NY Times story (with hilarious input from hostess-with-the-mostess Amy Sedaris), are totally optional and offer no opportunity to profoundly embarrass your guests. They help break the ice or push the party past an after-dinner lull. And, in the best-case scenario, they might teach you a whole lot you didn't know about your friends, old and new. Here are a few tips:
If you're planning a structured group activity, let your guests know beforehand. Some folks might not feel like joining in but don't want to spoil your evening, either; this gives them the option to graciously bow out.
Scavenger and treasure hunts can be a hoot, especially if your house is all gussied up for the occasion. Or blindfold willing guests and let them guess objects based on smell or touch.
Conversation games appeal to almost everybody, so long as you avoid touchy subjects. "Would you rather?" is entertaining and doesn't put your guests on the spot (and the Internets make it easy). Or stock up on these fantastic Table Topics cubes, which come in several versions. Some of the questions are silly, and some will make you really think before you speak.
Do you use games to get your party started?
(Image: Jen Siska/Erin & Danny Living Together in Only 500 Square Feet)