A Beginner’s Guide to (and Gentle Reminder of) Social Etiquette at Local Gaming Stores
This is a guide intended to help new players understand how to behave at Friday Night Magic (FNM), and a reminder to those of us who are fairly experienced that there is always more you can do to help make the store a nicer place to play.
In this article, I am going to use Magic events, specifically FNMs to help provide context, however the following general advice can be applied to most –if not all– social interactions at local gaming stores, including high-end events like Preliminary Pro Tour Qualifiars (PPTQs) and going all the way down to casual Commander hangouts.
Magic: the Gathering events such as Friday Night Magic (FNM) are one of the main ways in which we Magic players come together to socialise and play. It’s a meeting hub, tournament and social event all rolled into one. It’s where old players go to have fun, experienced players go to practice, and new players go to first learn how to play the game.
As such, it’s important that as a community, we all work together to make it an inviting and fun place to be.
There are, of course, rules in place to make sure that the events are fair and people behave in a respectable manner. However, there are a few basic things that the Magic Tournament Rules (MTR) doesn’t cover, certain etiquette for example, which you won’t be punished for, but which can really make a huge difference to the atmosphere of the store and the attitudes of the players. Today, I’m going to go through 8 important tips that we can all follow to ensure the best play experience possible for yourself, and everyone else involved, at a local games store (LGS).
1. Tidiness & looking after your space
A better play space makes for a better play experience!
During and after an event, there will always be mess. Between empty drinks cans and packets of crisps that people have grabbed for a snack between games, old pieces of paper with scribbled out life totals on them, empty packs of sleeves and other detritus that becomes scattered around, it can make tables look really uninviting and messy.
A clean store can really make all the difference, so when you are playing, try to make sure that at the end of the match, everything you had with you or used during the games leaves the table along with you. If it’s rubbish, take it and put it in a bin, or in your bag until you leave the store later. Don’t leave it on the table and make it the tournament organiser’s (TO), judge’s, store owner’s, or next person to use that table’s problem.
When putting rubbish in a bin, sometimes at large events it can get overfull as well. If that’s the case, don’t add to the problem by balancing your rubbish on top, but compress what’s there so there aren’t empty pack wrappers flying off the top of the bin onto the floor and making a mess every time someone walks past it.
Finally, think about the furniture. Furniture cost and maintenance is a large expense for any store, and by mistreating it, you will cause problems for the owners. Swinging on chairs and sitting on tables can and will cause damage, and potentially even accidents if someone happens to walk behind you while you’re leaning back, so please take care.
2. Good manners make all the difference
And they cost us nothing!
It may seem simple, but some people forget that manners are really important, even in a casual environment like FNM. Remember that not everyone there has the same level of experience and it’s an event that caters to many different kinds of people and personalities, so try not to say anything even among your friendship group that might be upsetting to someone else.
When you sit down for a game, it’s good manners to greet your opponent if you don’t know them, ask their name and maybe even have a friendly chat before the game starts. Everyone is there to socialise and enjoy themselves, and is spending their free time on Friday night to do so, so it’s nice to get to know your opponents a little bit, as they are the people you will be interacting with most throughout the night. You can make your own experience, and others’, much more interesting and, if they happen to be new, informative by using it as an opportunity to chat and relax.
By propagating the use of good manners as the normal thing in a store, you will make the play experience better all round, and it could mean the difference between someone returning to play there again, or not.
3. Preregister and turn up early
There’s always a lot going on in the background, and on the day!
This one is something that doesn’t usually occur to most people. Preregistering is one of the things you think about for win-a-box events, prereleases and PPTQs, but rarely does anyone consider it for FNM. The fact is, though, that for the TO all these events are run exactly the same way, so having prior knowledge of how many people might be there can help them to organise it in a better layout or prepare extra tables if need be. If your TO runs preregistration on their website, or has a Facebook event set up, just taking ten seconds to go to the page and click ‘Going’ can really help out. If everyone suddenly turns up without warning, it can be stressful at start time when the TO is trying to register everybody and organise the store at the same time.
On that note, turning up five minutes before the event is due to start isn’t ideal. Obviously, it’s Friday night and people are leaving work, and the roads are busy, but if you can turn up a little early it can make a huge difference. If everyone is registered before the start time, then the event runs a lot more smoothly, so all the players get out on time at the end. This is crucial for those who have to catch the last bus or train out of town, and might have to drop the last round if the event doesn’t run on time. It’s horrible when people feel rushed or have to quit early because the event began late. Additionally, finishing on schedule means the TO can clean up, lock up and get home at a reasonable hour.
Again, it may not seem like much but it will make a big difference to the smooth running of the event and the timings of the rounds, which makes everyone’s lives a lot easier.
4. Be mindful of your personal prejudices
Treat others the way that they want to be treated
I won’t go over this too much as it’s a pretty obvious thing, but we live in a diverse society and out in a public setting like FNM, it’s not on to treat people badly for any reason. I don’t only mean based on race or sexuality or any of the obvious characteristics that people are sometimes singled out for, and I don’t only mean in an outwardly offensive or deliberate way either. Most people won’t realise how someone else could feel, because they haven’t been in that person’s shoes. That’s true for anyone, even those people who are trying to be well-meaning in their treatment of others.
