How to Host a Gaming Night
I think that we would all be in agreement that recessions are bad, the current climate is seeing debt rise, lending reduce and countries buckle under economic stress. One thing that has come out of it that could be deemed as positive, to a degree, is that people are having to find more cost effective ways of socialising. I have found myself attending more and more nights in at friend’s houses and as such I decided to host a gaming night for all would be revellers to enjoy an affordable evening of drinks and gaming. Here is my guide to having such a party with some suggestions, pitfalls and things that I will do next time.
Getting the Word Out
Initially what you will want to do is give people enough notice for the party, while also giving yourself enough time to prepare yourself for the event. Once you have found a date that suits you the next step is to commit and contact everyone you wish to attend, Facebook is great for this as you can set up an event and build your own guest-list. You will quickly know how your guests are fixed and if you will have the numbers to make it worthwhile. If you get the guests then all well and good, if not you just pick another date (your friends will probably let you know when would suit) and try again.
Make sure to keep posting on the event wall as this will help for two reasons. Firstly it helps to keep interest up and one of the best ways to keep interest going is to ask questions, perhaps ask what games people would like to play or if anyone has an idea for a challenge. Secondly it helps to make sure that you are across how many people are coming for definite, there is nothing worse than buying food/drink only to have far too much for the people who actually turn up. The idea is to keep your cost down so stay vocal, stay involved.
Things you Will Need
Firstly, and most importantly, you will need to have games and a means to play them as a group of people huddled around an iPhone playing Angry Birds does not constitute a good night in. Work with what you have firstly, there are some good collections of retro games on the various consoles and even more on their respective online stores, don’t be breaking the bank. Make sure to ask around and borrow what you can, you will be amazed to find what consoles your friends still have or emulation devices they own.
Make sure you have enough controllers for everyone, again ask around as it’s likely that your friends will have spare controllers and will be happy to bring them. A good idea is to mark which controller belongs to who by either a sticky label or even an elastic band around controllers that aren’t yours, this will save a lot of confusion at the end of the night and kill any reluctance to lend controllers again. As a byproduct of this you should also make sure that you have enough batteries for controllers, nothing worse than running around trying to find spare remote controls in the house to steal batteries from.
A problem I nearly ran into was the availability of extensions cords and four-gang adapters, make sure that you know exactly how many outlets you have and how many connections you will need. Again, keeping to the ethos of a cheap fun night ask around if you need more sockets and failing that they do tend to be quite cheap to purchase.
In terms of supplying your guests with drink you will find that people will sort themselves out but if you can stretch to some soft drinks or cheap beers it is always a nice and welcoming gesture. It’s always good to have some nibbles for your guests but do remember and be mindful that people will be playing with your controllers and around your consoles so with that in mind try and avoid any foods that are too greasy.
Setting up the Room
The most important part of the night in terms of your organisation is the set up of the gaming space itself, this will largely depend on the room you have available and how many machines you are setting up. For my party I had three televisions and five machines, how you allocate your machines may depend on the number/type of inputs on your televisions and bear in mind that older games will look woeful on a large display. Make sure that you have adequate seating around each television, supplement what you have with beanbags/large pillows/patio furniture or whatever you can get your hands on.
Given that there will likely be alcohol involved during the evening the spatial awareness of your guests may prove to degenerate as the night progresses. With this in mind you should be aware of strewn cables in the room, as you can see from my setup I have kept everything against the walls to avoid any tripping or consoles being dragged off a table. Equally well, try and conceal your consoles from any spillages by placing them on the floor and under the table or anywhere that is easy to access the console to change games but is protected. You may also wish to make sure that your Wii/Move safety cords are being used during play as the potential for an overenthusiastic arm flail to result in a grown man crying beneath his 42” plasma is increased with alcohol consumption.
This can be the hardest part of the evening but with attention and enthusiasm it can be done effortlessly. As the host of the party you will be the focal point on arrival for your guests and also throughout the night for any questions or requests. Make the effort for a warm welcome for everyone, especially those who bring a partner or friend who may not be part of the group who are attending. Make sure to introduce everyone who doesn't know each other and show them the location of bathrooms and kitchen etc.
Expect everyone to initially be excited about all those old games they used to play or the games they never got a chance to play, but if there is a lesson that we have all learned it is that playing those old games will inevitably lead to boredom. The idea here is to keep interest up and there is nothing better than setting a few challenges that everyone an get involved in, you will find that this focuses the collective group and can generate a really good atmosphere of either support or even funnier, derision. You can customise these challenges to whatever games you have available to you but keep them simple so that the non-gamers that are there can still get involved. Here are a few of the challenges that I set up for the evening:
Super Mario Bros (NES) World 1-1 Speed Run
This is a great challenge as everyone knows the game, its simple and iconic. You can customise the challenge as well giving time bonuses for people who finish the level at the top of the scoring flag, or disqualification for anyone who runs backwards.
Centipede (Atari 2600) High Score Challenge
Nothing sells old school gaming like a high score challenge, the rules are clear and retro games are simple enough that anyone can play. Similarly you can use the likes of Space Invaders, Yars Revenge or Asteroids for this.
Track and Field (NES)100m Sprint Challenge
Button bashing is the great leveller of gaming, a pure equal playing field between the experienced and the novice gamer, it’s a test of endurance more so than skill.
Sonic The Hedgehog (Mega Drive) Green Hill Zone Speed Run
Obviously similar to the Mario Challenge but equally as fun, again you can customise this to suit but bonus seconds should go to anyone who can sing along to the theme while playing the level.
Try and keep the games accessible with controls that anyone can pick up and play, even something along the lines of a mini Wimbledon 8-player tournament on Wii Tennis can be entertaining and most importantly, inclusive. Try not to pressure the evening towards competitions, let everyone do their own thing and when proceedings start to invariably slow down you can announce the challenges. Make sure to have the challenges on one television as it gets everybody together and the atmosphere will be all the better for it.
Get in the Spirit
It may feel silly but try and get into the theme of a gaming night, wear your best gaming related t-shirt such as mine from Threadless, perhaps print off a few bits of game box art to put on the wall and if you have any old gaming magazines perhaps leave them lying around. They are small touches but they will help enhance the evening, even have novelty touches such as this Pac Man Ice Cube Tray or how about some Tetris Link. As with my advice in other areas of the evening just make it your own, customise it to suit what's easiest for you and what you think your friends will enjoy.
All in all you will find hosting such a night reasonably low hassle, with a little bit of preparation you can organise and clear up (I suggest plastic pint glasses and paper plates) with minimum fuss. In these times when everyone is being financially prudent it can often happen that socialising decreases and friends see less of each other, games have given us many things but they have given us a mode of entertainment that is cheap and can be inclusive. If you love gaming and love your friends why not put these two things together, make the world a slightly better place this weekend....Unless of course someone pulls your controller out mid-round in Streetfighter 2, if that happens, just go nuts.
Have any other gaming party suggestions? let us know at @GamingDigiFix or on Facebook.