We’ve all been there before. We’ve been the new guy (or gal) in a circle, not wanting to make a bad first impression on the other people in the group. Maybe you were introduced to everybody by a friend, or maybe you just happened upon the group in your travels.
The latter can be really frightening.
Gaming can certainly be a welcoming hobby, though there is always the fear that you’ll happen upon people who are hyper-competitive and who do not want to be bothered while they’re figuring out how best to destroy the other player. Thankfully that’s not the case very often, though.
I remember the first time I walked into a game store at a local mall where people were actually sitting at tables and playing. I went over to watch a game and then surprised myself by asking what they were playing. One of the guys took a moment to explain a little bit about the game. He was very nice about being interrupted. Sadly, I don’t remember what the game was, but my memory was of a very warm and welcoming person who was willing to stop the game for a moment and answer a question from somebody who obviously had no idea what he was talking about.
I hadn’t played a board game in probably twenty years. I played a few wargames in college, but that had fallen away and I didn’t know anything about the current gaming scene. If he had been rude or obnoxious, I probably would have tarred all gamers with that brush and not thought anything of it.
Then I went to the V-Con SF convention in Vancouver a few months later. In between some of the panels I wanted to attend, I had some downtime. I made my way around the hotel and discovered the game room. The first thing that I saw was the convention’s games library, and I marveled. That’s a ton of games!
I then looked around and saw a few tables with people playing other games. I walked around and watched a few. I looked at the box that was sitting beside the table to see what they were playing. I talked to a few of the players, asked what they were doing.
Again, I had that warm and welcomed feeling. These gamers could have been standoffish and rude, but they weren’t! They even asked me if I wanted to play. I said “no, thank you” at the time and then left, but I found myself drawn back there. I happened upon a group of four guys playing Merchants of Venus, the Avalon Hill version. A name I was familiar with! I never had played the game, but I knew the name, and of course any wargamer of a certain age knew Avalon Hill.
One of the players had a panel to go to, so he had to leave. They asked me if I wanted to take his place, so I reluctantly sat down. I was nervous that I’d mess things up. I would ask stupid questions. They would get frustrated with me.
That never happened.
Instead, I actually won! Granted, the guy I replaced was already in the lead when he left, so it wasn’t totally my doing. But it made me feel good, and it made me feel a part of the group. It wasn’t the winning, though. It was just sitting there, playing a game, conversing with these people about the game or other topics.
I felt like I belonged.
That started a journey that has continued to this day, two years later. I still feel a twinge of that anxiety whenever I join a new group of gamers, but now the question is not “will these people accept me?” It’s “how long will it take me to learn this game that they’re trying to teach me?” It’s not “Will I fit in?” It’s “How will I fit in?”
Since joining my local gaming group, we have had new members join. We game at a coffee shop, so we’ve had the occasional person stop by and see what we were doing.
I make it a point to always be gracious to these people and questions. Honest curiosity is a great way to get started in gaming. Even if they don’t join, it’s seeing that gaming isn’t confined to no-life losers who don’t have anything else to do.
How could I not be warm and accommodating to people like this?
I was once on the other side of the fence. I want to be able to open the gate for somebody like it was opened for me.
It’s the least I can do.