Playing in public

edited June 2009 in Story Games
I can't really imagine it. I'd be way too self conscious. (And I say this as someone who's totally down with evangelizing for gaming in general among non-gamers.)

Comments

  • Done it many times when I was younger. We didn't have a house to play in so we played at coffee houses and sometimes in a park.
    The coffee houses were more awkward because we picked the ones that were empty and quiet. This means they had a few regular patrons, all above the age of 50.
  • We play in the upstairs seating area of a deli/cafe. At night, there aren't too many non-gamers there - usually just random tourists stopping in for a bite to eat. Most of the time, people walking by will pause to see what we're doing and then move on.

    I once tried to play InSpectres in an apartment building's "lounge" area, but one of the guys I was playing with freaked out and wouldn't play until we found someplace more private. I thought it was pretty rude of him, but I guess people have their hang-ups about this stuff.
  • edited June 2009
    I've played in public--in fact, I generally prefer it, nowadays, to being holed up in a kitchen or basement. Not counting the FLGS and conventions, I've played in bars, coffee shops, at a park, at a pool, and in dance clubs. LARPs are pretty damned fun in public, actually, as they often have some secret that must be kept by the players (and thus a mechanical enforcement of "don't freak the mundanes") and you can sometimes recruit the locale's staff to provide plot points or clues (I had a bartender I'd use for a rumor mill). And, obviously, board games, CCGs, and the like port to public just fine. RPGs can be a bit of a balancing act--need to be careful about over-exuberance and disturbing declarations that might be overheard. But then again, fuck 'em if they can't take a joke, I say.

    The over-riding benefit is that you really can find new players, for your group if not new to gaming itself. The only thing I'd find tricky to pull off comfortably is any kind of minis play--few adults appreciate the tactics of such play, seeing only "toys." But, again, fuck 'em--I don't point and laugh at their beer pong game (well, yeah, I do sometimes, but only when one team utterly sucks and is in a death spiral).

    Best benefit for me: wait staff, beers, and ready-to-eat food, all of which minimize interrupting play. Meeting folks is a close second: you'd be surprised at how often folks will ask "Whatcha doing?"--an icebreaker that also vets folks for open-mindedness. Just don't spill your pint, for God's sake (it's no coincidence that I typically play with my character sheet in a sheet protector, using wet-erase markers for tracking highly variable resource quantities).
  • edited June 2009
    I've done it a few times, at a Barnes & Noble and in high school outside during lunch, at cons of course, and I'm sure a couple other places I'm not remembering. It's not something I have a problem with beyond being distracted by people and things going on outside the game. That's something I consider a big problem though, for myself at least, and the main reason I haven't played in public more often.
  • Distraction is a good point, but not all games demand intense focus (few that I play do, in fact). And a lot of the games I've played lately seem to quickly involve a party split-up, or not every PC in every scene, and so there's always a bit of individual downtime to people watch, flirt, or deal with bathroom breaks (THOSE are damned distracting, I can tell you!).
  • It depends on how much out-and-out role-playing is going on. If a lot, then I actually prefer private. If little to none, then public is alright. My fiancee and I play lots of games in public at coffee shops or the library.
  • edited June 2009

    You know, I was really uncomfortable when I first did this. Me and two awesome guys were playing Trollbabe in a pretty quiet cafe on Sunday afternoons. We're pretending to be giant ladies with horns and swords. Could be slightly awkward. I found that no one really bothered us, and when they did, they were interested and not at all judgmental. This was Seattle, where nice people grow like weeds.

    I get together with people for light wargames at our local hip coffee shop in Durham, and it's been great. I would really like to get a public RPG game going again, though. It definitely causes you to think twice about what you're saying, and can stop you from crossing lines of impropriety or insensitivity, and that is a really good thing. There's times when I don't want that - say, in most of my games with the Durham 3, where we're likely to play ruinous bastards - but having to think about your fiction in the context of other people is, in my experience, a growth opportunity.

