How to run a great games night and make it inclusive and supportive of well being and neurodiversity
There is no perfect answer to this but the following tips, should create a welcome friendly environment. Everyone likes to know the lie of the land, the basic rules and what to expect but more so if you have anxiety, autistic tendencies or a number of other issues.
So double check and make sure everything is clear even down to signage and drinks options. Set and manage expectations
Step one: Prepare: Advertise and set expectations
1) Advertise, find your players but clearly set expectations of the kind of games being played, what games are provided, are their teachers?
2) Is there a cost to the event
2). Where, when, what food and drink is available what is the cost?
3) Take requests for games and ask if people are bringing games to teach.
4) Send out rules videos or lists of the games being played so people can research
5) Include photos of the venue and gaming space. including accessibility information, stairs, lifts disabled toilets
6) Provide a map to the venue including parking information
7) Provide a second private channel for information and feedback. (Messenger) to answer questions before the event
8) Provide photos of the organizers
9) Provide photos of previous events to help set expectations.
Step two: The night: Ensure a friendly welcome atmosphere
1) Ensure the venue is well signed so you are easy to find. I include A4 laminated signed the whole way
2) Friendly greeter to welcome all guests to assign them to an appropriate game and game teacher.
3) An appropriate game is dependent on the gamer but be aware of:
a. overly competitive games,
b. overall complex games for new games.
c. games which are too extrovert or social and / or involve lying and bluffing.
d. Game which rules change too much, having known and controlled rules can be more comfortable.
4) The game teacher should be patient but also enthusiastic and welcoming
5) Ensure the venue has appropriate lighting,
6) Enough space between the gaming tables.
7) Control the noise including reducing or eliminating background music (Provide space between games helps with this, we also separate the louder social games and the more thoughtful euro games).
8) Be patient and tolerant, gamers with additional needs may be harder to please, may not react to social cues.
9) Ensure staff are identifiable. (Even having a different colour lanyard or badge would do)
10) Name stickers or name tags for all guests removes the pressure of asking or remembering names.
11) Provide a quiet or quieter space for people to unwind or decompress.
12) Include a flag or player match making system to make finding gamers easier if you don’t have an active host arranging this.
Step three: The growth
1) Grow and nurture the culture to be friendly, inclusive and welcoming.
2) Ask for feedback
3) Allow volunteers to step up and be involved. (Ownership of tasks and feeling of belonging)
4) Do not take rejection personally, even with perfect planning you cannot please everyone. Doubly so if people have additional issues.
This is not a once size fits all guide everyone is different and i am a gamer with an interest in inclusivity and making sure everyone has a good time not a medical professional. Hopefully these tips will help, they are mostly obvious.
It is also worth considering, players with vision issues including colour blindness, picking game carefully, marking up components, swapping components out or just helping to read public or open text.
This is work in progress so I’d love any feedback or comments.