This weekend, Andrew Lin, a 31-year-old associate VP at a professional services firm from Queens, in the US state of New York, will wed his girlfriend of seven years. Before that, he wanted to throw a common prenuptial bash: a stag do. Strippers, gambling, debauchery? Not for Lin and his friends. They got together for a weekend, stocked the fridge, and played the co-op loot shooter Deep Rock Galactic for three days straight.
“My friends asked me, ‘What do you really want to do?’” Lin told Kotaku. “Obviously, the traditional bachelor party crossed my mind.” But when Lin thought about having a great time, he didn’t picture The Hangover. Instead, he thought back to university, when his friends would all pile into a dorm room, drink, and play games together.
After university, living in different cities, Lin and two of his friends had made time to game together. But it was online, not crammed into the same dorm room. Still, they made it work with cameras and Discord – for a while. “As they’ve gotten married, and one had a baby, we weren’t able to do it as much,” Lin said. “We kind of aimed for my bachelor party to be a last hurrah for everyone.”
The trio rented an Airbnb in Connecticut. One of Lin’s friends flew in from Los Angeles, and the other drove from Boston, bringing their gaming PCs with them. They piled the fridge with booze and ordered delivery for every meal, from Friday night to Monday morning.
“The bachelor party cliché was never our style.”
For the past decade, stag dos have gotten tamer and tamer, as reported in a 2012 feature in The New York Post called “Men gone mild!” It detailed festivities that involve brunch, fishing, and hiking. The average ages of grooms and brides have increased steadily over the years, according to US Census Bureau data, with men now typically marrying around 30 and women around 28. Exotic dancers and binge drinking don’t hold as much appeal to this cohort as to those in their early 20s.
“Millennials seem more low-key,” said Allison Odhner, founder of the party planning service Bach to Basic. Brides and grooms are both choosing stag and hen dos that centre around activities. “It’s not the 21- to 24-year-olds who are going out and raging hard,” she said. “It’s more drinking all day but it’s spread out, rather than drinking to get drunk.”
“For the parties that come to us, they’re catered around experiences as opposed to hanging out and going with the flow,” she said. “People are looking for a more of a special experience.” For a few millennials, that special experience is all about playing video games like the old days.
“I used to go to skin clubs very often in my younger days, so by the time it came around to getting married, I didn’t have much interest in doing that for the bachelor party,” said Julian Legal, 26, of Winnipeg, Canada. “My groomsmen and I are all gamers, so it just made sense to go somewhere we would all be comfortable.”
That doesn’t mean Legal didn’t want a little bit of excitement. His friends “kidnapped” him after his wife dosed him with melatonin and called him out sick at work. “I was then brought to the best man’s place where we drank and gamed until everyone was off work,” the railway worker said.
“We hadn’t had a LAN party in 10 years, so this was perfect.”
The group then headed to PVP Cyber Lounge, a Winnipeg-based gaming bar, where they downed beer, whiskey, and rum, and played Apex Legends, StarCraft 2, and the party game Town of Salem, a favourite of Legal’s. For the next two days, the stag do moved to the best man’s parents’ house, where beer, home-cooked meals, and more Apex Legends, Mario Party, and Super Smash Bros. awaited.
“We hadn’t had a LAN party in 10 years, so this was perfect,” Legal said. “We could all sit in the same room and play like we used to when we were kids.”
A few weeks earlier, in Lake Arrowhead, California, Joshua Williams, a 30-year-old medical claims processor, enjoyed a similar bachelor party. Williams and his friends met at a rental house and played Mario Kart, Mario Party, GoldenEye 007, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 for three days straight. They even played Dark Souls, “where we’d all play at the same time and with each death you’d have to take half a shot,” he said.
In between, they sustained themselves on Costco’s pizza and Chicken Bakes, slow-cooked pulled pork, and “lots of beer.”
“We realised it was harder for us to really hang out, even if it was just to game online,” Williams said. “We thought it would be great to just have all of our friends come together for a weekend to play games like it was summer back in high school.”
“The bachelor party cliché was never our style and didn’t appeal to us,” he said. “We felt that this was a more rewarding experience. That, and our significant others didn’t have to worry about anything.”
While the stag dos detailed above wouldn’t necessarily require the help of a planner, Bach to Basic’s Odhner has planned gaming-themed activities for clients involving virtual experiences. One popular choice is Topgolf, a sports simulation that uses real equipment, sensors, and a large projection screen.
“I always reiterate to groups that it’s about the bride and groom that are celebrating,” Odhner said. “There are ways to make it more special for someone’s last hurrah.”
“With our schedules, some of us could only get a few rounds in online, maybe 30 minutes to an hour,” said Williams. “This way, all of us were able to sit down with each other, no excuses from the outside world, and just play games to our hearts’ content.”
Featured image: Illustration: Benjamin Currie (G/O Media)