Homemaking for Gamers: Playing well with others and preventing gaming goods sprawl

September 20 | Guest post by Amelia Newcomer Aldred
By: blendersfunCC BY 2.0

My husband and I are gamers — as in Dungeons and Dragons, dice of the 20-sided variety, and character sheets full of cryptic text like STR = 5. We both strongly believe that a healthy adulthood should include some creative play and gaming fulfills that need. However, we have interests other than gaming and prefer that miniature dragons do not overrun our home. It's a common conundrum — how do you keep stuff for your hobby/scene accessible but not invasive to the rest of your space?

On a nitty gritty, picking-stuff-off-the-floor level, this is also about balancing our lives. I like containing different facets of my life in different rooms and shelves so that I don't feel overwhelmed by any one aspect. I don't want to feel stressed while playing a game because I can see all my work papers next to my character sheet, I don't want to sit on dice when I'm writing at my desk, either.

Here are several solutions to creating a gamer-friendly space for a variety of budgets and styles, arranged in order of difficulty and cost. All of these ideas, while aimed at gamers, can easily be adapted to store any scene accessories.

Level I: Bookshelf + boxes + whiteboard

Amelia and Ben game shelf

One of the easiest methods is to dedicate a bookshelf to gaming books and add a neat little box or bowl for your gaming goodies. This way your game stuff is not perpetually on the coffee table or the floor and your d-4s don't wind up under the couch or doing a sneak attack on your feet when you get up to use the bathroom at night. As you can see, we've also put a whiteboard above the shelf to keep track of scores, draw maps of worlds, take a pizza order, etc. When there is no game going on, the whiteboard is useful for making to-do lists, writing up silly quotes, and explaining our convoluted family tree to new acquaintances. More on whiteboards and their usefulness in gaming later.

Level II: Cabinets + fancy coffee tables

Mike's cabinet

Another easy method is using cabinets. This is the method favored by my friend Mike, part-time villian and full time city apartment dweller. He puts his gaming books neatly behind the solid cabinet doors and displays his self-painted minis proudly behind the glass doors. Easy to access, displays his hobby in a classy way, but doesn't take up excessive room in his small living area. While a cabinet set is a little pricier than a standard bookshelf, it's a common piece of furniture that you could easily buy on Craigslist or at Ikea.

If you don't have a lot of gaming equipment, a coffee table with a lower shelf or drawers is also a convenient method of storing items. You can easily pull out your books, screens etc. and place them on the table and quickly sweep the mess away after your party gets its ass kicked by frost giants.

Level III: Create magical game storage unit!

How about taking a page from crafters and refashion a cabinet into a game station?
For those who enjoy DIY and scavenging there are lots of materials that can be modded or adapted to create custom game storage units.

As previously mentioned, whiteboards are crazy useful for gaming and there are several tutorials on creating whiteboard tables — and teaching supply stores also sell whiteboard tables. If you have small children in your life, the table could double as a coloring table. When entertaining adults, you can easily throw a tablecloth on it.

If you travel to game or need to store your game items on a high shelf, artists' tackle boxes are meant to hold small items and can be easily lifted and carried. My husband uses a tackle box to store his miniatures and it fits easily under his desk and gives me a consistent place to put his stuff and know that it won't get lost.

If you like the old-fashioned look, library card catalogue drawers and apothecary cabinets would make a fantastic storage system for minis, dice, and pencils. This librarian's blog chronicles refinishing a card catalogue cabinet and installing it in the dining room. An old-fashioned writing desk or a tabletop Chinese screen would make an unusual and awesome game master's screen as well as an accent piece for your steampunked living room. If you like hiding things in plain sight, you could use an old book and this tutorial to create a fun dice storage box.

On a small DIY scale, dice towers are a cool gaming accessory that doesn't scream "I'm a nerd!" to your friends and family. If you don't know what they are, they just look like a funky piece of sculpture. And if you do, it's like a secret handshake.

Level IV: Geek Chic and Geek Carpentry

Photo courtesy Geek Chic.

