Making time for multiplayer video games with friends matters – Polygon

These days, anybody who talks to me about video games hears a key phrase in my lexicon. “Oh, I watched my friend playing that at Gamer Night.” “I have to install it in time for Gamer Night!” “I finally finished it during Gamer Night last night.” Since 2020, my Thursday night has been Gamer Night, and it has changed everything for me.

This is not just me bragging about having friends, although I am very grateful to have them. If you were a lonely kid growing up, like I was, you can probably relate to how amazed I feel to have consistent friendships, let alone a yearslong standing commitment to meet up (virtually) with the same group of people every week. You might be thinking, I don’t have any friends who would want to do that. Or you might be thinking, We’re all too busy for that.

I thought all of those things, too, and not that long ago. Before it became enshrined in my life as a standing weekly commitment (albeit one that any of us can miss, since there are four of us, and Gamer Night is just as fun with three or two), the whole idea of Gamer Night seemed unnecessary and maybe even impossible, scheduling-wise. Before Gamer Night, I had more of a freewheeling approach to playing games. Every now and then, there’d be a cool multiplayer game I wanted to try, and I’d sometimes manage to convince a few friends to play it with me. That would always involve some irritating scheduling shenanigans, and it would almost never happen as often as any of us wanted it to. That was a perfectly fine way to live. But I had no idea how much better it could be.

Gamer Night was born in my own life as the result of organizing a player group for a multiplayer game. It started in the fall of 2019, when two friends and I got super into Destiny 2, which has a lot of three-player co-op activities. This led to us trying some raids, which are more high-intensity cooperative multiplayer activities in Destiny 2 that require six people and therefore a lot of scheduling coordination. In the end, that was far too much of a lift for us all to maintain, but in the process, we landed on a weekly night for four of us who cared most about the idea of getting together consistently in a Discord voice call and gaming together. We chose to call it “Gamer Night” because it was funny. It stuck.

It didn’t take long for Gamer Night to evolve into an even more ideal format. It’s no longer a weekly event for multiplayer games — not necessarily, anyway. It’s still a night for playing games with friends, but that doesn’t necessarily mean all of us are playing the same game. We might be playing four totally different games. Two of us might be playing an Overwatch 2 match together while somebody else watches the match and the fourth person plays Elden Ring. Three of us might watch a fourth person playing Dark Souls, offering advice as needed, or just shooting the breeze about our lives. All four of us might not even play a game at all and instead just watch a Twitch stream of a game and talk shit about it. All of these activities are Gamer Night.

Perhaps the most important part of this is that Gamer Night is only two hours, at least for me. I show up at 7:30 p.m. and I leave at 9:30 p.m. (Tragically, I have found that if I play a video game too late into the night, I can’t sleep — hence the early sign-off for the sake of my sleep hygiene.) Sometimes my friends start earlier or they end later, and as I said before, sometimes one of us can’t be there. But it almost always happens, because the results are rewarding. The point originally was to have a time to play games together, especially multiplayer games, without the scheduling hassle — but it’s ended up being something that has bonded the four of us together even more than when we started, which is impressive given that we all already liked each other quite a bit.

And so I leave you with this directive: Schedule a weekly Gamer Night. It’s two hours — it starts when you’re done eating dinner, and it ends before you need to get ready for bed. You’re making the time to play video games, which is fun, but you’re really making the time to be with your friends, which is even better. You won’t regret it.

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