  • This came up for me just this weekend. I like camping. But we only get together to game every other weekend, so regular camping could make my gaming very rare. So, I asked if my gaming buddies would like to go camping--that way, I could have both. My brother didn't seem too keen on the idea, precisely because it involved gaming in public. We still haven't had our gaming/camping trip, though I think we will soon; instead, we wound up playing our first game of Mouse Guard in a nearby park. One of our players couldn't leave his dog unattended, but still wanted to play; my apartment doesn't allow animals, so we went to the park. My brother didn't like this one bit, but he came along anyway.

    He found out it wasn't that bad. Bugs came out more than I'd have expected, but it was all around a pretty good time.
  • edited June 2009
    In Seattle there's a group of us that meet monthly to game at a local (geeky) coffee shop. The first time I went I was all, "Uh, so we're just going to game right here?" But I quickly got over it. I mean, there're people playing board games and stuff, why not RPGs? I still cringe internally a bit when people yell loudly in character, but I think of that as something I need to get over. That said, a private place to game is much preferred, just for noise/focus/people-bonding reasons.
    Posted By: David ArtmanI've played in bars
    I'd love to game in a bar, long as there's a quiet place. Cool atmosphere + gaming + beer = yes.
  • We often play in open conference rooms, cafes, and bars. Not my first choice but not bad.
    Posted By: ClintonIt definitely causes you to think twice about what you're saying, and can stop you from crossing lines of impropriety or insensitivity, and that is a really good thing. There's times when I don't want that - say, in most of my games with the Durham 3, where we're likely to play ruinous bastards - but having to think about your fiction in the context of other people is, in my experience, a growth opportunity.
    Great point!
  • I prefer playing in public when I have a solid group. A bar or restaurant is good - you get food and don't need to do the dishes. In fact, next winter I'm probably going to move all of my gaming into a local restaurant.
  • Any space where gaming is already done makes perfect sense to me, from a con to an explicitly geek-friendly coffee shop.

    And I can see playing a board game, even a wargame with the nerd dialed up pretty high.

    But I can't see myself playing an RPG and being in character and rolling dice and all, at a bar.

    I am weak.
  • So why do you guys think it's embarassing?

    I remember when I first went to college we gamed mostly in public areas. There wasn't enough room in dorm rooms so it was all student lounges. It took me a long time to get over this.

    I think because I felt like I was engaging in some pariah or childish hobby.
  • "The Durham Three: Ruinous Bastards."

    People don't care as much as you think they do. Don't get caught up in your amazing thing - buy stuff and tip generously, don't take up a lot of space during busy times, don't be loud in a quiet place. Just like book club and the knitting circle, which is basically what you are.
  • I once ran a session of a Hunter: the Reckoning campaign in a Starbuck's. The game was normally tabletop and in private, but in this particular session one group of PCs was meeting another group of PCs for the first time under very tense circumstances (huge game, 9-10 PCs, had to run them in two different parallel sessions each week; I had so much more time at uni). Anyway, the reason I will always remember this is that the guy playing the alcoholic preacher Defender actually brought a flask of Jack into the Starbuck's and was sipping pretty steadily from it throughout.

    I don't think I've gamed in public since. Heck, I don't even like world-building in public...
  • Posted By: JARAnyway, the reason I will always remember this is that the guy playing the alcoholic preacher Defender actually brought a flask of Jack into the Starbuck's and was sipping pretty steadily from it throughout.

    I don't think I've gamed in public since. Heck, I don't even like world-building in public...
    Jeez, why can't gamers understand that, you know, when you're gaming in public you should act like you're in public?
  • Quite so. That's why it worked; the scene was entirely a bunch of characters meeting in a public place, and so the social rules of the occasion and the logic of the fiction dovetailed nicely.

    Unless that comment is meant to be about the inappropriateness of drinking whiskey in the middle of the afternoon in public. All I can say to that is that it was in a place that was very tolerant of public intoxication.
  • My concern has been and will always be annoying the staff. If you're going to use a place of business, you need to consume whatever it is they are selling with at least the frequency that you would if you weren't gaming, or else you are just pissing off staff and management. I've got no problem with gaming in public, but I just don't want to spend the money required to justify my use of the space. I know the look in a server's eye when they have decided that no, your plate of nachos and two glasses of iced tea don't justify the 4 hours you've been sitting there, rolling dice and being disruptive. We have similar problems when we film in public places (my better half is a filmmaker) so we make sure to order a bunch of food and drink up-front.
  • Posted By: JARQuite so. That's why it worked; the scene was entirely a bunch of characters meeting in a public place, and so the social rules of the occasion and the logic of the fiction dovetailed nicely.