The most involved and expensive method is purchasing and building custom gaming furniture. Geek Chic constructs artisan tables that slide open to reveal gaming boards, dice cups, and elegant wine glass holders. I looked over their tables at the 2011 GenCon; their workmanship is stunning and I appreciate that their pieces stand alone as beautiful tables as well as a fabulous game boards.

If you are interested in a custom gaming table but want to make it with your own paws, here is an inspirational website that documents one gamer's quest to create a perfect gaming table, complete with photos and commentary.

  1. Hooray gamer house! We moved from a place with a built-in buffet (lots of cupboards and drawers for storage) to a more standard-issue mass-built apartment. Our big gamer solution was a 4×4 Expedit bookcase from Ikea (actually from Craigslist to save $40 – they are everywhere). The shelves are the PERFECT size not only for gaming books, but also for square box board games (Dominion, House on the Hill, etc). Plus, Ikea has a bunch of baskets and cupboard doors that fit with the Expedit for more storage.

    Also, after four years of lust at Gen Con and a super healthy fund of wedding gift money, we have put money down on an Emissary table from Geek Chic. Huge, heirloom, lifetime investment, but we are so excited. Thus far, the customer service has been top notch. If you're ready to plunk down BIG BUCKS for some serious quality and workmanship, you won't be disappointed.

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    • The Roleplaying Bookshelf in our library is also a 4×4 Expedit! One day I want to get the drawers insert so I can store all the dice and old character sheets in it, too. However, I fear it has become too full of books to accomodate accessories! Yeah, we have a LOT of roleplaying books…

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  2. The Level II cabinet: be still my heart.

    Someday I'll have some Geek Chic, or persuade the woodworker family members to help me create something even more custom. But that has to wait until I have a little more room … the house can only sustain one table right now and I gotta use that for eating.

    But I hadn't thought of a devoted gaming cabinet, right now all our stuff is living on bookshelves, but I can maybe squeeze a cabinet against a wall somewhere …

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  3. As a gamer myself I just had to say that the whole sneak attack with a d-4 has SO happened to us! Along with night-time attacks with orcs… some of which did NOT survive, and others drew blood. O.o

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  4. I already have part of my gigantic bookshelf dedicated to rulebooks and folders of character sheets, but I hadn't thought of a bowl or some other container for my dice. It certainly would reduce the amount of time I spend hunting for my dice bag before a session.

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  5. Our solution was to convert a bedroom in the basement into a geek-heaven gamer room and leave the upstairs relatively untouched. We can still have company over who may not be totally on-board with role-playing games and have our little gamer paradise downstairs.

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  6. Cool post – does anyone have any ideas for board gaming geeks? HUGE heavy game boxes (Agricola for example), taking over our house!

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    • I can definitely recommend the Ikea Expedit for board games as well! It's doing double duty for RPG books and game boxes (Dominion, Agricola, House on the Hill, Catan, etc) and is great. The only issue is that some longer boxed games won't fit. I've seen it done where folks will intentionally leave out one of the vertical dividers to make a longer section.

      Check out Boardgamegeek.com (if you don't read it already); they often have threads about game storage.

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    • this may be sacrilege for some…but most games are really inefficiently packaged.

      we have a set of small (4" or 5" square), labelled drawers that hold our game pieces (one drawer per game – even monopoly with all it's money, properties and hotels fits in a single drawer), and then all the card sets (pictionary, etc.) shelved, and the game boards stacked. the last part will be much more functional when i get around to labelling the folded outsides of the boards =) otherwise, it's great. obviously doesn't work for everything (dominoes and cards are very efficiently packaged to begin with), but it's easily halved the space our games take up.

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  7. In the vein of "keeping your hobby from taking over your house," my husband and I are whitewater kayakers, which as you can imagine, requires a lot of boats, paddles, helmets, cold water gear, and so on and so forth. We store most of the smaller gear in big storage bins. They keep things contained on our patio, can be carried easily to the back of the car, and keep all the river funk contained instead of carried dripping across the carpet.

    That method also works well for camping gear, ski gear, etc.

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