I most enjoy playing games in a comfortable environment, amongst my friends. With a group of people you know and can trust you have a freedom to explore and I natural ease around gaming that is conducive to a much more productive and hassle-free session. A nice warm house with a good music system, adjustable lights and easy access to take away food is, now, pretty much a must.
I used to relish playing with new people and strangers, up to a point, anxiety permitting. The atmosphere around conventions and game stores has changed over recent years though in a way that discourages this kind of pick-up-and-play as a way to find new people and make new friends. The mood has become hostile and fraught with danger. Especially for someone like me who has fun with transgression and horror.
A stranger today isn’t so much a potential friend or player, as a potential minefield. Things like ‘X-cards’ can throw a spanner into the best-laid plans and you never know what someone is going to take offence or umbrage at. I am resentful that this has happened in a hobby I have always considered welcoming and open to anyone and everything, but that’s the state of the hobby and society as a whole now.
Where dyed hair and piercings used to mean ‘Cool! One of us!’ now it’s like stripes on a wasp or a poison arrow frog. Warning, stay away!
The more comfort and control you have in your environment and players, the better things seem to go. You have an unspoken social construct, know each other well – and each other’s limits – and I’m especially finding the ability to control and use sound and light to be a boon – as well as easy access to players to a smoking area to minimise disruption!
Access to spirits doesn’t hurt either!