Distractions at game night can make for some bad table experience for everyone. Phones, table talk, rulebooks, TV in the background, and let’s not forget music. All of these distractions can take away from the joy that game night should be. It is impossible to eliminate all of these during a game night, but we all need to be aware that each of these distractions do not simply affect ourselves, they affect the whole table.
Phones are the one, if not the biggest, distraction that can be found at game night. We all have them and we all use them. When people are on their phones when someone is teaching a game, it makes learning that new game take longer. The teacher gets frustrated that the folks at the table are not listening and that frustration leads to a bad teaching, and a much more difficult first game. Not just teaching, phones can be a big distraction while playing a game too. How often has the person on their phone asked the question, “Is it my turn?” At BGGCon this last year we tried to teach games while at the same time we were trying to order food via DoorDash, Not only was the phone a distraction to the person using it, it was distracting the whole table, and that disruption led to the two people learning Pirates Cove for the first time to have a very sour experience.
Phones are easy to talk about as a distraction because we are always carrying them. But what about other things? I know for me, sometimes I will try to clean up, take out the trash, etc. while a game is in progress. This is just as bad as being on my phone. Not only am I not at the table when my turn comes around, but, depending on the game, the state of the board has changed so much that time must now be spent to catch myself up with what is on the table.
Reading rules for the next game of the night, or for a future game night is a big obstruction to having a great game night. I cannot speak for other people, I can only use myself as an example. There have been occasions where I have been one of the greatest offenders of reading rules that are not related to the game on the table.
Reading rules. I remember vividly sitting at a table at SaltCon playing a game with some friends whom I very much enjoy gaming with, but I was distracted because I was re-reading the Raiders of the North Sea rules for an event I was running later that day. I was called out by our HUGG Friend Julie, who noted that I seemed distant, and she asked if I was okay. I did not think about it until the next week, but I had personally diminished my gaming experience with friends who I do not get to see on a regular basis. I had also apparently diminished other peoples game experience too. Everyone was nice and no bad feelings occurred. But, I realised that by not being prepared before my event I had hampered my gaming experience.
The main reason I go to conventions is to be with friends, have good times, laugh a lot, and play some games. I spend money to be at these events, I should not be limiting that experience by reading rules for the next game.
I wish I could say I had learned my lesson, however, not only did I not learn that lesson, I took my distraction up a notch. We went to BBGCon this last November, and while we were there I got the opportunity to play some Shadows of Brimstone, with Andy, Logan, and Nathan Tenny. Andy was teaching and sorting out the big mess that was found in the two boxes of Shadows that we had checked out from the library. I had also checked out a new game to play later, a game that was new to all of us, The Transformers Deck Building Game. So instead of helping sort and identify what was in the Shadows boxes, I sat and tried to read a new rulebook. These were not the best rules, there were a lot of distractions, so I was not getting much out of the rules, but as Andy was setting up and explaining Shadows I was in a different world. I am sure this whole distraction caused Andy to repeat and re-explain actions and I know it was very frustrating to him. TV distractions. Now this may just be me, but if there is a TV in my field of view, it does not matter what is on that screen, I am watching it. The Super Bowl was not too long ago and Andy had invited us over from some amazing food and time with friends. I am not a football fan at all, and I doubt I could tell you who won the football game today, but Andy tried to teach me Reavers of Midgard, a fun game that took us way too long to play because of the TV.
Music is another thing that falls right along with having a TV in the background. It was early on that I knew in my group that we could never allow any We Might Be Giants songs to come across the air wave. If that happened the game room would quickly transform into a musical episode. Most people would be singing, there would be some choreography, it was bad choreography, but it was there and most of the singing was bad too. But that need to sing passed on to other artists too. I finally had to put in place a “No music with vocals” rule, simply because it extended the length of every game played. People had to stop their turns to sing and this would cause players to take longer to process what they were doing on a given turn. Although, now there are a lot of sound tracks that are randomly played and I have to always ask the table if they know what movie a particular song is from. So even lyricless songs should not be played at the table.
Finally Table talk. There is not much I enjoy more than gathering with friends and having some very good times at the game table. It is a time to catch up, connect, and build relationships. However, if someone is teaching a game, now is not the time to ask me about my kids, how work is going, or my wife and my vacation plans. Our friend Julia is always reminding people to respect the game, I think we also need to respect the teacher. Distractions are a great way to impede, disrupt, and take away the fun of a game night. When someone is teaching a game, respect the teacher and the teacher’s time. I know all of these examples are of me, but I would be really surprised if I were the only one creating and facing the etiquette blunders. Game nights are meant to be fun, so here is to all those who do their best to teach us new games, and here’s to hoping the rest of us will hopefully be better learners.
Now, I know that my points of what are and what are not distractions differ from person to person. But I am willing to bet a shiny nickel that not everyone at a game table feels the same way that everyone else who are sitting around the same table. Take some time and get how everyone else feels before you make any major changes, if they are even needed for your group. Make sure game night is fun!
What are some other game night distractions that you have run into at your game night?