I have a “Game Night Event” at my house almost every Friday and the Fridays that we don’t host, we have one at my friend’s house. Usually, it’s a brilliant time and everyone has loads of fun. This last Friday, however, the event ended up as a craptastic, miserable failure due to the inclusion of a couple of 16 and 17 year old girls that were less interested in gaming than about texting each other, while sitting less than 3 feet from one another.
I’ve heard a multitude of similar tales and thus I was compelled to put pen to paper, so to speak, and try to save you from making a fatal mistake that potentially will end up banning you from your local game night:
Rule #1: “Text At Your Own Peril.”
Texting during a game is absolutely a cardinal sin of gaming. The pinnacle of such an infraction is when a player is texting and their turn comes up, leaving them looking buffoonish for not realizing it is their turn and having to take extra time to plan a move they should’ve been thinking about while others’ turns were being played. It’s a good idea to put your phone on vibrate too, as if you’re a popular kind of person whose phone rings constantly, it may become an annoyance, even if you decline the calls or texts.
Rule #2: “Hygeine Is Your Friend.”
If you show up to game night looking a little unkempt, or smelling less-than-fresh, you’re probably OK. If you show up to game night smelling like a mixture of assholes and dirty feet, wearing birkenstocks that smell like either a sweaty jock strap or Fritos Corn Chips, you’re probably not going to be invited back. Think of “Game Night” as a pseudo-special occasion. If someone invites you into their home to play, try to be on your best hygenic behavior, or you may not be invited back.
Rule #3: “Smart, I like. Smart Ass, Not So Much.”
If you’re the kind of person that likes to have a little friendly “I’m Gonna Git You Sucka” talk, know that not everyone appreciates it. Know your setting. If it’s your first time at an event, you should be a little reserved and get the feel for the crowd before talking like the psycho in the “Silence Of The Lambs” that tossed some jizz at Clarice before her visit with Doc Lecter. It’s like cooking, sometimes a little spice is good, but in the wrong pot, it’ll ruin everyone’s meal.
Rule #4: “Thou Dost Protest Too Much.”
If you’ve been playing a game for ten years, you can pretty much call someone out on making a rule digression. If this is your first or second time, or you’re not 100% sure, don’t call them out on it right then, just simply ask politely about it on your turn. The difference is tact, really. If you interrupt someone and you turn out to be wrong, you’ll be labelled a Rules Lawyer, the most hated of all gamers, pretty much forever. Remember that having fun is the reason for the game at all and winning, although nice, is not as important as playing. Before taking the plunge to jump in someone’s face, imagine what a douchebag you’d look like if you called someone out, were wrong, and then lost miserably anyhow. If you’re still confident, politely point out your misgivings and then leave it to the table’s GM to sort out.
Rule #5: “Win Or Lose, Accept Your Fate.”
Everyone knows the old adage, “You Can’t Win Them All.” This applies to games as well. Being a poor sport when you lose, even if you were mercilessly robbed of victory by a cut-throat player with a vendetta, is a complete buzzkill for the whole event. Whining is the universal “Hi, My Name Is Douchebag” badge, and not a badge worn with pride. Conversely, rubbing everyone’s nose in the fact that you crushed them under your sandalled feet as their women lamented is not appropriate behavior either. If you win, you won, and let that stand on it’s own. If you lost, go out with dignity knowing that you had fun even though the dice didn’t fall your way. This simple philosophy ensures that you’ll be recognized as a true sportsman and a good person to game with.
Rule #6: “Inappropriate Jokes May Be Harmful Or Fatal.”
Almost everyone I know has put their foot in their mouth at one point or another, myself the king of such toe-tasting activity. That being said, if you’re in an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people, it is NOT the time to break the ice with a joke here. If you decide to crack a joke mid-game about how the winning player’s mom “Is like an electric bull, anyone can ride for a quarter”, not only will you potentially never get invited back, you may end up hospitalized with an acute case of Meeple-Rectal Impingement. Know your audience, and if you have to break the ice, do it with a compliment on the host’s lovely home or how much you love to play “this type of game”.
Rule #7: “Tone Down The Tone, Mr. Kinison!”
I am, simply put, an excitable guy. It’s just how I was born. In fact, I’ve been compared to a crackhead with a megaphone by more than one friend. When I get excited, a lot of times I will simply get too loud, and it’s something I fight with constantly. That being said, acting like the lovechild of Sam Kinison and Chris Farley, especially when playing Agricola, may make you look like a moron and potentially get you off of the VIP list at the local game venue. Another thing to avoid is the dreaded Universal Adjective, the mighty “F Bomb”. Never be the first attendee, or even second, to use it and even then try to use it sparingly. Tone it down, keep your composure, and all will be well. Occasional outbursts of joy or despair, when appropriate, add to the overall excitement of an event but screaming, “YEAH! MY MEEPLE TOTALLY TOOK THAT 4-SEGMENT ROAD!” at the top of your lungs over a game of Carcassonne is probably out of order. Especially the twentieth time.
Rule #8: “+1 Is Sometimes A Curse.”
If you’re going to play Candyland and Chutes and Ladders, you’re OK to bring some underdeveloped players. If you’re going to be playing Runebound and Power Grid, don’t bring a 14 year old girl with the attention span of a limp dishrag. It’s simply bad form to bring a non-gamer to a hardcore game event and chances are that you’ll end up constantly explaining the game to them, even after an hour of play, and endlessly apologizing for them. I went through this last weekend, and although we’re far from serious, there is a limit to the vacuousness and sheer ignorance of common courtesy that even I can handle. You’ll always be remembered as the person who brought “that dimwit”, and chances are it’ll not serve you well towards getting a re-invite.
Rule #9: “If You Should Be At AA, Go There, Not To A Game Night Event.”
If it’s an adult venue, and drinking was specified as an option, feel free to bring a couple of double deuces. If it’s not specified, be aware that there might be an aversion to drinking at the house, perhaps a recovering alcoholic present, and thus you probably should lay off the sauce. Don’t be afraid to ask before you show up, as it will save a lot of time. Furthermore, getting piss drunk at someone else’s house is fine, if the expectation is there to begin with, but if it’s a casual event where a couple of drinks is appropriate, it’s probably a fast-track to ejection to end up passed out, pants around your ankles, after doing the Technicolor Yawn all over their bathroom. This is a sure fire way to end up ejected and banned, if not dumped in a Wal-Mart parking lot with a bad case of alcohol poisoning.
Rule #10, “The Golden Gaming Rule”: “Be Nice Until It’s Time To Not Be Nice”
When you go to a Game Night Event, just follow the other Golden Rule and treat people as you wish to be treated. If you’re the kind of person who is a masochist and enjoys being treated like garbage, then BREAK that rule and treat people with kindness and grace. All other rules fall under this rule in one way or another, and it is important to remember that as part of the group it is partially your responsibility to help others have as good a time as you’re having. If you’re bored out of your mind, instead of being a jerk, it’s better to just leave with dignity. If others that are also bored see that, they may remember you and invite you to their event if they ever have one, and it may be a “Jiggle Joint” or “Bar Hop” event, which trumps a “Return of the Heroes” event, all day long and twice on Sunday, in my book. That, and leaving first gives you the opportunity to take a leak onto the other attendees’ car radiators! Truly, it’s a victimless crime.