We had our first real “game night” outside of the workplace tonight since I retired, at a local bar and restaurant. It was nice; given that we took over a prime table at 4pm and didn’t leave until after 8pm, the venue showed remarkable restraint in not kicking us out. But I have to admit that it was also a pale shadow of the gaming I did at work.
Part of it, a big part, is comfort. Bars are loud, and I’m a little hard of hearing, so they’re never ideal venues in the first place. I also don’t drink, so the prime benefit of holding game night in such a place is lost on me. But these are honestly superficial issues. The real difference in comfort is, for lack of a better term, a complete difference in feeling. In belonging.
At work, we have a really nice gaming table that a coworker and I (mostly him) got made to order. It’s in a well-trafficked area, so sitting at the table is a good way to say hello and/or goodbye to lots of coworkers and friends as they come and go. Some people linger a moment, watching the action, even occasionally asking a question or two about the game we’re playing. I had a specific place where I almost always sat, a place where I put the inevitable bottle of Hint Water. It was in a place I knew, surrounded by people I knew. It felt like I belonged there.
The vast majority of times I’ve played games at other people’s houses, I’ve felt a similar sense of belonging. There, it’s less about familiarity; instead, the sort of warmness of being somewhere that people want you, with food and laughs and the coziness of a home well lived-in, engenders that sort of feeling of belonging. Just this Monday, one of my old coworkers invited me over to play games. Even though I had never been to their house before, I immediately felt at home. I felt that I belonged.
We’ll have to see if doing this sort of thing regularly in more public venues changes my view. Unfortunately hosting at my house is a non-starter, as it was too small to hold a table for gaming even before I packed it to the rafters with board games, and using other people’s homes is usually a scheduling nightmare. In my experience, it doesn’t take much difficulty to stop things like “rotating game nights” to fail just as soon as they start. I just hope it doesn’t fall totally by the wayside because that’s the easiest option, and I know it’s at least somewhat on me to try and make sure that doesn’t happen.
I’ll let you know.