Game nights have been a huge part of my life since I was a kid. My family would play games after school, on weekends and holidays. We played mostly party games back then. My favorite at the time was Loaded Questions. I enjoyed having a prompt where I could write creative answers and try to be funny. Since I was apart of a family of five, we mainly played party games, Monopoly and the Game of Life, due to the player count. I did get a chance to play some hobby games thanks to the Godwin family and their collection. But that low player count of most hobby games made it hard when you had over four people.
After college I started to play more hobby games and found that the player counts had expanded. This made game nights much easier! I didn’t need to always play party games. I could play social deduction and other larger player count games. For about a year now we have tried to do at least one game night a month. No matter how many people could go I was prepared with a game. We have started doing different themes as well. My favorites so far were the food night (Throw Throw Burrito, Sushi Roll, Go Nuts for Donuts and Rival Restaurants) and our Marvel night (Sinister Six, Wakanda Forever and Thanos Rising). I’ve found that games are a great way to introduce people to each other. It eliminates most awkward small talk because the game can be a great subject matter. I know it’s not always easy to learn a new game, so I’ve appreciated how willing my friends are to play new games.
On occasion I do go to other people’s houses for game nights. When that happens, I’ll either go alone or with my fiancé. When going to other people’s houses I always offer to bring over a game, but most people already have games picked out to play. I totally understand this because I always want to try out my newer games that need more then two people to play. This weekend I went to a friend’s house for the first time to play some games. One was a review copy for a game that wasn’t even out yet. That was exciting since I am used to playing prototype games, but I rarely play games that are published but not out yet. I have a few friends that are reviewers so when I get the chance, I love to play their games and give my opinion. They were nice and allowed me to pick out a game I had wanted to try for some time now: Mysterium. It was a fun co-op game where you play as psychics trying to figure out who killed the ghost. I will say people’s suggestions that it was like a party game were pretty far off, but it was still enjoyable. I’m not sure I need to buy it though. Doing game nights at other people’s houses really helps me find new games I wouldn’t have normally played since it’s someone else’s collection. Only problem is if I enjoy the game a lot, I tend to buy it. This is great for my collection but bad for my wallet. Thankfully nothing we played inspired me to purchase it.
Having a weekly gaming group is great but it is unrealistic for my lifestyle. My best friends and fiancé will quickly tire of games if we play them too much. So, I spread it out. Most of my game nights are with my design groups playtesting prototype games. As a newer designer I have been working to stay up to date on the newest games but it’s hard when everyone has a different schedule and you have to get a certain number of playtests in on your own designs. A monthly or bi-weekly game night is probably the best you can hope for when your schedule varies like mine does. Currently, I have three design group meetups a month and host one to two game nights with an occasional game night at someone else’s house or additional meetup. This keeps me busy and informed on the most popular games coming out. Plus, it gives me plenty of time to playtest my prototype games. Another way I stay up to date on games is by listening to podcasts like the Dice Tower.
The social benefits of game nights are hard to beat. They are cheap to do and lots of fun. They make for great ice breakers when you don’t know anyone. But when you know the group and what kinds of games they are into; you enjoy the night even more! Playing classic games is great but exploring a new genre, theme or game mechanic helps my brain and creative juices flow. I see myself having game nights the rest of my life even in a retirement home. If you don’t have a game night in your life, consider starting one up. It’s a great way to see multiple friends and have some good laughs!