could detect no fundamental differences in the emotional responses felt by FTF as compared with PBEM Diplomacy players.

Still, is it the "real" thing? I leave that for you to ponder.

"This was an Other Game: by memory, what I usually experience during a face-to-face game which, by the way, is what you should have enquired about in the first place. You can't compare face-to-face with play-by-mail, and if you want the emotions in Dip, you should eliminate random factors influencing one game. Besides, it is nowhere stated that you want emotions experienced during Allmenn game of Diplomacy, rather the headlines suggests that you want emotions usually experienced while playing dip."

The other other big question, "Was there a difference in the emotional feelings experienced by Americans as compared with foreigners?" My response, "Insufficient data."

More Peeriblah is definitely called for.



Hysterical (128)
Jealous (138)
Depressed (140)
Cautious (148)
Sad (150)
Enraged (152)
Lonely (156)
Disgusted (158)
Frightened (160)
Bored (162)
Embarassed (174)
Guilty (176)
Overwhelmed (180)
Angry (190)
Exhausted (196)
Shocked (204)
Smug (232)
Frustrated (246)
Confused (250)
Ecstatic (278)
Surprised (286)
Mischevious (300)
Confident (312)
Anxious (320)
Happy (338)
Suspicious (370)



Not At All Rarely RoutinelyOften Constantly
Exhausted46 2622 60
Confused22 4222 140
Ecstatic 6 4220 320
Guilty38 5010 20
Suspicious 6 425 2738
Angry36 4414 60
Hysterical78 16 6 00
Frustrated20 2448 6 2
Sad60 32 6 20
Confident 4 2632 30 8
Embarassed42 4412 20
Happy 4 1430 44 8
Mischevious12 2032 28 8
Disgusted46 520 20
Frightened56 36 4 0 2
Enraged60 30 8 20
Ashamed76 22 2 00
Cautious 6 1432 2226
Smug28 3224 160
Depressed62 36 2 00
Overwhelmd40 46 8 60
Hopeful10 830 2626
Lonely62 28 4 4 2
Lovestruck96 0 2 20
Jealous78 12 6 2 2
Bored46 500 40
Surprised 8 3034 24 4
Anxious10 2422 2420
Shocked24 5420 20
Shy70 26 4 00
Total574 446240 16773

Larry Peery

If you wish to e-mail feedback on this article to the author, click on the letter above. If that does not work, feel free to use the "Dear DP..." mail interface.