One thing we’ve learned over the years is that hungry gamers are grumpy gamers. We’ve also learned that a good food experience makes for a better night than an utterly forgettable one.
Food for Thought is a series where we talk about food at the table.
The sociality of food
Game day is just around the corner. You’ve got all your gaming accessories packed, your character sheets ready and you’re ready to have a great night. Thing is, you get off work at 5. Do you stop by the nearest hamburger joint, grab a bag and head over? Do you stop at the grocery store to pick up drinks knowing that there will be food when you get there?
Where and how does food fit into your night?
Finaira: Good friends help you feed your friends
Each game group is different when it comes to the treatment of food at the gaming table. I’ve been at games where the host provides all food and snacks, games where everyone brings potluck, and games where everyone is left to fend for themselves. But in all of this, I’ve learned that eating is a social experience and how a person eats with their gaming group will affect a lot of the dynamic therein.
When I’ve been to games where I fended for myself, eating becomes rushed and furtive. I didn’t eat because it’s fun or delicious, I ate because I needed food to avoid hunger and grouchiness. Eating became disruptive to game. The game table doesn’t have room for the spare food and taking a break to order pizza annoys people. The food is often greasy and unhealthy. Here, the social aspects of eating have been sidelined, toned down or outright thrown away.
I didn’t realize how much I hated bringing my own meals to game until the gaming group I played with changed. It started as the hosts’ responsibility to provide most of the food. Because I often left work at 5 and game was at 6, I didn’t have time to stop for food, let along decent food. And since I liked my friends, and they apparently liked me, feeding each other was just something we did. And then it changed again. Because it isn’t fair to the host to have to feed everyone every week.
So it became a pot luck. Everyone chimed in with what they were bringing (main, snacks, drinks or dessert) and brought what they enjoyed or thought everyone would enjoy. Game wouldn’t start until 7pm because the first hour became an unwinding social event. I had just gotten off work and now I got to have a relaxing dinner with my friends. Talk about the weather, local events or the last game. In other words, bonding. Game nights stopped being just about gaming, but became about friends and being sociable. Gaming was just the after-dinner fun for the evening.
By making dinner time a social event, game became enjoyable. We learned more about each other through food and feeding each other than we did by making characters and playing with each other. We had the time to share crazy youtube videos or relate amusing anecdotes about our week without feeling like we were being rushed or interrupting. Eating together gave us the opportunity to feel like friends just doing things friends did with each other.
It also let us practice our baking, cooking and food knowledge skills. Want to cut back on sugary drinks? There are ways around that! Someone has food allergies? Well that just means spending time finding exciting new recipes! We learned to move into trying food we would never have made without the joy of cooking for others.
Eating can be a social act. And when treated as one, it can change your entire day.
Kim: Make your diplomacy roll and take a +2 bonus for those cheesy pastries.
Oh, food. Food is the best.
Finaira and I have played in the same gaming group for years, so her evolution from “fend for yourself” to “potluck” follows my own. I think it was the shared experience of eating together coupled with the shared experience of gaming together that taught me that eating can be a social event that transcends the need to overcome a grumbling tummy.
Eating isn’t an activity that happens around the game; it can enhance the game. The act of eating before game means that we can get socializing done but there’s a distinct cut-off point that makes it clear when game should begin. During the game, the snack table’s presence reminds us that it’s okay to take a break to think about things or stretch, which in turn let’s us come back to the table feeling refreshed and ready to go full-throttle. Afterwards, during the post-game wind-down, dessert and cleaning up gives us time to go over things that went well or poorly.
I’m so used to having food as part of my gaming experience that, these days, I’m a little disappointed when food is waved off. I guess I understand how others might see food as a hurdle to overcome so you can get to gaming, but it’s like treating conversation with a friend at a restaurant as a hurdle to eating.
Words from the peanut gallery
How do you view food at the gaming table? Are there certain kinds of food that enhance your gaming experience?