It’s very easy to treat someone badly without realising. If you’re playing against someone younger than you, which is very likely at this kind of event, it’s easy to be patronising without meaning to, or treat them like a kid, which they might not like. In the same vein, when playing against a woman, it’s easy to adopt the mentality that ‘she’s a girl’ and treat her differently because of it. You might not mean to do it, and it happens in people’s heads more easily than they realise, so try to make sure that you aren’t accidentally upsetting someone by differentiating how you deal with them.
5. On the matter of elitism…
Not everyone knows everything about Magic, or wants to!
This is something that tends to happen on a store-to-store basis. When you have a few Magic shops in the same city, the playerbase tends to gravitate to one shop or the other depending on their experience, and one becomes known as the ‘tryhard’ store, while the others tend to be more casual. This in itself isn’t a good thing, because it can be damaging for the store, but it usually always happens; people flock to the FNM they feel suits them the most, and the competitive players will end up together.
In such a ‘tryhard’ environment, it’s easy to forget that new players won’t know that it’s usually quite a competitive FNM. If someone you don’t know turns up to the store, it can be difficult to switch from PPTQ-grinder mode into a more friendly and welcoming attitude, but it’s important to try and do so, because otherwise that person could be unintentionally made to feel unwelcome. Even if your store isn’t always the place the more casual players tend to go, remember that we all have different amounts of experience playing MTG and it’s important not to make assumptions.
If you are a new player, it’s okay to say that you’re new and need help. Very few people are elitist on purpose, the most experienced of us just have their priorities different than other players, so it can be hard to bring themselves out of that mentality to focus on the fun of the game, particularly if they don’t realise their opponent hasn’t played many events. This brings me onto my next point:
6. Different players have different priorities, and different goals
Not everyone wants to end up on the Pro Tour
Magic is a game that has many different ways to play, and sometimes it can be hard to understand or respect the way others enjoy it. For a PPTQ grinder, playing Commander around the kitchen table would sound like a waste of time, but for that Commander player, they can’t imagine dedicating the time and effort to Magic that the grinder does.
As I mentioned earlier, FNM is a hub where all of these kinds of players come together and play in the same space. It’s important to respect why your opponent plays, and just because they enjoy the game in a more casual or less casual way than you, doesn’t make their choice any less valid. Even if you don’t understand it, being courteous about it can massively improve the atmosphere for everyone, even if it’s someone you wouldn’t normally get on with.
Of course it’s also important to remember that FNM is Regular Regular Enforcement Level (REL), so even if you personally are there to try out your new sideboard, it is the kind of level where new players are expected to begin playing the game, or where casual players come to hang out, and it’s important to respect that. At Competitive REL events like PPTQs, you can expect to have a slightly different environment, but it’s still important to be aware that it might be someone’s first time at a Competitive event, and to be courteous and helpful where you can. If you are the new player in this situation, it’s best to inform your opponent that you’re new to it, and they will be able to help you accordingly.
We’re not all friends all the time, but mutual respect is something we can afford to everyone.
7. It’s not all about winning
Win or lose; be nice!
Seems obvious, but at its heart Magic: the Gathering is a competitive game, and sometimes it can be difficult to keep your emotions in check when you lose. Even if you didn’t expect to lose, or it keeps you out of the Top 8, try to remember that your opponent is also a human and don’t be a sore loser towards them. Winning a tight game and then having your opponent become salty and irritated can really spoil the evening for both players.
On the other hand, don’t be an unpleasant winner either. Try to think about how your opponent feels, and if they seem to want to discuss the match, talk to them about how things could have been different, or offer advice; if they don’t want to talk, don’t force them. Don’t sit or stand next to the person you have just played, and loudly boast to your friends about how you just crushed your last opponent, or even being too vocal about how they just got really lucky, and beat you, something like this is never a nice thing to hear, if you were that other player.
Be respectful and enjoy your win, but try not to rub it in anyone’s face.
8. It’s a game, have fun!
At the end of the day, we’re just all here to have a good time
This brings me nicely onto my final point. Along with everything mentioned above, remember that everyone is giving up their Friday night to be there, and everyone present just wants to have a good time and play some Magic.
If, as an inexperienced player, you are ever in doubt, tell your opponent that you’re new and just there to enjoy Magic. We have all been there and the best way to ensure a good play experience is to be upfront about it, so your opponents can help you out and teach you.
If you’re there as an experienced veteran, just make sure you have fun, and so do your opponents, new or old; and in this way, we create a great Friday Night Magic experience for everyone.
Bonus tip: When you shuffle or cut your opponents deck, please be careful, there could be many valuable cards in there. And please make sure that your hands are clean, and certainly not greasy.
Thanks for reading this little article. I hope at least some of it has made a bit of a difference for each of you. In general, it’s only supposed to be some guidelines for the little things we don’t always think about, that really make a big difference in other peoples’ lives. If we all do a little bit more to shore up the areas we slack on, we can make a monumental change between us.
Community Question: What do you think was the most important point raised here? Do you think there are other important things we should do when we are in a gaming store? Let us know in the comments section below!
Thanks for reading,