    Unless that comment is meant to be about the inappropriateness of drinking whiskey in the middle of the afternoon in public. All I can say to that is that it was in a place that was very tolerant of public intoxication.
    I was taking your description of the game coupled with "I haven't gamed in public since," as a negative judgment on said occasion of public gaming. My response comes from that reading of your post.
  • Posted By: deadlytoqueMy concern has been and will always be annoying the staff. If you're going to use a place of business, you need to consume whatever it is they are selling with at least the frequency that you would if you weren't gaming, or else you are just pissing off staff and management. I've got no problem with gaming in public, but I just don't want to spend the money required to justify my use of the space. I know the look in a server's eye when they have decided that no, your plate of nachos and two glasses of iced tea don't justify the 4 hours you've been sitting there, rolling dice and being disruptive. We have similar problems when we film in public places (my better half is a filmmaker) so we make sure to order a bunch of food and drink up-front.
    I can't say anything about a restaurant, but people regularly come into a coffee shop, drop 2 bucks on a grande drip, then spend 5 hours there surfing the web or chatting with friends or whatever. It's part of coffee shop culture (at least in Seattle), so doing the same thing but gaming instead isn't a problem for me. We have a regular coffee shop, so we're bringing in business that otherwise wouldn't be there (I'd never been until I gamed there; now I love the place and go there even when I don't game). Posting a game online and bringing new people in exposes new people to the shop, and that's good for business. They're great to us. I believe there's another game group that meets there once a week, as well.
  • I, sort of, game in public now.

    A brief summary of my situation, for those who haven't been following the Life and Times of Lance D. Allen on HBO.

    I am a deployed Soldier, working in a Battalion Ops Center. I work a 12-hour shift, and it's typically pretty quiet. So long as I make sure things continue to run smoothly in the TOC and everything that needs to get done gets done, they're pretty flexible about us doing personal things on work time, from watching movies to surfing the net. At current, I work until 9pm, and twice a week, I get together with some co-workers/friends and we play games. Wednesday nights is card games mostly, but Saturday is RPGs. One of our players is technically at work until midnight, so we can't play anywhere outside of the building where we work. She has to be available for work if it comes up (She's the communications help-desk, essentially) So we play in the Battalion conference room.

    Despite that we play after the normal busy hours of the day, we've never had a play session that didn't have someone cutting through the room, or coming in to see what we are doing. The night guys in the Ops Center are tolerant/condescending about our hobby, so we get a little teasing from that front. The BN Sergeant-Major likes to snag some of our snacks when she comes through. The BN Commander has done a little gaming in his youth, so he likes to come in, wave around a sledgehammer, and tell me I should dock them XP for not showing up on time.

    Frankly, it's annoying as fuck. We've been here for over half a year, and yet the novelty of cruising through and messing with the geeks hasn't worn off much. I, the main social organizer, am not at the bottom of the foodchain when it comes to rank. I can tell a bunch of people to move on if I need to. But most of the people who like to come in are higher up, so I've got to smile, pretend it doesn't irritate the hell out of me, and hope they go away soon.

    This is the sort of thing I imagine happening in public gaming in other venues. Hence, my hesitance to try it out.

  • Posted By: David ArtmanThe over-riding benefit is that you really can find new players, for your group if not new to gaming itself. The only thing I'd find tricky to pull off comfortably is any kind of minis play--few adults appreciate the tactics of such play, seeing only "toys."
    But minis are toys. The fact that you can play games with them is a side benefit.

    Personally, I'd be more concerned about the urge folks have to pick up and handle something that came in 6 parts and took me eight hours to paint. It's like trying to explain to a two year old that a young kitten isn't a stuffed toy and needs to be handled differently.

