RPG Talk: Game Venues


Greetings readers, I’m compelled this week to discuss something near and dear to my heart: Gaming venues. One of the big factors in an RPG is the venue; where are you playing the game?
Yeah, this happens!
Most often, RPGs that I’ve been involved in have taken place in someone’s home. However, that hasn’t always been the case.
One thing I have learned, though, is a truism that I truly believe in: In order for an RPG venue to be successful, all participants need to feel comfortable and safe.
I’d like to talk about some of the other details and issues that often crop up about deciding on and maintaining a good gaming venue.

A Good Venue = Comfort & Safety

The header to this section really says it all, but I’ll explain a bit more; a gaming venue succeeds when the players all feel comfortable and safe.
This seems self-evident, but I myself have been in a lot of gaming venues where I felt uncomfortable or unsafe. First, let’s talk about comfort.

Comfort = Clean and Private

Comfortable settings are reasonably clean and private. For cleanliness, it doesn’t have to be immaculate, but if your house smells of pet urine or looks like an episode of Hoarders, there’s going to be a problem.
If your gaming table looks like this, you may have a problem.
For privacy, the key thing is having space where the game can go on without disturbing anyone else’s activities and where other people’s activities don’t disturb the game in progress.
A game can be private in a crowded game store; I know this because I’ve done it, several times. Game stores are often a great venue because there’s a reasonable expectation that you can have your game without bothering anyone else and everyone else isn’t going to interfere with your gang. 
However, this is not always true – CCG and Miniature game tournaments can take up all the available space and create so much noise that RPG games are nearly impossible to function.
I’ll give you a direct example of a non-private venue. I went over to a fellow gamer’s house to sit in on a game. I was considering joining this group and taking part in their campaign. The gaming venue was the living room, with a center table, plenty of room for gaming, and comfortable couches.
However, soon after we started, we discovered that the house actually belonged to the gamer’s parents. And those parents entered the adjacent dining room with grandchildren to have a family meal.
All of a sudden, the venue was no longer private – our gaming was obviously disturbing the family meal, and I personally felt very bad to interrupt that kind of interaction between grandchild and grandparent. I felt distinctly uncomfortable, and that experience killed that gaming venue for me entirely.

Safety

Let’s talk safety for a minute. The most common issues I’ve run into regarding safety in a gaming venue revolve around things like allergies to pets or specific foods. However, I have also seen some gaming venues that involve people who make threats of physical violence… I’ve even seen a guy shoot a loaded crossbow inside a gaming venue (ask me more about that sometime in person, I’ll be happy to tell the entire story).
Needless to say, using weapons, physical violence, and threats are completely unacceptable in a gaming context. 
Related to this idea is that gamer behavior affects the feeling of safety – and by behavior I mean everything from aggressive posturing (the so called “alpha-nerd” philosophy) to the use or prevalence of racial slurs and profanity. To be fair, these issues (including the violence mentioned above) have MUCH more to do with the group than with the venue. I mention them specifically in context with the venue because there are some venues that involve people who are not players or GM’s – significant others, parents, siblings, roommates, children, and so forth.
I’ll give another example here. I once went to try out a local gaming campaign and see if I was a good fit for the group. I found that there was a roommate of one of the gamers present in the venue who clearly wanted to be “the alpha nerd.” Any game-related discussions were quickly derailed by the roommate’s attitude. It was not a comfortable venue for gaming.
Moving on, safety is about more than just the inside of the venue – if the only way to get to the venue is through an abusive toll road (true story) or requires that you park in a war-zone like urban center and walk several blocks in pitch darkness to get there, your venue isn’t really safe.

Potential Venues

Sometimes it can be tough to find a reasonable venue within driving distance for everyone in your gaming group. When I lived in Maryland, driving 45 minutes to the game was reasonable for me, but I can definitely sympathize with those who prefer a game much closer to home. (Editor’s note: This is why I generally prefer to host!)
Here are some ideas of places you can look for as a place to hold your game:

A Gamer’s Home

This is the most common venue (at least, in my experience). A home offers a lot of advantages in terms of privacy, and generally parking is a lot easier!

Game Stores (as mentioned above)

 

College Student Unions

I spent tons of time during my college education at the student union. And most of the time, I was playing games. Good times, good times.

Military Barrack Break Rooms/USOs

If you have one of these, I am envious. And I want to game with you.
These options worked great for me when I was stationed at Fort Knox! Plenty of space, plenty of privacy.

Business Break Rooms

This may seem a surprising choice, but there are some gamers who have this option, and it can be pretty awesome in the right hands. One of my friends in Minnesota happened to work at a bookbindery, and he made the business break room available to us after hours. It was a great venue for gaming. Similarly, I played at the offices of a video game company in Louisville when I lived there as well.

Libraries

Some libraries offer meeting rooms that can be used during the library’s business hours. I’ve never had to do this myself but I do know that it is an option.

In Conclusion

I hope this blog entry has been helpful for thinking about your next gaming venue – and I hope that we can all agree to respect the need for comfort and safety for ourselves as players.

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