- You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you. Walt Disney
Host a Game Night
Here are five tips I'll pass on to you in case you're thinking of hosting your own game night.
For the first party Mike and I ever tried to host after we got married, we invited a bunch of people and then bought and made a whole bunch of food. Only one person showed up. After that experience, every party we've hosted has been a potluck, where we ask on the invitation that each person or couple bring a side dish or drinks, and then we make a few things ourselves. I use Evite, which allows me to create a list of things people can sign up to bring (I usually list non-alcoholic drinks, alcoholic drinks, chips and dip, veggies and dip, other appetizers / side dishes, and dessert). This works well for a number of reasons -- the amount of food is more or less proportional to the number of people who show up, and people tend to bring foods that are easy to eat while playing games and easy to grab between rounds. It also lets people know upfront that there will be food. Mike and I provide serving utensils, plates, silverware, napkins, glasses, ice, and water, as well as whichever food we've made.
Prepare your space
We rearrange our living room furniture before every game night and bring in dining room chairs to fill out a circle of seating. We try to make sure there's enough seating for everyone and that everyone is reasonably close to a flat surface to set plates and drinks on. We have a stack of coasters on each of our four end tables so people don't feel weird about setting their drinks down. We clear everything off the coffee table so that game boards or cards can be set down. We put our dining room table against the far wall for food, and set up a counter for drinks in the kitchen. Mike is good about picking background music that keeps things upbeat without being distracting.
Don't plan to start games for at least an hour
We had a party this past weekend that started at 7pm, and we started our first game at 8:30pm. First of all, most people show up late because they don't want to be the first one there, so by now we expect people to start showing up about half an hour past the start time. (This may be a regional thing.) Secondly, people are introducing themselves to new people, catching up with others, and filling up on food. They want to stand or sit and talk for a while before they're ready to get in game-playing mode. It's like your standard cocktail party, where you're snacking and chatting with people, but then eventually people start getting bored of small talk, and it's the perfect time to shift to a game.
Consider your guests' comfort level and abilities
I put this separate from choosing games because this is something you may need to gauge as the night goes on if you don't know all of your guests well. Some games that you may be comfortable playing with your closest friends -- like Cards Against Humanity or Dirty Minds -- can make other people uncomfortable or even offended. Other games, like Guesstures / charades, that require one person to stand up in front of the entire group, may not be enjoyable for people who are very shy or who don't know many other people there. Also, if your group contains a wide range of ages or education levels, consider whether anyone would have such an advantage or disadvantage in a particular game that it would stop being a fun experience.
The first game should accommodate a changing number of players
There will inevitably be people who show up late, as well as people who can only stay for the first hour or two. It helps if you start with a team game like Pictionary or Scene It? where people can join or leave at will without throwing a wrench in the game. After the first game, late guests are less likely and people who haven't left generally settle in for the next game, so you don't have to worry as much about fluctuating numbers.