Just because Sony’s PlayStation Network is offline (with good reason) doesn’t mean you have to be relegated to single player mode. There’s another time-honored way to get social: Throw a gaming party for your buds. Some of the best parties I’ve been to have centered around games — it’s a great way to spend time with friends, show off your prowess and even tempt non-gamers into the action. Plus, there’s nothing like looking your pals in the eye when you trounce their best scores.
Things you will need (to own, beg/borrow or rent)
Gaming console. I’m not putting down PC games, but there’s often a fairly big learning curve involved. Plus hovering around a computer can feel kind of crowded. To keep things simple and fun for your guests, stick to the console variety — preferably one that’s movement-based. (Think Kinect or Wii.)
A TV big enough so that guests can see the action. If you don’t have one, then you’ll need to get creative. There are ways to get your hands on one (see below), but depending on where you live, you might even have a perfect gaming venue nearby, complete with big screens.
Controllers. For controlpads, WiiMotes, Nunchuks, Rock Band accessories and other input devices, four are obviously better than two, so if you have extras, make sure they’re charged and ready to go. Nothing says “fail” like being in the middle of a game, and getting a “Control 1 Disconnected” alert. NOTE: Speaking of controllers, if you’re dealing with corded ones, be sure to untangle them ahead of time, connect them and keep them on the coffee table or side tables. You don’t want people getting impatient while you unknot a dusty mess of wires, so have it ready to roll at the party’s start. If you’re using an Xbox 360/Kinect, then this one’s a non-issue.
Batteries. If your accessories require them, then these could be crucial. You don’t want your party coming to a premature screeching halt, do you?
Games. Duh. You’re not inviting everyone over to watch Oprah on TiVo, right? You need games, and a diverse selection, at that. Not everyone will want to play golf or Mario Kart, even if you do, so have a range of genres on hand.
Tournament bracket. This isn’t a requirement, but it’s a fun thing to include if you can. If scores matter at your party, and you have more than, say, four people attending, then consider posting up a large tournament bracket on your wall. It lets everyone see where they rank, who’s made it to the final rounds and gives them a person or team to root for. There are free blank tournament brackets available online at SampleWords.
If you don’t have your own gear, don’t fret. Did you know you can rent televisions and game consoles, as well as game titles? For example, Rent-a-Center offers TVs, plus Sony PS3s, Xbox/Kinect and even a Wii bundle, including Nunchuks and a handful of sporting games. Speaking of the actual games themselves, those are available at many video rental locations across America, but if you have the benefit of planning ahead, hit up the online gamer mecca of GameFly.com. (It’s like the Netflix of game rentals, with a big selection and inexpensive pricing.)
There is, of course, another more budget-friendly option: Hit up a pal to borrow their gear — or better yet, their home. If you know someone who has your dream gaming set-up, complete with big screen TV, chances are they live in a sweet pad. So rock those connections.
Other party planning considerations:
Test your gear. The day before, you’ll need to connect everything and make sure it all works properly. After all, what’s lamer than a gaming party without audio? So have it on and ready by the time people arrive.
Seating. Chairs? Floor space? If guests/spectators will be sitting on the floor, have some throw pillows, yoga mats or even camping pads available. Your friends will thank you.
Refreshments. Cook? Snacks only? Order pizza or Chinese food? Drinks? There’s no wrong answer to this — except maybe red wine/juice or meatball marinara in a white carpet room with lots of movement.
Traffic pattern. If you can, keep the refreshment and play areas separated. You don’t want food seekers and players crashing into each other.
Surfaces. If the tables are clustered with photo frames or other tchotchkes, remember to clear them off. Give guests a place to put their drinks down (especially if it’s their turn to do battle). Plus, you want to minimize guests precariously holding plates and glasses when a player’s wayward hand accidentally smacks them in the face.
Hand sanitizer/wipes. Maybe someone sneezed. Or had their hands on a chicken wing. Or hurried out of the bathroom when their turn came up. This isn’t an issue of daintiness or Emma Pilsbury-style OCD here. No one likes catching a cold (or staining their shirt), so if there’s a controlpad, remote or other gear passing from hand to hand, give people a way swab that down.
The great thing about gaming parties is that they can be as simple or as elaborate as you want. And the best part is that you don’t bear the burden of playing host alone. Consider that console as your fun, charming co-host that can keep things exciting, without you having to lift a finger — except to squash your opponents.
Have you ever been to an awesome gaming party? What gear did they have, and what made it so great? Share your experiences in the comments.