Growing the Hobby – Get Out There and Play in Public

I believe that there are many advantages to playing games in public places and I don’t just mean at the local game shop. For years I have advocated that playing at locations such as coffee shops, restaurants,  books stores and even the food court at the local mall are good for the hobby. More times than not, this idea fell on deaf ears and to my dismay, sometimes openly balked at. It would seem that some gamers have a real aversion to playing outside of a gamestore or game club.

The following are what I believe to be the benefits of playing in public.

1. You have the potential to reach out to those that used to play games and roleplaying games when they were younger. Getting older gamers to reconnect to the hobby they once used to enjoy is very rewarding.

2. You have the chance to attract new gamers to the hobby. Many times those that are or might be interested in gaming will watch from the sidelines while you play. Many times they will approach to get a closer look. This is your chance to sell them on the idea of gaming. This is also very rewarding; you are helping to cultivate new members into the hobby we all love.

3. Depending on what you are playing and where, I have found that parents are always on the look out for ways to keep their children entertained and as such will want to watch what you are doing and many will want to ask questions. Parents are generally receptive to entertainment ideas that do not involve video games or electronic devices and those that let their children be creative and use the grey matter between their ears. It is a great experience seeing the light in a child’s eyes when they look at game and then seeing a connection being made with the parent.

4. Playing in public locations helps to minimize and mitigate those old and never dying stereotypes that seem to persist among the non-gaming community. How many time have you heard “Really? You play games? Why would you want to do that?” Or something similar to those types of comments. By exposing people to games and gaming in all forms goes a long way in helping to eliminate those stereotypes. Many of the non-gamers I have exposed to gaming have become regular gamers themselves once the sit and try a game. They t find the experience fun and rewarding and hence they continue play games.

5. Taking your friends to a public location, outside of a game store, helps to break up insular cliques and lets you and your friends be more comfortable with gaming in public and in unfamiliar locations. This is especially true for role players. Let’s face it, roleplayers will find a group to play with and location where everyone is comfortable. This typically means playing at someone’s house or even the local game store. Getting roleplayers to come out of their comfort zone has it’s own benefits, more times than not it helps to create a better roleplayer and a better gaming experience for all players.

6. Supporting local businesses outside of game stores helps to remove any stigma that these businesses might have towards the hobby of gaming. Though I do have to admit that I have always found the businesses that I have approached in advance of gaming there were very receptive to the idea. They were appreciative of the potential collateral sales that might come from those playing the games. Again, this is community building at its roots!

Now that we have addressed some of the benefits of gaming in public, there are some downsides that I eluded to above that need to be considered.

1. Some gamers have an aversion to a hyper-social environment such as what is created when getting together to play in a public location. This is likely driven by the stigma fear.

2. I have encountered some gamers that left me with the impression that they were embarrassed to play around non-gamers. Again, I think this goes back to the stigmas and stereotypes we want to eliminate.

3. As with game store, there is often a cost associated with gaming at public locations. For example, the local coffee shop I play at regularly asks that we buy coffee drinks or other such beverages in exchange for use of their table space. This is a fully understandable position for the business to take, but some gamers have an outright aversion to paying anything to play games. For that matter, these gamers are the ones I find will typically play at someone’s home to avoid any undue burden on their wallet.

I want to encourage everyone to get out there and play in public. It is we, who must help to grow our hobby. If we expect others to do it for us, we may find a diminishing number of gamers in our area and less chances to play games. That result, fosters an insular hobby and almost certainly will contribute to its demise. By far, the benefits outweigh the downsides and it is these benefits that we must seize upon to ensure our hobby continues to thrive for years to come.

My suggestion is to start introducing this concept to your gaming group slowly. You don’t want them to outright refuse to try this. Find a location that is inviting and that most of your gamer friends won’t mind going to, like a coffee shop. If you find there is a willingness to do it again, continue to play in public on a schedule that works for your group and hopefully you will find new gamers for your group.

~Modoc

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3 thoughts on “Growing the Hobby – Get Out There and Play in Public

  1. Great post! I usually play board games at the local comic shop, but we do have a group that occasionally games in the back room of a local restaurant on Saturdays. Last weekend we had 20! people show up, many of whom I was meeting for the first time. I had the pleasure of playing some new games with several new people. The group at the comic shop was usually the same 3-4 people, so we got to know each others gaming habits, preferences, and strategies/tactics. It was refreshing playing against new people.

    When I was visiting Chicago a couple of years ago, my friend invited me to join his gaming group at a TGI Fridays downtown. They had an arrangement where they could use the side room (about 6-8 tables) on a weeknight (I think it was a Thursday).

    In both cases, the gaming groups were well received at the businesses – especially since most people bought at least a beverage or appetizer, if not a full meal. Sort of a win-win situation.

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  2. Thanks for your perspective Nick. I think that public locations outside of the game store environment tend to be more inviting to most gamers and non-gamers alike. These locations usually lack preconceived notions, bad feelings and other such things that could impact someone’s decision to join in the fun.

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  3. For the year or so we were doing it before our wallets decreed it was time to bring it to an end I found it very enjoyable and rewarding. It would have been nice to get more bodies, But the recession hit us right when we had really started to ramp our numbers up.

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