Debbie Barnett

The New Norm, Playing Online with Friends and with Bots

The New Norm is Playing Mah Jongg Online with Friends and with Bots

Over the past several weeks, I have gathered data from Mah Jongg Players about their experience with the new norm, playing Mah Jongg Online with Friends and with Bots. After examining the data, I felt it important to list some of these differences.

PLAYING ONLINE WITH FRIENDS:

Let’s face it, we all miss playing mahj in person and in a social setting.  Even though playing with friends online is the next best thing. It isn’t a close second to the real thing but rather an alternative to not playing at all. For me, there is nothing that can replicate the comradery of playing in person with our mahj friends. And it seems, the majority agree there are quite a few missing links.

Here are some things I find missing when playing online with friends or with bots:

  • Hello hugs
  • Hearing the clicking and clattering of the tiles!
  • The interpersonal relationships we share during an in-person game
  • Sharing our favorite snacks
  • Even some bickering
  • Playing an offensive and defensive game

Here are challenges I find when playing online with friends or with bots:

  • You don’t have as much control over the speed of a real player unless you and your friends agree to not let them back into your private room.
  • Not everyone is comfortable using a video-based program such as zoom, houseparty, or skype to see and talk to each other.
  • Naming the tiles the correct way, i.e., Dragons: Green Dragon instead of simply Green
  • Some features of the in-person game are not available in some of the online game platforms.
  • Playing offensively and defensively.

When it comes to many of these points, , my biggest fear is that bad habits will form and be translated to our in-person games.  I often hear,  “why does it matter if I give a bot mah jongg? I’m not playing for real money.” I even hear this from players who play against people. My suggestion would be to duplicate the in-person experience because after all had its can be hard to break!

I have run into similar challenges while teaching at my online school. I have taken suggestions from students and teachers over the past few months to make my online platform as close to the real thing as possible. While there is nothing to replicate an in-person experience, my platform is close to the real thing when it comes to the game functions.

Here are some features I created to produce a real-life learning experience at the School of American Mah Jongg:

  1. When a student discards, they must name the tile. There is no computer voice naming the tiles. This way, as a new student, you are prepared to name the tiles once we are back to playing in person.
  2. You must watch and be prepared to call a tile or pass on a tile as if you were sitting around a real table.
  3. A student must verbalize you want to call a tile just as in person.
  4. You must ask to exchange someone’s joker unless it is your own, just as you do in person.
  5. There is no auto-arrange tile feature as in the online game rooms. Why? In an in-person game, you cannot click a button and say, “auto arrange please.”
  6. I can work with the tiles on your rack by using a remote control feature, just as I would in person.

On a last note, I am in beta testing the teaching platform on my school site. If you or anyone you know has students who have wanted to learn but cannot do so in an in-person classroom setting, please email me at mahjongteacher1@gmail.com. Teaching at the School of American Mah Jongg is a great way to keep earning extra income while living in our new norm.

Please also look out for the 2020 card companion to Unlocking the Secrets of American Mah Jongg.

Happy Mah Jongging, Everyone!

 

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