Believe it or not, you can play games with other people. Like people in the same room as you.
All it takes to throw a party centered on the greatest thing in entertainment since Pictionary is a bit of effort and a little planning.
Before The Party:
Day Before – Pick out what games to play. Ideally, you've got one game in mind, but it's considerate to have a back-up or two that people can vote on. Keep the selection limited to three – a fighting game, a racing game, or maybe a shooter – so you don't spend half an hour arguing over your sizable selection.
Do: Pick a single-player game if 1) you're willing to pass the controller and 2) can put up with backseat gaming from your guests.
Don't: Make people watch you play a single-player game in silence.
We Recommend: Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Dead Space, Tales of Vesperia, Gears of War 2
Above: Ico is a strangely good game to play with people, as long as you can stand backseat gaming. Bully, not so much - and you can forget Fable II. That multiplayer camera is murder on the eyes.
Night Before – Buy (or make) the refreshments. Trips to the grocery store always wind up taking longer than you think. It's better to get it out of the way early than to have to postpone party start-time because you're held up at BevMo.
Do: Serve things that can be eaten quickly with one hand – usually during a loading screen (pizza rolls, hard candies, gamer grub).
Don't: Serve anything that will leave stains on your controllers or splooge all over the floor (Cheetos, pizza, mochi ice cream balls).
We Recommend: Sushi, M&Ms, corndogs
Morning of – Clean both the bathroom and the space you're using for the party. That means restocking toilet paper and (gasp!) vacuuming carpets. This seems like common sense, but I can't tell you the number of times I've gone to a party and had to clean off a couch before I could sit down. Or worse – got a gummy bear stuck to my sock because somebody hadn't cleaned the floor.
Do: Get yourself some baskets or plastic bins or whatever for easy storage.
Don't: Forget the bathroom. I was at a party where a guest came back from the john and asked, "Do you guys have a cat?" The host said no, and the guest replied: "So… all that hair on the floor in there is yours?!" Gross.
We Recommend: Angel Soft toilet paper, Dirt Devil dust buster, shoving magazines under your bed
Hour Before – Make sure all your gaming equipment is laid out and ready to roll. Untangle controllers, plug in whatever needs to be plugged in and test the sound and video. Nothing is more of a drag than watching the host fiddle with his component cables for twenty minutes or finding out your controller needs to be charged up for an hour before you can join in. And if for some reason you're using a peripheral like the Xbox Live Vision Camera or the PlayStation Eye, test it before the guests get there.
Do: Put controllers on the coffee table.
Don't: Put controllers on the floor – thing get stepped on and broken. And it looks messy, too.
We Recommend: Zip ties for keeping cords untangled, swearing at the TV before realizing it's not plugged in
Ten Minutes To Go – Boot up the console and break out the snacks. The idea is to have everything ready to use as soon as people get there instead of having to spend 20 minutes or more "getting settled," while everyone waits.
Do: Put food in a central location instead of a corner or back in the kitchen.
Don't: Put food on consoles.
We Recommend: Plastic bowls and cups for serving. Keep a sharpie handy to write names on the cups.
At the Party:
Mind Your Guests – These are basic rules of party-throwing. Get up and greet everybody that comes through the door (don't just sit back in your beanbag and shout "Hi!"), make sure everybody's got a drink to start with and introduce people who don't know each other.
Do: Hand people controllers until you run out.
Don't: Play loud music.
Keep the Drinks Coming – You should have fun at your own party, but as the host your first concern is your guests. If you notice someone with an empty can or cup, offer to get them a refill. If they don't want a refill, scoop it up anyway and toss in the trash. It'll save you clean-up time later.
Do: Have a spare two-liter ready to open when the first few run dry (or go flat).
Don't: Fix people plates of food. It's a time-waster for you, and they can do it themselves.
Handle Problem Guests Sooner Rather Than Later – I'm assuming you've exclusively invited
cool people gamers to this party; but if you didn't or somebody's brought along their non-gamer girlfriend, try to be nice. Smile, introduce the interloper newcomer to everybody and ask them what they like to do for fun. Then make sure they sit next to whoever brought them so they have somebody to talk/complain to.
If you have one of "those guys" at your party– the guy who hogs the controller, doesn't understand how to lose (or win) graciously and sulks if he gets out-voted on what game to play – make sure you keep him distracted so he doesn't piss off other guests. Talk to him about how his life is going, ask for his help in the kitchen (even if you're just going in there for ice), or engage him on a rant about the latest game review he disagreed with.
Do: Make it a point to talk to everybody.
Don't: Secretly hope that this will be the one day "that guy" doesn't whip your ass in Halo and then do a victory dance around the living room. Because he will, and you invited him – so in a way, you're just asking for it.
Left: Of the many gamer parties I've thrown since the Wii came out, I don't think I've ever seen anybody get up and do this. Maybe I need to invite more models.
Have Cleaning Supplies on Standby – Spills happen, controllers might get Cheeto'd, or maybe you picked a snack that exploded down the front of your friend's shirt. Whatever happens, be ready to apply cleaning fluids to the site of the mess and don't make whoever's responsible feel bad. Unless they upended an entire two liter on top of your PS3 – then you can punch them in the face.
Do: Stock up on club soda and carpet cleaner stuff like Resolve.
Don't: Wipe at stains with paper towels; you're supposed to dab.
Be Ready to Improvise – So you're all having a great time beating each other down in Brawl, but Johnny Buzzkill over in the corner is whining that it's getting boring. It's too soon to end the party – and everyone else seems to be enjoying themselves – but Buzzkill won't quiet down. As the gracious and most awesome host, you've got to do something. You could kick him out, but it'd be better to switch things up a bit with the game by making special rules or looking up drinking games on the Internet.
Do: Try what people suggest, even if it sounds dumb. You might have more fun than you think.
Don't: Say "That's dumb," and then stubbornly not do anything. That makes you look like an ass.
After the Party:
Left: Put games back in their boxes or at least in a CD jacket.
Ask Your Guests to Pitch In – Gamers (usually) aren't New York socialites. That means it's completely okay to ask that they throw out their trash before heading out. Just be a good sport and hold open a giant trash bag for them instead of making them schlep to the kitchen. Don't ask them to do dishes, but don't stop them if they offer.
Clear the Controllers from the Carnage – Before you try to vacuum the carpet or wipe down the table, get those controllers out of harm's way. Unplug them from the console and wind up the cord for easy storage on a shelf while you go about cleaning. This goes double for that super-long Wii Sensor Bar cable – that thing is drawn to dust busters like a moth to a flame.
Wipe Down the Controllers – It's a known fact that gamers are plague monkeys. To save yourself from a cold or any other touch-transmittable disease, wipe down the controllers with something antiseptic and not too moist. Do not do this while your guests are still around.
Other Advice From AJ's A-Listers:
Crystal: Don't be afraid to kick people out at the end of the night. After all, it's still your party.
Andrew: If you're doing a Rock Band party, let the singer pick the songs and switch instruments once in a while to keep things interesting. Don't make fun of people who pick a lower difficulty. One time we were playing Panic Attack and this girl was playing bass on Medium while the rest of us did Expert. She saved the band like five times.
Teresa: If you're in a dorm, don't be afraid to let newcomers join, no matter how inexperienced and/or drunk they may be. There are few things more amusing than watching drunk people play DDR. (Just be careful that none of them overindulge and release bodily fluids near anything but a toilet. Ew.)
Brian: If some of your guests want to hang out over by the food instead of gaming, don't cut them off. They'll come around and jump back in when they feel like it.
Michelle: Drunk Katamary Damacy is basically, like, the best thing ever.