I remember one of the first times I ever went to an organised boardgame evening here in Nottingham. It was a long time ago now and while I had played boardgames with family and friends for many years, I had never really met up with dedicated gamers specifically to play games.
It was a daunting experience. For whatever reason, gamers often don’t exude warmth and friendliness. I arrived at the stated start time to find a roomful of people already playing a variety of games.
I expected someone to greet me and explain how it worked and to arrange for me to play a game. I was new after all. But no. They all just continued playing their games, while I stood awkwardly by…
I was stunned. As a child, I was brought up in a Baptist church and one of the things that always seemed odd to me at the time was the “welcomers”. Every Sunday, my family and I would turn up at church and we would be greeted by these welcomers, standing at the door and shaking people’s hands.
After many years of this, it became entirely natural to say hello and shake someone’s hand when arriving. They had a rota and an entire team of people solely devoted to welcoming people on arrival week in week out.
When I went to university, I went to a number of different churches to see what they were like. This felt very different to attending my home church. I didn’t know anyone. To my surprise, every single one of them also had a team of welcomers.
Arriving for the first time, I was immediately spotted as a “newbie” and rather than receiving a simple handshake and being left to my own devices, they took me aside, asked where I was from, if it was my first time and then I was shown to a seat while they chatted about their church and what I might expect in the service. It was great! I felt really… welcome!
I shouldn’t have been so surprised, but I’d never really appreciated the value of the welcomers for people who are actually new. After the service, whoever met me at the door would often come up to me and chat for a while.
I’m now one of the regular gamers at my local gaming establishment (The Dice Cup) and we’ve been discussing how we can be more welcoming. We don’t have a rota of welcomers so when someone new turns up, it’s usually left to somebody personable to spot them and help them find a game.
Unfortunately, we do tend to like our heavy games and it can be all too easy to become engrossed in the game, learning the rules and sorting out an appropriate strategy before taking that crucial first move. Many gamers just don’t notice when someone new arrives.
Personally, I love playing with and meeting new people. One of the main reasons I play boardgames is to socialise with others. So how can we provide a more welcoming atmosphere?
Well, someone has actually suggested having a designated welcomer with a badge positioned near the door. They can still play games, but they are responsible for keeping an eye on the door and spotting any new people who arrive.
Another helpful suggestion is to play light games for the first hour of the evening. People often arrive a bit late when they come for the first time (new places can be tricky to find). If we’re playing short games that don’t require a lot of concentration, we can spot new people more easily and they won’t be waiting long for the next game to start.
Someone also suggested having a helpful welcome sign that tells new people where to go and who to speak to in case the welcomer doesn’t spot them immediately.
I certainly hope all these things make a difference. I would hate someone coming to our game night to be made to feel like I did the first time I came to one!
Have you had similar experiences attending gaming nights for the first time? Do you have any ideas how we can be more welcoming to new players?