How to host a successful dorm Gamer Party

So you’re heading off to college soon and really hoping to connect with other gamers in your dorm? One of the best ways you can accomplish this is by hosting a well-planned gamer party that will keep your guests excited, engaged, and entertained all night long. I’ve compiled my best tips to help you organize a gamer night your dorm friends will be talking about long after it’s over, let’s have a look!

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Planning – 1-2 Weeks Before the Party

Gaming parties are  much like regular social gatherings, with the primary difference being that video games will be the central source of entertainment for the evening. In this sense, many of the same rules and courtesies that apply to hosting a successful house or dorm party are also applicable here. You’ll want to begin by picking a convenient date to host the party -- typically Fridays or Saturdays work best -- and send out the invite to your guests well in advance to give them maximum flexibility to arrange their schedules as needed. Usually, 1-2 weeks’ notice is sufficient.

If you’re looking to have over a small number of friends, say four or less, inviting them in-person, on the phone, or via text works well. For larger groups, I recommend sending out the invite electronically, using Facebook or email, so that they can refer back to the party details at any time, and to allow your guests a chance to offer feedback. During this early planning stage, a key component is selecting the few games—ideally, two or three—to play at the party. Last month, I recommended ten excellent ice-breaker games, all of which are sure to entertain a crowd. It’s best to choose games that can be played multiplayer, preferably with 4-players locally (but 2-players is a fine alternative), so that more than one person can play at a time. If you’re unsure what games, or gaming genres, will be a crowd-pleaser, just ask your guests; that way you’ll know their preferences and will likely receive plenty of good recommendations.

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Prepping – Day Before the Party

With your party happening in one day, you’ll want to ensure your dorm is ready for guests. That means taking care of chores like vacuuming the floor, restocking the bathroom, and general tidying up of clutter. Focus your attention on the physical spaces your guests will be congregating, like your gaming area, kitchen, bathroom, and main hallway. Give yourself plenty of time because cleaning up always seems to take longer than you’d expect.

Next, what you want to do is visualize the gaming space, keeping in mind your chosen games. If your selection is focused on casual games like Rock Band or Dance Central, note that these types of games require a lot of space to play, usually a good 6’ x 6’ gaming area. In this case, you may need to rearrange some furniture -- for example, moving back your coffee table or adjusting the position of your couch. You want to try and strike a balance such that guests that are playing have ample space to move about, while those who are spectating have an unobstructed viewing of the gaming. If, on the other hand, your selection of games are all played while seated (like say, Halo 3 or Super Mario 3D World), the most important consideration is having enough seating space around your TV so those who are playing, or spectating, can sit comfortably. If your furniture has limited seating, think about picking up a bean bag chair or perhaps a few floor cushions.

Your last task the night before the party should be to head to the grocery store and buy refreshments. Since your guests will be staying at your place for several hours, you’ll want to get a nice selection of drinks and snacks to keep their bellies full, and their attention on the gaming. I recommend selecting foods that can be eaten with one hand, like nachos, pizza rolls, pretzels, or bowls of candy. That way your guests can eat quick bites between matches, or during loading screens.

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Preparing – Day of the Party

So, the big day has finally arrived. As a result of your excellent planning, the bulk of the pre-party work is already behind you. Your main goal before the party is to do routine checks, like testing your gaming consoles to ensure the audio and video is properly set-up, and confirming your game controllers and peripherals have full battery power (hint—keep spare batteries around just in case). You’ll also want to do a final review of the kitchen supplies to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything, for instance having sufficient ice available, as well as a full supply of napkins and paper towels. After that, give one last look at your email inbox, cell phone text messages, and Facebook event page to make sure you’ve read and responded to any last questions from your guests.

Hosting – During the Party

Now that your dorm gaming party is in full swing, it’s time to show everyone what an excellent host you are. Greet everyone personally that comes to your door, and let them know where they can store their personal belongings like coats, shoes, and so on. Start off by giving every new guest a drink to welcome them to the party, and always introduce new people to the group to get everybody acquainted.

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I usually wait until about half an hour into the party before firing up the video games, to allow time for latecomers to arrive, and also give guests a chance have a drink and converse before the focus turns to gaming. Once the gaming begins, it’s your job to make sure your guests are having a great time. This includes paying attention to their food and drink, topping up bowls and glasses as needed. You’ll also want to keep track of who’s had turns to play the games, and politely ask guests to swap controllers, as needed, to spread the gaming time evenly across the group (and this includes you!). Finally, make sure to gauge the overall mood of the gamers, to see if and when it’s appropriate to switch up the games. Remember, playing the same game for hours can cause fatigue among your guests—or worse, boredom—so monitoring their engagement with the games is crucial for success of your party. Don’t be afraid to pause the action and ask the group if it’s time to play another game; remember, as the host you’re leading the night.
While the focus of the night will be the gaming, keep in mind that it’s okay to switch to other activities to keep your guests entertained. After several hours of gaming, it might be fun to try something new such as playing cards or a board game. If you want to keep with the gaming theme, remember that there are lots of video game-inspired tabletop games out there, like Civilization: The Board Game, Monopoly: World of Warcraft Collector's Edition, or even Donkey Kong Jenga.

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Wrapping up – After the Party

With your party finished, it’s time to clean your dorm room and put your furniture back the way it originally was. It’s okay to ask your friends for some help at the end of the night to tidy up the kitchen, wipe down your controllers, and move your couch back in place. This is also a great time to ask your guests how they enjoyed the party; if the feedback is very positive, perhaps it could become a monthly or bi-weekly event that rotates amongst your friends. Setting up recurring gamer parties is an excellent way to bring you and your gaming friends together for ongoing nights of fun, laughter and enjoyment.

I hope you found these tips useful—and good luck planning your upcoming dorm gaming party. If you have any additional advice for someone planning a gaming party with their friends, be sure to share in the comments section below!