April 27, 2006

Game nights with newbies

by Susan Rozmiarek

Like many gamers totally immersed in the hobby, I have a strong desire to introduce others to that which I enjoy so much. My motives are mixed and I’m not even sure I totally understand them. Sure, I definitely want more opportunities and people to play my beloved games with, but I guess that I also want to validate my obsessed behavior as well. Currently, I have two different opportunities to help start and develop fledgling game groups. One is in my neighborhood which is trying to start up various social functions for its residents, and the other is in a nearby town. The thing is, nearly all the people involved are what I would call casual gamers or even non-gamers. These folks are only familiar with traditional games and those found in the local “big box” stores. They are quite likely driven to attend a game night more from social reasons than by a love of the games themselves. So, this has gotten me to thinking about how to make these game nights enjoyable so that they take off and continue.

If I were to be asked to list my hobbies, playing games would be number one hands down. But I would also likely list crosstitching, reading and gardening as well. By examining my different degrees of participation in these other hobbies, it becomes easier to understand where these casual gamers are coming from and what they probably want out of a game night.

At one time, I was attending both a weekly and a monthly “stitch” group. A group of us would meet at each other’s houses and bring our current crosstitch project to work on while we snacked and socialized. We had a great time and I looked forward to it greatly each week. Crosstitching was something I liked to do, but what I really enjoyed was hanging out with my friends. Stitching was just a good excuse. Several of the women there though, were REALLY into crosstitching. They participated in online discussion groups about it, they were familiar with the various chart designers and they knew all about and where to find the latest specialty threads. (Gee, does this sound familiar?!?) One friend in particular had an enormous collection of charts, more than any one person could possibly stitch in her lifetime. We’d laugh and she would tell me that she had two hobbies – one was stitching and the other was collecting charts. I thought she was a little crazy. Now, several years later, I have 600+ board games in my house and can totally relate!

Reading however, is not only something I like to do, like crosstitching, but in fact am compelled to do. I drag a book around wherever I go in case I can snatch a bit of time to read. I can’t think of many times in my life when I didn’t have a book in progress. I like to discuss books with friends who have read them. Occasionally, I have read discussion groups and book reviews in the hopes of getting recommendations and perhaps discovering a new author. You’d think I’d have participated in a book group by now but the idea of picking apart a book just doesn’t appeal to me; my interest is not quite up to that level. Maybe someday I will though; I’m not counting it out.

Gardening, on the other hand, threatens to become a real obsession if only I had the time. I love spending money and time on plants and seeds and dirt. Really, I love it. I can spend all day outside digging and weeding and admiring the fruit of my labors. I see announcements about out local gardening club’s meetings and am determined to go someday. There is a staggering amount of information and discussion about gardening online if only I had the time to read it. But you see, in order to do all that something would have to give, time-wise. I have many responsibilities in my life and only a limited amount of time for hobbies. I have to choose between them and so will only dabble in gardening for now, even though I long to do more. Still, if I were ever to find the time to go to one of those club meetings, who knows what would happen.

So how does all this rambling relate to these game nights? Well, I’m trying to walk a bit in the shoes of some of the people that may be attending. I need to tread carefully and not kill these events with my over enthusiasm. That would be so very easy to do, given my love and obsession for gaming and would likely overwhelm some of these people and drive them away. Like my crosstitching group was for me, game night is simply a good excuse for socializing for some. I bet many of them have other hobbies and chances are their interest in games will never rise beyond getting together like this to play occasionally. And that’s just fine. Life is short; we can’t do everything. Others will be more interested, but perhaps never to the point of discussing Puerto Rico strategies. Bombarding any of these folks with lots of new games to learn is probably a bad idea. My best bet is to pull out some good “gateway” games with the understanding that they might get played repeatedly before the time is right to slip in a new game. And of course, playing a few traditional or mass market games that folks are already comfortable with wouldn’t be a bad idea either. I’ve been so deeply immersed in Eurogames for so long now that I’ve lost some perspective and forgotten just how different and intimidating they can be at first with new rules to learn, unfamiliar mechanisms and the fear of looking stupid in front of others. On the other hand, I can remember the thrill of discovering these games for the first time and the insatiable desire for more once they clicked. All it takes sometimes is for somebody to find the time to go to one of those game nights…………..

Posted by Susan Rozmiarek at April 27, 2006 2:18 PM


I would think the best way to hook them is to keep it fun and light--Coloretto light, 10 Days in... light. Games they can play while talking and laughing as you mentioned your other groups doing. Hopefully, you'll find a few who are so intrigued with the uniqueness of your games that they'll ask you about them.

Good luck. I can't wait to hear how it went.


Posted by: sodaklady on April 27, 2006 5:11 PM

I once felt compelled to evangelize these games to newbies by doing backflips to get them to a game event, scheduled or arranged just for them. No more. I enjoy the hobby and am open about it and poke just a little to determine interest. Where I spot it, invitations are extended and games played. I, like you, put the reigns on the enthusiasm so that it seems a "normal" but casual and enjoyable experience. Naturally, and without excess effort, people disposed to gaming find themselves returning to the table.

Posted by: Mario T. Lanza on April 27, 2006 10:13 PM

So you start with some 'gateway' games. And, for some of the townfolk, even *they're* too complex.
But if just one of your newbies wanders over and watches you guys play a somewhat meatier game without their eyes glazing over, you've got a new gamer and nothing else matters.
Keep up the good work!

Posted by: Marc Gilutin on April 27, 2006 11:38 PM
Post a comment

This page viewed times since April 27, 2006.

E-mail Ed Rozmiarek with questions or problems concerning this page.

Copyright © 2006, Ed & Susan Rozmiarek.
No portion of this website may be reproduced or copied without the consent of Ed or Susan Rozmiarek.