You’re not letting anybody down
Being betrayed and/or teamed up on can be very painful, even if it’s “only a game”. Some people may be better than others at separating fiction from reality, but this might be more of an intrinsic trait than a learned skill, so taking a “fictional” betrayal personally shouldn’t be considered a failure of character.
I think this is a serious problem for the game, and something important to consider for the future. I’ve never played diplomacy and I’m not familiar with the customs of that community, but someone (don’t remember who it was right now, possibly yebellz?) linked some notes on diplomacy strategy before the first game, which I read with great interest. This particular quote stuck with me:
[This strategy] lost me a friend and got me some accusations of cheating, but this is par for the course for a good Diplomacy game
This is quite an extreme notion, that losing a friend over a game can be seen as a normal part of the game. There’s not anything wrong with people choosing to play a game like this (as that post demonstrates, there’s many lessons to be learned which can also be applied outside the confines of the game), but as a conflict-averse person I would prefer my games to be as safe from “real” conflict as possible.
Of course one can’t guarantee this completely. People can become angry over any game, regardless of the number of players, the amount of luck, etc. But some games are more likely to breed conflict than others. Players might be upset when they lose in regular go, but feeling betrayed, or that the opponent used an unfair strategy, is less common since it’s easier to define what is and isn’t allowed (and the game is adversarial by nature, you’re fighting against each other throughout the game, so there is no moment of betrayal).
It might be possible to modify the rules of diplomatic go slightly, to make it more “friendly”. For instance, if we imagine a variant without the SAS-element, where players move one at a time, two eyes would be enough to guarantee life. Cooperation and betrayal would still be important aspects of the game, but there would be less death on the board. I’m not saying I would prefer this variant, it’s just an example on how a small change to the mechanics could affect the diplomatic feel of the game a lot.
As a more practical suggestion, I think it would be a good idea to lean into the “role-play” aspect of the game even more, to clarify the boundaries between game and reality. If we consistently talk about “The Sky nation” rather than the player yebellz, that might reduce the risk of conflating the two. In a particular game, we might stop trusting a nation after a betrayal, but we should try to keep that separated from the trust of the real person that is playing.
After yebellz great initiative at the beginning of the game, most players decided on a nation name, and we used some formal language while introducing ourselves. But naturally many of us have slipped back into referring to the other players directly during the game. Since I have renewed belief in the importance of this separation, I will try my best from now on to clearly indicate in my posts when I am talking as a real person, and when I am talking as a fictional nation.
(This whole post falls in the former category. I’m not seeking to affect the outcome of the game in any way with what I’ve written here, I only wish to improve the playing experience for myself and others.)