This guide provides tips and suggestions for finding public physical venues for players to meet and play. This guide is not meant to help players find other players. There are other resources on the Internet to find others, and IAGO also is actively involved in providing them.
Why the need for this guide and list of public venues?
In the “ecosystem” of games, an essential part is physical venues to meet at. These venues serve for a way to meet new people in a safer environment, rather than the homes of individuals. Expanding and recruiting players is a challenge without having places like this to meet. Advertising and promotion of meetings is challenging also, and homes will often face space restrictions. Because of this, public venues are essential to the “ecosystem” of game players.
Why not just play over the Internet?
With the advent of the Internet, it is easier to find people to play, all over the world. However, playing face to face, at a physical venue provides the best way to insure players aren’t cheating. It also provides social interaction one doesn’t get over the computer. Public venues, as stated above, are also safer way to initially meet new people face to face.
Basics of business venues
- Businesses exist to make money. It is expected that, during hours of operation, to generate income to stay in business. Because of this, it is expected people visiting will spend money at the venue to stay in business. An exception to this is physical venues supported by tax dollars and meant to serve patrons, such as libraries.
- Businesses are in need of traffic during non-busy hours. It is best to target venues when they are usually quiet/dead. During dead times, businesses are also more receptive to people hanging around, and spending less money. During a dead time, players who play a game of chess quietly in the corner, for example, are welcome.
- Businesses don’t want headaches. They like regulars who add to the atmosphere of the place, increase revenues, and aren’t a problem.
Tips for finding a public venue to play at
- Do a search in Yellow Pages or other sources on the web for a list of venues among types of venues listed in this guide.
- Get the address and hours for the venue. Searching over the Web can provide a lot of background information.
- Visit the venue and check it out. See if it would fit the need of for number of seats available, table space, and also noise level to see if it appropriate.
- Talk to owner or management of venue about their availability and the best time to come in, whether that is time it is least busy, or time that players who play certain games come in.
- Let the owner or management know how many you expect to show up and when, and then show up when you said you would.
- If you have multiple choices, discuss among all people who would attend best place to be, and then show up at that venue.
- Your needs or demands on a venue will impact ease of finding a place.
Venues to consider
- Bars/Taverns: These places have dead times with low traffic. These times are ideal. Usually these times are early to mid-afternoon on Saturdays, or any other time when there isn’t sports on people go out to watch. If a bar or tavern has a meeting room that businesses meet at, they may be available during the evening for use. Monday night, during NFL football season, is usually a bad time to attend (same with Sunday afternoon during NFL season).
- Book stores: Book stores are similar to libraries (see below) in regards to interest in mental activities. Places such as Barnes & Noble, and Borders, run events. They also sell books with Chess and other games like Go. They do this to have traffic in the store. Usually book stores that are open to people visiting have coffee shops in them, and places to sit.
- Bowling alleys: Often time bowling alleys have bars in them. The rules are similar to those of normal bars and taverns. They will often arrange activities outside of bowling, to keep their bar area busy.
- Coffee houses: These places like people to hang out for a cup of coffee and usually relax. The environment is generally on the quiet side, making them ideal for meeting to play an abstract strategy game, particularly during non-busy times. Some of them even will provide chess sets.
- Delis/Sandwich shops: These places sometimes have seating for eating on premises, and are normally quiet after breakfast and after lunch. They also carry snacks. Other food places that serve grab and go foods may also be a fit.
- Game/hobby/comic book stores: Stores that sell games usually are open to players of all sorts, even those that just specialize in Collectible Card Games and comics. You will usually face restrictions if other games besides abstract strategy games are dominant in an area, and people come in to play. It is important to note these stores stay in business to sell product, so it is wise to let them know what you are interested in, and order from them. On the whole, the general rule with them is, if they have table space available, they want you in there. Some games do generate larger noise levels, so the busy times may not be the best times suited to be there, particularly to play more challenging abstract strategy games.
- Game specific clubs/clubhouses: Backgammon, Chess and Go clubs or clubhouses, with physical venues, exist in major cities. They will usually charge per hour, or day, or have basic club membership. They are also usually focused on one game or a few games, and generally frown upon games outside of what is played there normally.
- Libraries: The American Library Association has started an initiative to become places for gamer players to visit and play. There is a push because games are seen as mental activities, akin to reading. These places don’t charge to play, but may face restrictions on hours available, and possibly the noise level needing to be kept low (depending on the time you meet there). Learn more about the initiative.
- Mall food courts: These are similar to parks (see below), except they usually have better climate control, but also tend to give you a lot more foot traffic that may stop by and ask you about your game, and what you are playing. They will also tend to have set hours of operation. Background noise level is a definite concern, particularly during the holidays when shopping can get to a maddening level.
- Parks: Major cities have parks where people play chess, and the tables are usable for other games. The usage is usually weather dependent, and in some parks, you will find players who hustle for money playing people. The noise level and general atmosphere is hit or miss also, based on what else is going on in the area. They also usually don’t have people that can be contacted who oversee the areas to make sure they would be suitable for playing at a specific time.
Basic etiquette and essential points
- When attending, spend money. Among the group, make sure enough money is spent to make the venue management feel it worthwhile to attend.
- Respect the rules of the venue.
- Pick times out when the venue is less busy. Businesses are eager to have traffic during hours they aren’t busy. An added advantage of going when it is less busy is that you have less background noise.
- Be mindful of the noise level associated with places. Considering that abstract strategy games usually require focus, it is best to try to find places which is a match for the noise during a game. Bars, for example, would be more incline for games of more noise, while libraries would tend to be more quiet. In short, one usually doesn’t want to raise the noise level above what is acceptable, and it is best to not play in places where the natural noise level when playing is available.
- Find a place you like and become a regular, and then invite others who also would add value to the the venue to also show up and have them become regulars. Once you have a set of people who normally show up, try to promote and recruit more people to show up. Another benefit of being a regular is that you make it easier to enable people new in the area to find you.
- Notify the IAGO Clubhouse of venues that would be a fit, so a venue may be added.
- If things go well, the venue may also promote your attending, to get others to show up.
- It is up to you to bring people to the venue. Don’t expect the venue to do any work for you.
- Be thankful you have a venue to attend. Let them know you are thankful.
- Once you are a regular, ask the venue what you can do to help them out.