    Personally, my experience has been that TT RPGs and similar are the hardest things to play in a public space, simply due to me not being able to concentrate properly. CCGs and boardgames are fine at coffee shops and bars, though. LARPs are a just plain different animal altogether.
  • Just to clarify, actually, the experience I had was great - however, it has not made the prospect of gaming in public substantially more attractive to me. I am very much a closeted gamer, as it were, and playing in public sort of outs oneself. I don't think I would be taken as seriously in my profession if it was widely known that I played board games seriously, much less RP'd on the regular.
  • The posts that speak to issues of negative social feedback and general embarrassment make me glad that I've picked a profession that's hard for most folks to figure out (thus, in demand and folks accommodate eccentricity) and that I took pains to recontextualize what my hobby meant to me in college. Maybe it's playing in club LARPs that did it: suddenly, this was a way to get action from hot chicks in leather and lace! And becoming more confident as both an actor and fiction author meant that, for me, LARP or TT RP became a craft, one which few are good at and which most folks (with whom I'd care to associate) are impressed by, when done well.

    Perhaps it's choice of subject matter? Getting away from D&D and moving to stuff like modern HERO and CoC meant the stories had more potential for "artful" rendition (never mind the highly focused, artful "indie" games I now favor)?
  • edited June 2009
    I am finishing out my Ph.D. in computational biophysics. I have purple hair, because my profession has a proud tradition of weird hair and because it's a job perk in general of being a theorist. I also play RPGs in public, as well as traditional card games, board games, and so on.

    I can tell you from personal experience that, statistically speaking, nobody gives a damn what sort of game you're playing. It's not that people can't tell the difference between Settlers of Catan and Agon, it's that they don't care enough about what you're doing beyond playing a game of some kind. My hair attracts significantly more attention than any public activity I have ever engaged in, and that includes building a catapult on the quad while I was an undergraduate.

    Occasionally, someone does decide to be a statistical outlier and ask about what we're up to. This happens substantially more often with the two-player version of Carcassonne than with any RPG ever, and I'm guessing that's because it's a two-player game (so you can play it with your significant other), and it looks like a puzzle of some kind.

    So, if you're nervous and don't want to attract attention, play an RPG with 4 players with normal hair rather than a board game with 2 players with unusual hair.
  • Posted By: Jason Morningstar"The Durham Three: Ruinous Bastards."

    People don't care as much as you think they do. Don't get caught up in your amazing thing - buy stuff and tip generously, don't take up a lot of space during busy times, don't be loud in a quiet place. Just like book club and the knitting circle, which is basically what you are.
    This. You are not special. You are not even particularly unusual. So long as you don't make a spectacle of yourself by shouting, carrying on excessively loudly, knocking things over, or otherwise interfering with the ability of other people to use the space in a typical fashion, nobody cares. The staff certainly doesn't, provided you are as useful a revenue source as a typical group, and the other patrons don't care, because they didn't care about you to begin with.
  • Posted By: EricI'm guessing that's because it's a two-player game (so you can play it with your significant other), and it looks like a puzzle of some kind.
    Good point; I realize I've noticed that, too! But I think it's also a factor of psychology: it's easier to approach a couple of folks and "break the ice" than to "interrupt" a crowd of four or five. But there is definitely an element of familiarity ("puzzle" above): we've been approached more playing CCGs than Icehouse pyramid games, because folks think it's just another card game (or want to talk about bridge, spades, tonk, or poker), while Icehouse mids and six-sided chessboards, Tarot cards, (Gnostica), or glass beads look like something you'd seen in Ten Forward on the Enterprise (heh--or in a Sleestak cave!).
  • The more I think about it, the more I think that it's not so much the activity itself I'd be self-conscious about (ie - role-playing games), but the social weirdness of being part of a large group of people waving and laughing and talking. It seems disruptive. Not offensively so, but still.
  • Posted By: WolfeSo we play in the Battalion conference room.
    Um, just for clarity, because I have been following the Life and Times of Lance D. Allen on DVD release....

    Are you saying that you played 3:16 in an actual combat command center?

    Because, if so, that's definitely style points right there.

    Seth Ben-Ezra
    Great Wolf
  • Also, I've actually thought about designing a game that is meant for public display. Something like a combination of LARP and street theater. Or something like that. Including a way to engage the public as they go by.

    Mostly, it's just been idle thought. But I'm pretty sure that it would involve chalk.

