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Gaming for Grown-Ups

Location and Comfort

by Tim Kirk
May 19,2003

 

Location and Comfort

Now that you've begun putting together a group, where will you play?

The choice can make a difference.

In my experience, comfort is important, but so is structure, one needs to be comfortable enough to play at a location but have one that restricts outside distractions.

The ideal place is not necessarily your dining room.

One of the things one needs to consider for the group is, as individuals, where will the group be most comfortable. Some people in my groups, like all people, differed significantly. One, a smallish friend, often "perched" on the edges of chairs, he was small enough and light enough that this did less harm to the chairs than the damage caused by the less bird-like gamers

The size and shape of each of us varies so try to locate a place suitable for the diversity that tends to exist amongst gamers. Each player is also likely to need a flat surface to write on, roll dice on, or handle other mechanical aspects of play.

Tables

Now, with anything, sometimes the game matters. It is much harder to run a mecha-centered game with miniatures without a table or similar surface to spread maps out upon. Many games are served by having a common play area -- for dice, cards, maneuvers and maps. But it is not ideal for everyone -- especially if you have a small area and reasonably good-sized group. Some easy solutions for more relaxed gaming are small end tables, or portable lap desks for the players. If these things can't be easily obtained or made use of by every player, a card table may work as well. I personally prefer the ability to survey all my gamers at a close approximation to my own eye level. This means I lean towards a round-table style approach. It allows me to address each player and share non-verbal cues, as well as facial expressions to convey elements in the game.

Sitting around the table also awards a bit more sovereignty of control, at least the illusion to the GM, this works with round tables or square ones, but it gives everyone else a place to focus on that is common. This can aid your game if some of your players are prone to distraction.

Chairs

The problem with tables however is, for all the wonders of technology, most chairs that are designed to sit around tables, are not comfortable. Not that they sell with dining-room sets anyway. The ideal chairs for me, personally, are the rather expensive office/meeting room style chairs with soft padding and high, supporting backs. For you, they may be those ergonomic sorts with no backs that put you in a kneeling style position (I don't know if it's my build or what, but those things are uncomfortable as heck for me.)

The most comfortable chairs for non-table play tend to be recliners, but there is a danger with those -- their shape and size is meant to relax. Relaxed gamers can lead to sleeping gamers, so these are not for the best.

For most of us, the goal should be to find chairs and play set up where everyone is comfortable, but not too comfortable.

I have experienced one to many games of "gaming casualties" where players are strewn about a living room, or den like victims of some dire attack.

Beyond the actual set up, you may wish to locate some place besides your home to play.

Here are some suggestions

Community Centers (VFW/Park Buildings): These places are typically rent-able for a small fee, that fee may exceed their use for a small group of gamers. But it may provide a nice well-lit place to play for those with the means and desire to do so.

Libraries: The local library (among others I've been to) may rent rooms for meetings, some may charge, others may make them available free as long as one schedules them in advance. These kinds of community locations may have specific rules of conduct so it's best to find out ahead of time, but they can be a boon to play.

Game-Stores: Many game stores used to offer tables for play; as of late I've noticed these are usually used for CCG tournaments or War games. Lately however, the owner suggests that it's just that these players are more willing to be observed. If your game store offers a fairly decent and comfortable setup, and there is no significant reason not to make use of this space, it may be a useful place to play that is accessible to everyone. Again, speak with the owners and find out what the case is with their in-store policies, many have language concerns, or certain requirements of behavior they expect from guests of the store.

Parks: If you live in a reasonably tame environment, outdoors may be ideal. You'll need paper weights, and maybe some pre-planning on how best to be comfortable outdoors, but many parks have covered picnic tables that your taxes pay for, make use of them.

Now for the most part location is important, as is physical comfort. It's best to find a location where the playgroup is most physically comfortable, but this leads me into the deeper aspects -- psychological, and social comfort.

Prejudice

In general, gaming should be fun. This is a mantra all GM's and players should recite, but "fun" does not mean "at the expense of others." I am not a fan of a certain local LARPING group, though some friends and even family members participate -- and it is, to be blunt, their behavior that made me uncomfortable. They treated another player very poorly at times. Now this player wasn't a friend, in fact, I had a prejudice towards him for the same reason they did. I told the player my feelings, and concerns, and he was ok with that fact and surprised by my honesty at addressing the issue -- but that didn't stop others from abusing his status in a way that made me uncomfortable.

I've seen it now so many times that my tolerance for the behavior that bothered me then is enough to get me to say some rather nasty things to those who follow in similar prejudicial behavior. Everyone should be comfortable in the game. Suffice to say that, thanks to seeing such prejudice from outside, I was able to get over my own ugly version of it.

If you've a particular reason not to game with someone, don't invite him or her to game. The reason may be legitimate concerns on the individual's stability, style of play, as well as other more or less legitimate reasons.

Content

Social comfort is a delicate thing -- if you game with people who are friends first, it rarely is an issue, but it can become one. Gaming behavior should be kept fairly much a public level of politeness and tolerance.

This is not to say gamers behave any worse than any other group, just that gaming as a social hobby requires certain respect for other gamers, those in your play group and those without. Most grown-ups recognize social cues, and can respond as appropriately for some situations, but sometimes a situation is stumbled upon without any warning.

This goes partially to content. I myself, as I've grown older, have found a particular dislike for excessive bloodletting in game. I don't mind violence, per se, but prefer to play games where violence, if integral to the background, is as bloodless as possible (this is why lately super-hero games are far more interesting to me than others). Now, because this is an issue for some games, I'll tell my players that I am just not comfortable addressing significant gore or blood, and especially am not a fan of excessive violence. But if I don't tell them, don't speak to them, how will they know? They aren't telepathic.

In fact, any content, which might be objectionable, should be addressed -- sexual situations, violence, thematic elements that may impact your enjoyment of the game. Not every single player can be accommodated completely, but the fact is all players should have input in establishing what comfort level they feel is appropriate for them.

There are numerous ways of handling situations of concern but communication is the key. Keep a dialog open between you and other members of the game group. It is the only way to establish stability amongst the group, as well as assuring comfort.

For the Refs

One of the important things they say in speech giving and story telling is "know thy audience," this is particularly true of gaming as well. Make sure the material is suitable for the group you are planning to play. Some issues of late have occurred with my own group because of the nearness of children. One is at the age where she picks up certain phrases that are not suitable for everyday use, and these terms reflect poorly on the gaming group. In this case, one of the grandparents has spoken to the child's parents about the terms, they do not like role-playing games and consider them evil, and corrupting. Now, the fact that this child is picking up inappropriate dialogue only cements their poor opinion of our hobby and reflects poorly on us as gamers. So make sure that your audience, even beyond immediate players, but onlookers, hangers-on, and passersby's, all would find little objection to what is going on, or as an alternative, limit your gaming locale to someplace where such language, terms, and themes will not spread outside the game room.

Peace and Good Gaming

Next: Game Choices for the beleaguered Adult

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