When I first moved from New York to Los Angeles, my biggest worry was the toll it would take on my social life. “But I have become accustomed to drinking constantly, often until 3AM on a Tuesday, eating french fries, then walking home and sleeping away the shame. How will I survive?!” I wondered. Bars in LA stay open ‘til 1 at the latest, and I don’t know if you’ve heard, but people drive a lot in LA. And according to the powerful It’s Important That You Stay Alive and Also Not Kill Other People lobby, drunk driving is not something you should be doing. So I was concerned. About that, and my ability to get a sunburn from little more than a 75 watt light bulb. But mostly it was the social life. In New York, everything is built around drinking. You could be planning your grandmother‘s 95th birthday party, and chances are when making the arrangements someone would suggest…”I don’t know, should we just have it in a bar?” LA is not the same. Getting drinks is an option, not a default setting. So what did I do to fill the new Jack Daniels-sized hole in my life? Easy. I started having game nights.
Game nights are like hanging out at bar with your friends, except cheaper and more fun. You can still talk, laugh, and party it up, but when your buddy launches into a monologue about the trouble he’s having with his girlfriend that everyone agrees he should’ve broken up with two years ago, instead of listening, you can say “So, who’s up for some Pictionary?!” He’ll probably keep talking, but at least he’ll be drawing a picture of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich while it’s happening. And it’s a great way to meet new people. You invite your friends, tell them to bring someone else, and pretty soon you have five or six new pals, something that’s pretty hard to accomplish in most cities. I can honestly say I’ve made more friends at game nights than anywhere else in LA, and that includes a “Free Money for Pals” campaign I tried at the local Farmer’s Market all last summer. But a good game night isn’t as easy as tossing out Chutes and Ladders and calling up a few buds. Planning them is an art.
Here’s what you need:
1) Single People
There are breast men, leg men, and butt men. I, however, am a Catchphrase man. A girl who can effortlessly get a crowd to guess the phrase “You Had Me at Hello,” then deftly pass the beeping disc to her opponent before the timer goes off, well I’ll take her over Jessica Alba anyday. Mostly because I don’t totally know who Jessica Alba is, but I feel like if I admit my real heart throb is Joan Rivers, people will get creeped out and stop reading. But seriously, game nights are the new singles nights. “Can I buy you a drink?” has been replaced by “Can I buy a house on Park Place?” Playing a few board games let’s you gauge a person’s sense of humor, intelligence, camaraderie, and if you’re playing Cranium, ability to mold Playdough into a park bench. Also, giving things a flirty little subtext makes any game more fun. Except Twister. That can lead to boners. And one ingredient a successful game night does not need is unexpected boners. Believe me.
For some reason it’s impossible to play a game without Peanut M&M’s nearby. Also, did you know that if you win, the calories don’t count? It’s true. Ask any doctor.
3) Games that Involve Yelling
Game nights are often timid at first. “Oh me, I don’t really want to win, it doesn’t matter. Let’s just have fun. Tee hee.” But throw out some raucous games like Pit or Charades and pretty soon even the sweetest little dove will be ripping someone’s face off. And that’s the point, right? Faces being ripping off? (What?! You’ve never played Pit?! How are you still living?)
Come on, we’re not nuns.
5) No Apples to Apples
Fuck Apples to Apples. It’s the worst game ever. It should change its name to Arbitrary Guesses Based on Uninteresting Suggestions, because that’s what it is. Also, I don’t particularly endorse Trivial Pursuit for game nights. It takes a long time, and can embarrass people who feel like they don’t know obvious facts and information. And by people, I mean me. I fully encourage Trivial Pursuit nights, but think they should be their own animal.
6) Someone Who’s Insane About the Rules
Here’s the thing, deep down people are lying, cheating monsters. Not devious, they wouldn’t look at your poker hand while you’re in the bathroom, but if they can subconsciously give themselves a little advantage by turning over a card slowly, or passing on a hard clue one too many times, they will, because it makes life easier. Which is why you need a hawk at your game nights to make sure no one screws around. You don’t want that person to be you, because holy cow is that person unlikable, but still, you need ‘em around to keep order. And they supply the nice little touch of insanity that makes a night exciting.
What? You’ve never played Anomia either?! Seriously, how are you living?