    Seth Ben-Ezra
    Great Wolf
  • Having watched Vampire LARPers attempt to engage passersby, I think that would be a dangerous thing to unleash on the world Seth.
  • Posted By: greatwolfAlso, I've actually thought about designing a game that is meant for public display.
    Do some searching on "microtheater" (and the English misspelling). It's being done.
    Posted By: Bret GillanHaving watched Vampire LARPers attempt to engage passersby, I think that would be a dangerous thing to unleash on the world Seth.
    Funnily enough, I've had precisely the opposite experience, in Vampire, Changeling, Dark Ages, boffer LARPs, and assassin games. In every game in which I've played (one Vamp game was run by Sean Fannon for a spell, to drop a name), the organizers have been very good about approaching non-participants who are curious, about instructing players not to freak the mundanes (*ahem* that's the reason The First Tradition is an actual mechanical rule in Vamp LARPs!), and as representative of the hobby/art to venue owners and/or associated clubs.

    Sounds to me like you have only seen either (a) immature players who don't care how their hobby is perceived or (b) folks who ignore The Masquerade, instead playing "Super Vampires." The only time I've seen anything blatant vis a vis observers is at a con, where no one is really "mundane," so folks cut loose (or cut up) a bit more.

    Anyway... that's an aside, but I have this knee-jerk reaction to folks who stereotype LARP (a) with reference to some high school/college Vamp game they saw one time on campus or (b) as tantamount to furries, on the Freak Scale. Guess which RP format actually gets government funding for the arts in some Scandinavian countries...?
    [/rant] :)
  • Posted By: David ArtmanGuess which RP format actually gets government funding for the arts in some Scandinavian countries...?
    Please say "three-year weekly old-school fantasy campaign".
  • edited June 2009
    I was head storyteller of a Vampire LARP for two years and a player for three, so I don't believe I fall under (a) or (b).
  • edited June 2009
    Posted By: David ArtmanGuess which RP format actually gets government funding for the arts in some Scandinavian countries...?
    That'd be both, of course. Trick question, that one.
  • Accept my apologies, then, Bret. Your post sounded ignorant, to me, based on my (still considerably greater) experience. It's still relevant to this thread (generally), so may I ask you: as a Head ST for two years, in (again, I'd have to presume because you've seen interaction with non-participants) a relatively public venue, what instruction to or constraint of your player base did you provide or impose, to streamline public relations; and if any, how did it break down so badly that you would, in this day and age, claim that any attempt at audience-participation LARP, micro theater, or public-play LARP is "dangerous ... to unleash on the world?" As a follow-up, do you feel this "danger" is a factor of something other than individual maturity, game subject matter, or general presentation/misunderstanding that might be due to things like costuming or props? I am genuinely curious (more so, now, even) how someone with LARP experience in a game system could make the induction that "this LARP had bad public relation experience(s)" -> "LARPs are dangerous."

    Again I reiterate: I have played for years in both club LARPs, coffee shop LARPs, 24-7 public streets and college campus LARPs, and "private" LARPs in parks which are routinely stumbled upon by biker, hikers, and other sightseers. With not one incident of mundane freaking on any notable scale (yeah, nervous laughter is a bit par for the course). Certainly nothing on par with those kids that got shot playing Laser Tag, for instance; or someone calling the cops in a terrorism panic.

    Now, all that said, yep, SOME micro theater is... edgy. Risky to the participants (and any audience member with, say, a heart condition). Which is why they tend to gravitate to locations where likely passersby are "hip" or "non-violent types" or generally mellow folks. Or locations where folks sort of expect anything to happen (e.g. cons, faires).
  • Honestly, it's been so long since I had to explain to anyone what an RPG is, off the top of my head, that when this Romanian guy at the cooperative walks past us to get to the kitchen, I don't know what to say to him. Naturally, play stops completely while he asks what we're doing. If we weren't usually on a time crunch I would think about it for a minute and try to give him an answer (most people, in my experience, at least have a point of reference for Dungeons and Dragons, even if they don't actually know what it is).
    Most of the time, we act like someone has just come in and asked them what the Hell they think they're doing, even if all they say is "say, you guys playing a game or something?" That, and I hate being interrupted - it takes concentration and a little bit of Zen to stay in character for periods of time, and it's kind of abrupt to get back in Mode after each time someone wanders past. The solution for us, in the short term, is to take up this veteran gamer on his offer to join my playtesting; he has a bigger room than the rest of us, and it'd be better suited, maybe, for a private session than phone-booth style in one of the smaller dorms.
    I feel like we need to work on having a space that's more comfortable to play in, and then we can work on changing what kind of space we can be comfortable in.
  • Re: Eric, all I will say is that this has not been my experience, and that I have suffered socially in the not very recent past for having been "outed", so to speak. I think we will need to agree to disagree on the topic of whether one might be damaged by one's activities being generally known to one's co-workers. Sadly, I am in the sort of science where most researchers aspire to be fairly mainstream (and bourgie) socially, with all of the positives and negatives that entails.

