Joining In…?


Saturday night should have been an ideal time to game. My wife was having several women from church over for a craft night, and I was (thankfully) banished from my home. I found a new store in the area that was offering open gaming on Saturday nights, so this seemed like a promising way to pass the evening away from my own hearth.

Unfortunately, I chickened out.

GeekInsight posted last week on the question “Are board games a social hobby?” And while the hobby may be social, many of its hobbyists (myself included) are not. I am an introvert, and I like the structured environment that games provide, which dictates the flow of conversation.

So while I showed up for open gaming, insinuating myself into games in progress proved too difficult a task for me. I skulked awkwardly around the store, pretending to examine the merchandise, then hovered over someone’s game, hoping to be introduced to what was going on. Then I remembered how much I don’t like others hovering over what I’m doing, skulked some more, and decided it was time to leave.

The bummer about all this was that in counting on open gaming as my night’s activity, I ignored my mother’s sage advice (which I usually follow): “Wherever you go, always take a book with you.” After my failure at the games store, I still couldn’t return home, so I went to Barnes & Noble and eventually Half Price Books, where solitary skulking is more normal and less frowned upon, though I didn’t have the book I was reading to keep me company.

Why do I share all this? Because the other news from the weekend is that I’m officially going to GenCon in August. I was quite excited about this news—before I discovered my inability to join strangers’ games, which from what I gather is a lot of what GenCon is. Does anyone have advice for how I can do this? Here are some conversation starters I came up with on my shameful drive home:

  • “Nice meeple.”
  • “I liked Settlers of Catan before it was cool.”
  • “Chess would be so much better if the knights were paladins.”
  • “So what’s your favorite Spiel des Jahres?”
  • “If you were a Cosmic Encounter alien, which one would you be and why?”
  • “What’s that game you’re playing? Is it similar to Monopoly at all?”

As you can see, I need a lot of help. Please leave me some advice in the comments.

I'll try anything once, but my favorite games are generally middleweight Euros.

Discussion14 Comments

  1. Fortunately most GenCon booths have employees whose job is to invite you to demo their games. If you hover around the demo area for a few minutes, odds are you will be invited to try something out.

    Also, don’t go alone. If you have another person you can start a game up and wait for others to approach you about joining in.

  2. That’s a good point–I hope that works in my favor.

    And that’s great advice about having someone else there. I think that was most of my problem on Saturday. I hope to return another week and test this out.

  3. For GenCon, get involved in the actual ticketed games. Even if the game is full, buy a handful of generic tickets and show up at ones that sound cool. That gives you that structured ice breaker right there.

    I found that, when walking around, looking interested was often a way of getting accosted to join. Especially when people are trying to get a game going. GenCon is going to be a different environment than your gaming store. Especially because, even if you pass a dozen games that don’t have an opening, there’s always going to be three more that do.

    Do a little research ahead of time, and find out if any podcasts, blog groups, or others are doing tweet-ups. These days, following Twitter while at the con can clue you in to a number of impromptu events.

    And, as Josh said, try and have a wingman. Two guys wandering around lost oddly enough looks a lot less desperate.

  4. If you’re going to GenCon with Wolfie, I’m guessing I’m going to be one of the “friends” that you go to GenCon with. Nice to meet you.

    I agree with Marshall too, there are always open games so you don’t need to worry about finding groups that need players.

  5. I’m the same way. I was a little worried when I attended Kubla, but the people there were warm, friendly, and thoroughly enjoyable.

    One trick I picked up was to sign up for a few scheduled games. If I had a good time, I’d then invite the players to do some open gaming (I had a bag of games with me at all times).

    And, for every shy person like you or I, there is at least one gaming extrovert. I got myself invited to a number of games by perfect strangers.

  6. At least I’m not the only one with this problem. My LGS has a game night every week, and over the summer I have the chance to go, but I feel uncomfortable just showing up without knowing more people there. Maybe I should just show up and compliment their meeples.

  7. @Josh–Nice to meet you, too! I am going with Wolfie.

    @GeekInsight–Thanks for the encouragement. It’s good to know there are extroverts who play, too. (I suppose I should have known this, since I can often get my sisters to play.) And thanks for the suggestions.

    @The Janitor–“There are dozens of us! Dozens!” I can’t vouch for the effectiveness meeple-complimenting strategy, but if you try it, let me know how it pans out for you.

  8. Ok, I’m behind the curve on this one, but the post amused me (possibly because I could relate). I fortunately have been going to my FLGS long enough that I know most of the people, which makes it much easier. I agree with the Wingman suggestion – and it works better when he’s an extrovert. When I start being introverted, I am normally able to come out of that by playing off of people I’m comfortable with that are extroverted. Or, you can just find me and we can play games, as I’ll be at GenCon too. ; )

  9. @Josh–No worries about being behind the curve–I need all the help I can get!

    I may take you up on your GenCon offer. If you need to find me, I’ll be the one with the hooded sweatshirt pulled over his head, rocking back and forth in the corner. I’m willing to play anything–except maybe Apples to Apples.

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