One man says he’s grateful to shed his “constantly ashamed, constantly wrong, outcast, ostracized” 10-year-old self to return to the present. ,” is a sort of take on “Never Have I Ever,” meant to help us find points of connection with each other. ” When no one stood to relate to the birthday-question poser, a woman asked to give him a hug and a man volunteered to take his place in the center.Victor chose it, he says, because the game “really set it over the edge” for him when he first started playing by helping him to realize he wasn’t alone in his experiences. At one point, we split into smaller groups of five and six and use “sentence stems”—“One time in high school, I ...” or “One time, when I first started dating, I ...”—as a jumping-off point to share anecdotes as quickly as possible.In many ways, the environment feels like a youth camp: Our initial shyness during this exercise gives way to giggles that will settle into a comfort with one another as the night progresses.Everyone here seems open to the experience—it is, after all, a self-selecting group.
Victor, Sara Ness, and one other facilitator named Stephen begin by explaining the only five rules, or “agreements,” governing what happens over the next three hours.All game nights use their own set of rules to create a “safe container” where participants can feel comfortable being vulnerable.(The Austin community recently introduced a “mandatory reporter” at some game nights, whose job is to report to legal authorities if anyone says anything that indicates they may be at risk of harming themselves or others.)As a group, we agree to be present and focus on the here and now; to respect ourselves and abstain from any game if we feel the need to; to conversely “lean into our edge,” or embrace discomfort that we might feel in sharing; to adhere to confidentiality when requested (by default what is said at a game night may leave the room); and finally, to check our assumptions of others and their intentions.It’s a Sunday evening in Austin, Texas, in a calm gray room the perfect size and shape for a circle of around 30 adults.It’s a fairly diverse group, though there are more men than women here.