WHERE you play the game is important. I mean, it’s not as important as having good people, and a good game, but a well-thought-out game space can enhance the enjoyment of any event. Here are a few design principles that I’ve uncovered in the process of creating game spaces in my own home, and in surveying game spaces in other people’s conventions, stores, and homes.
Every devoted gamer has spent time wistfully daydreaming about their PERFECT game room. Here are some ideas to help you design a comfortable, efficient game space in your own home.
Here’s our game space with some important elements labeled.
Think of how much shelf space you need.
Now double that.
Nope, still not enough.
No, you still need more than that.
Your collection of gaming, and gaming-adjacent stuff is likely to outgrow your shelves, so when you’re designing, you’re going to have to think through what happens when you get more shelves. Our game area is part of our open-plan dining room/living room area. We have overflow shelving on the opposite side of the room on either side of the TV. It’s still not enough.
Cheap shelves will bow and buckle under the weight of your books and other supplies, but that might take a few years. The more expensive your shelves, the less frequently you will have to replace them. If you’re in a space and you think you’ll be moving within 5 years, the cheap shelves are probably fine. They almost always disintegrate when you try and move them anyway. If you’re planning on being in place for 10 years, consider the next grade up of assemble-it-yourself shelves. If you’re planning to be in the same game room for a couple of decades or more then find a local carpenter or cabinet maker and ask them about making custom built-in shelves that will house your collection without ever buckling under the weight.
In addition to hundreds of pounds of books, your game space will accumulate props. In our case, hats from our Deadlands campaign, various hyena-related costuming bits, a jester hat that once belonged to my friend James, a bag full of badges from every con we’ve gone to, and so much more. You’ll also need to store notebooks with game and DMing notes, extra dice, board games for when not everyone can play D&D, and other essentials. You should have a plethora of writing utensils and scratch paper at hand for your guests.
I started playing D&D when dinosaurs roamed the earth. Therefore, I spent a lot of my formative years in the 80s playing D&D in dark basements where it could be safely hidden from adults who might get excited-in-a-bad-way about a bunch of kids playing D&D as well as any cool kids that would make fun of us.
Times have changed. D&D is now socially acceptable and maaaybe even kinda cool!
Get your D&D outta the basement! It’s okay if your friends, parents, in-laws, and visitors know you play D&D. Natural daylight helps keep people alert and awake while they’re playing, and is generally better for people than being in a space that is dim and without natural sunlight. Of course, the price you pay for natural daylight from a wall full of windows is that you’re giving up that wall space where you could put shelving, but you have to weigh your tradeoffs.
Chairs are Mission Critical
Give your gamers chairs that they can stand on without breaking. Sometimes the drama calls for standing on a chair. Most importantly, get chairs that are comfortable enough to sit in for 8 hours. That means your chairs might be expensive, but it is SO worth it for the comfort. Before you buy seven or eight of them, buy one (and confirm you can take it back in 48 hours if you don’t like it) and spend 8 hours sitting in it. Have someone else try it as well. Is it comfy? If not, take it back. If the chairs are rickety or uncomfy after an hour, no one is going to care about your shelves, your expensive table, your lovely game space, or your game.
This is worth it’s own post. I’m only going to go into the basics here. You need a table that is big enough to seat 8. You need to buy a home that has a space big enough to seat 8 people. Seriously, if gaming is Your Thing, then go all-in with it. When you’re looking at houses, know how big your table is, with chairs and shelves, and make sure the house has a room with natural daylight that will do.
Our table is a Geek Chic Vizier game table for 8. The center slats come out of the table and we have a lexan grid underneath for wet- or dry-erase markers. Geek Chic has since (sadly!) gone out of business but an upright citizen at Board Game Geek has done the homework to compare and contrast custom game-tables here: https://boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/229564/game-table-manufacturers  and I can’t give you a better or more thorough analysis than that one.
WiFi for the Masses
Some people have a no-electronics rule at their tables. My only advice is to turn off wifi during games. Otherwise, skip this section and carry on.
We like using D&D Beyond so we use computers. Therefore we need wifi. Our wifi was terrible and we couldn’t figure out why, but we did some math.
We have 2 desktops, lights, fire alarms, thermostats, 1 TV, 1 Xbox, 2 work laptops, 2 personal laptops, 2 tablets, 2 personal phones, 1 work phone, and 1 data watch on our wifi. Then our players each bring a personal phone, some bring work phones, and they each bring a tablet or computer, and some have data watches. Our wifi was absolutely inadequate! We ended up having to buy a router that would support a lot of devices. Make a mental note of how many devices you have and guesstimate how many more your guests will bring, then add another 10% on top of that for all the new stuff that will need to be internet enabled, and get wifi resources accordingly.
Having a stash of charging cables and LOTS of plugs is definitely a great way to treat your guests. Consider buying the plug covers that include a USB port. (Look up “electrical plugs with usb ports” on Amazon and you’ll find an abundance of them.)
Easy Access to Kitchen
We bought this house because someone could be in the kitchen and still participate in the game. (Which took a lot of looking!) Being able to get a drink or snack and not miss a word is great! It’s only human to want to bond over food and drink, so it’s an integral part of gaming culture. It’s polite to have a variety of drinks for your guests, and it’s also okay to ask them to contribute.
Health and Safety
You should have, and your guests should know how to locate, the fire extinguisher and first aid kit. Paths to them should be clear and uncluttered. You should also have a well-stocked restroom with plenty of paper, air freshener, and Kleenex. If you have women players, having a few pads and tampons in a plastic box under the sink is kind. Parking is also Always A Thing at most people’s houses. Have enough parking and clearly communicate where and when your guests should park.
Cats (also Dogs!)
Pets are a lovely part of the family and are often welcome in gaming spaces. Make sure your pets are good with having strangers in the house. If not, they need to be safely put up while guests are around. Make sure your guests are good with having pets around (and definitely let people know to bring allergy medicine as needed.) This is Fluffy, aka Giles. Note that he is NOT allowed on the table, but he IS allowed to sleep on my computer bag. He jumps up on the bag without touching the table. I am so amused by his rules lawyering I let him do it.
What about YOUR game space?
While this game setup is great for the games at MY house, everyone’s game table has different wants and needs. What is the most important element of your game space? What’s one thing you LOVE about your game space that really works well for you? What’s something that you can’t wait to CHANGE about your game space?