With lock down and travel restrictions being put back into place in many parts of the world, it would seem that, despite us keeping our fingers crossed, a return to ‘regular life’ may still yet be some way off.
Although we know how important it is for everyone to keep safe and stay healthy during this time, at Dicebox we also understand how draining – both mentally and emotionally – it can be to face further weeks isolated from friends and family.
We know that many of you have been disappointed not to be able to attend all the usual gaming and pop-culture events, with many being cancelled or postponed. Naturally, we have all had to adapt to new circumstances over the past few months, but being on lock down doesn’t have to mean that our social diaries are destined to remain empty.
At the end of last month, Comic-con@Home took the 2020 San Diego Comic-Con online, with over 350 panels featuring artists, actors, and writers holding virtual events for fans. We’ve seen some great examples of gaming communities, fan groups, and players taking to platforms like Discord, Twitter Live, and YouTube to both hold and share online events.
If, like us, you’ve been missing your regular gaming sessions, hosting an online meet can be a great way to inject a little entertainment into your lockdown time. In order to help you get the best experience possible, our resident nerds at HQ have come up with this handy guide to preparing for and hosting your virtual events.
Consider who you have attending – what sort of numbers do you anticipate? It’s always a good idea to get a sign-up sheet going at least a week or two in advance. Are these players you know well or members of the public that you’ve never met before? You’ll also need to consider the variations in age, experience and playing ability.
When selecting your games, consider the size of your group – whether they’ll play individually or in teams and how long you want games to last. Collaborative games, which rely on working as a team, can be great as they allow people to input as much or as little as they want without any pressure. The complexity of the games you choose to include will depend on your confidence as a host and games master – as well as the resources available to you.
If you’re new to hosting online meets, we would suggest starting with games that involve minimal equipment, such as quizzes or party style games. The Star Wars Quiz and Harry Potter Quiz (both $15.00) would work well for a themed meet. For something a little more involved, Geek Out! 80s edition ($21.00) works well for a relatively quick game (approximately 30 minutes) that can be played either with teams or individual players.
Prepare your players in advance by letting them know what to expect. It can be fun to have elements of surprise to your meet, but you should advise ahead of time of any equipment players may need or if they should prepare character sheets. Not everyone has the same taste in games, so if your meet is going to be focused on one specific sort of game (RPG heavy, for example) you should make sure that people know beforehand.
It’s also important to keep in mind that strategy games and RPGs will take a little more prep work. Unless you’re planning to potentially take your game into your next meet, we’d suggest running a ‘demo’ rather than a full game.
A single scene/environment setting is a useful way to introduce new players to game mechanics that they can later use in a larger campaign. Conan RPG – Adventures in an Age undreamed of ($75.00) is great for a quick play with a multitude of potential scenarios. With any game that you choose to include, we would highly recommend running through it, using test scenarios, a few times before your meet starts.
Get to know your tech – Zoom allows presenters to use dual screens for shared content, which is handy for setting up one screen as the ‘host’ screen so that you can talk to your players, and a second screen as the ‘active game’ screen, which should show your board in play. Try out camera angles and test everything out ahead of time.
To allow play to flow uninterrupted (let’s be honest, we all know how easy it is to get sidetracked), a good tip is to have your actual game play and your meet chat on two separate channels.
You could do this by having your game set up via Zoom (so that people can join in or watch the game in progress), but also having a separate Discord chat channel as your ‘forum’ – a space where attendees can chat, hang out and catch up without interrupting the pace of the game. You could even ask a few attendees to volunteer to moderate and lead the chats, prompting discussion interesting or relevant to the group.
Another way to add an exciting element to your meet is to have a special guest attend. The lock down and restrictions on social events have taken a toll on many artists and creators. You could try reaching out on social media to local comic book creators, game designers, or cosplay artists to see if they would be interested in chatting to your attendees about their current or upcoming projects. You should make sure this is timed so that people have the opportunity to both listen to the guest and ask any questions, should your guest agree to this.
You’ll want to give your meet enough time for everyone to settle in, enjoy their game time, and have a chat – without your event becoming so long people get restless.
A good rule of thumb is to plan an ‘arrive online by’ time, followed by a brief introduction to the event schedule, a few games, time for discussion/chat or a guest, and a bit of wrap up at the end. Depending on your planned games, 3 – 4 hours is ample for this – any more than that and you’re entering into convention territory, any less and you’ll be rushing through things. You could also schedule in a break or two so that people can get drinks or snacks without worrying about missing anything.
Lastly – and probably most important of all – just have fun with it. We speak from experience when we say that sometimes meets don’t turn out the way you planned. The main thing is to create a fun, safe, and inclusive environment where people who share a mutual hobby and passion can come together and enjoy catching up with each other. If you do hold online games meets, let us know, we’d love to hear all about it.