    I have, found, though, that biologists and physicists are much more accepting of this sort of thing, which is why I try to hang out with them outside of work.
  • When I was in HS we used to play Battletech and Mechwarrior ( The RPG not video game ) after school hours.. But that's not really public no one was around.
    These days I play RPGs in The Complete Strategist, Fall Church VA. But our gaming is mostly after hours. And it's in a game store so not out of place..
    Yea, RPGs just seem out of place in public.. However I do play boardgames with my daughter from time to time in Panera Bread. Boardgame seem more socially ok, kind of like when you see people playing chess in the park. I don't know why I feel different about them..

    This was a good question made me think about how I approach gaming, not that I am going to suggest to my friends we take our game to Applebee's any time soon..

    Now that I think more about it.. One reason I would not go to Applebee or a coffee shop and play RPGs is that I would be using their space. My boardgaming take 20min to 45min I am not taking up space for hours at a time..
  • My group developed a "do not game around the Wilsons" rule from the onset. "Wilson" being my term, borrowed from Gibson's "Neuromancer" for non-gaming folk. We will play in public venues, but we try and get some privacy and keep a eye peeled for any Wilsons that might misunderstand.

    It can always go wrong, though. Once, at Dragon*Con, we sta in a McDonald's comparing notes for a LARP we were playing in and were discussing hitmen, bombing a section of the hotel, etc (as Evil Geniuses for a Better Tomorrow, we had work to do!) We only later noticed the looks we got from some patrons...but not the policeman.

    At Dragon*Con, I have seen a guy wearing a real Claymore in a mall food court ask a cop for directions to the Orange Julius and the cop just turned and showed him. Atlanta cops on Dragon*Con weekends are obilvious to the weird, God love 'em!
  • I'm not at all embarrassed about playing in public but my thought is why would I want to?

    Seriously...
    When I play RPGs I'm in to play an indepth fun game, that's usually part of a greater campaign I'm GMing. I tend to enjoy GMing for my groups alot, even if I'm not GMing I offer the group use of my apartment for play. Here's why...

    - I'm a bachelor, with enough space for 4-6 gamers plus myself
    - I don't have pets, so no one's bothered or problemed if allergic
    - Comfort: the group can sit on my couch or various other comfy chairs
    - Kitchen/facilities: the group is open to use my full kitchen/fridge as they like, and the bathroom's generally clean and nearby
    - All my gamer stuff: from any book/reference I want, to minis, to things I've collected to make games either more fun or convenient such as hundreds of dice, die tray rollers, tons of office supplies, clipboards, etc...
    - Tech: from using my computer/printer to print characters, to googling something, to using my TV as a screen to show maps and images, to using custom playlists and/or Pandora stations through my sterio speakers for background mood music, etc...
    - No one to take us out-of-game by watching or asking questions
    - play as late as we want
    - easy parking or bus routes to my apt
    - nearby fast food or grocery stores

    I actually USE alot of the tech and gamer stuff to enhance the games and give better immersion into the story and game. Playing outside a "controlled" environment makes that just another challenge to deal with. I'd rather have THAT under control, hence using my apartment...


    So much to enjoy...... Why on Earth would I want to go play in a crappy coffee shop.
    I don't game to be social with non-gamers. I game to enjoy the company of my gamer friends and engross ourselves in our hobby. I can be in public any other time I want to do non-RPG stuff.

