Author: William Little
Any successful gaming group needs to find a space that is comfortable to play in and whose ownership is welcoming. How better to achieve both than to host it in your own house? What could go wrong with that?
Lots, of course. But there is also a lot that can go right. There are great advantages to gaming in your own home, or a home of a friend. If you can make it work, your home offers a lot of advantages over more public spaces.
1) Near total control. When playing in a commercial space, you have to live within the layout and amenities they already offer. In your own house? The skies the limit. Playing spaces, props, food, scheduling, all are limited only by your resources in time, space and money. Or you can just have people drop by and grab a spot on the couch wherever they can.
2) Comfort. Let’s be honest, no commercial space (well, no commercial space that isn’t going to cost a whole lot of money) will ever be as comfortable as a home. This is true both physically and emotionally. Being in a home makes people instinctively feel like they are among friends.
3) Control. No public group can be without problematic members. Keeping the ability and authority to force those people to behave, or in the worst cases, force them out, is absolutely essential to maintaining a good gaming group. Running the group in your home makes you more vulnerable in some ways, but also brings with it a lot of social authority that may just be impossible in other places.
4) And let’s not forget, convenience. Home is where you keep all your stuff, and you can’t have a shorter commute. That can matter a lot when you’ve got a hundred unplayed games sitting on your shelves, begging to be taken out.
But with every advantage comes the big disadvantage of inviting the public to share your home: vulnerability. A persons’ house is their castle. To run a public gaming group inside, you have to open the doors more than a little. Eventually, something is going to cause problems and you need to do what you can to minimize them.
So what do you need to make a house or apartment a good public space?
1) Space. It’s easy to overlook, but people gaming take up a lot more space than the same number of people coming to a party. It is perhaps most similar to inviting family, and friends, and friends’ family for dinner. You don’t just need enough couches and chairs to sit everyone down. You also need tables- several tables, so that people can split and mix between games of different kinds and lengths.
2) Separation. Regardless of how much you are into this game, you need to make sure you are not inconveniencing anyone else who may live there. This means either scheduling for them to be out, or more likely dedicating which parts of the home are for you. It may be a living room, dining room, rec room, and entire floor of some combination of the above, but boundaries will need to be set and explained clearly to your guests.
3) Welcome. And speaking of the other people in your home, you had really better clear this with them first. In a commercial space, you need to pursue the approval of the owners and employees. In a home, this is even more important and much more treacherous. Personal is much more unpredictable than professional and you can’t just pick up and leave if unexpected things go catastrophically wrong.
4) Preparation. Sadly, homes don’t come preset for gaming groups. If you are lucky, you have a large house with rooms all set up for entertaining guests. Then all you need is to drag out a few tables. But more likely your home is built to live in, not party. Furniture may need to be moved, pets and children gotten out of the way, or your home may just need a really thorough cleaning. Hosting a gaming group in your house is probably the easiest to start, but the most labor intensive to keep up, of all of the places to meet.
Finally, there is always a risk above and beyond the success of the game to bringing people into you home. Nothing I have said in this article will matter if you don’t feel safe. Homes make for great gaming spaces, but there is good reason that most home gaming happens with good friends. Only you can judge if you are comfortable and confident at having strangers in your home, next to your things, around your friends and family.