    Then again - I also really dislike regular one-shot or convention style games. I also dislike low-immersion or casual gaming. If I'm playing an RPG, I'm freakin IN... Otherwise I'd love to play board games, Magic, or something else geeky... but if I'm gaming - I'd rather have the comforts and all the things that HELP make that immersion work better.

    -kev-
  • edited June 2009
    Wil and I played several weeks of Beast Hunters -- a very violent and fanciful game -- at a food court duing our lunch hours. We had a big bowl of colored weird dice on the table so it was clear we weren't just talking intently and scribbling occasional notes.

    The public thing didn't hamper the quality of the game at all. I had a great time. To get over any lingering self-consciousness, I told myself that people play games in public all the time. Chess, dominoes, scrabble, cards ... hell, I grew up around old Italians and often had to detour around raucous bocce ball games when I was walking in parks.

    Sometimes people would be curious about what we were doing, and I would think back to when I played at SCA and did some fighting demos. I found that ordinary folks were always nice to me even if they were puzzled about why I was dressed in boiled leather and armed with a rattan stick. I'd been coached to plainly and politely explain that I was just playing at a martial art that had an elaborate home crafting component. More often than not, the curious people would pipe up about craft projects of their own or medieval / fantasy books or movies they'd read, or what martial arts they'd studied or whatever the demo provoked in them. It was actually kind of fascinating how unguarded people would suddenly get when they were dealing with someone whose dress was so far out-of-bounds.

    So whenever anyone asked Wil and I what we were doing, we'd explain it as best we could. No one got snarky or contemptuous or fearful of us, and I really enjoyed representing the hobby positively.
  • edited June 2009
    What Johnzo said! Also, regarding the Trollbabe game Clinton mentioned above, one of the benefits I found from playing in the public space (coffee shop) was that it actually provided an environment very free from distractions. We'd showed up to play this game, for a set amount of time, so we focused on it. No TV, computers, or random books to distract. Also it meant we were in a neutral space, nobody's home turf, which I think also had an interesting effect on the social dynamics of play.

    Oh yeah, and the hot goth girl barrista ;)
  • That Trollbabe game was wonderful. I think of it often.

    There's a very hip, classy bar near my apartment. All dark polished wood and low lighting and a pretty upscale menu. One of the bartenders makes a great Manhattan and another is the second best server in Seattle, so I go there a lot. A while back, our regular gaming location was unavailable, so I suggested we meet at the bar instead. This is how it went down:

    Me: Hey, Sarah... is it okay if I push these tables together? I'm meeting some friends here in a bit.
    Sarah: Sure. Do you need any extra chairs?
    Me: Just one. We're going to play a game... we won't be loud or anything, though.
    Sarah: Oh, okay. What game?

    So I told her about Contenders. And that was that. Our group played several games there, semi-regularly. For a while, whenever I went to the bar, she would ask if I needed an extra table or anything. "Are you gaming tonight?" -- like it was nothing unusual.

    I gotta say, someone bringing me bourbon during a game is a wonderful thing.
  • One of the most fun games I've ever played was a live action event in the heart of Sydney within full view of the public.

    It was run as a scavenger hunt as a break from a regular ongoing campaign...hundreds of clues scattered across the CBD, dozens of items to collect, half a dozen teams each with a car, and a four hour time frame.

    Teams were using mobile phones and video cameras to record their exploits and prove their presence at different locations. If they remained in character (appropriately costumed, or speaking in "in-character" accents) while acquiring the clues or token items, they were rewarded bonus points. The game was a typical modern horror scenario, where the setting reflected the real city of Sydney, costumes went from the sedate to some fairly outlandish monster concepts.

    I know there were a few encounters with curious security guards (especially in key locations where clues were found), and at least one dialogue with local law enforcement, but nothing too dramatic. Despite running this in full costume and in full view of the public, I think the local authorities had more important things to deal with on a busy Saturday night.

    It was great for a one-off, but the logistics of organising this on a regular basis would be a nightmare.

    We ran a similar concept in a theme park as well (due to a number of us working at the theme park at the time and using our connections to score significantly discounted entry for fifty players).

    V
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