When you buy a new fish and take it home to its new aquarium, you don't just dump it into the aquarium right away. Instead, you take the bag of water that the pet store gave you to get the fish home, and you float that bag in the aquarium for a few hours.
This allows the temperature to equalize, and you won't shock the fish. At least, that's what I was always told when I was a kid.
There are actually a ton of steps to take. But they are all so you don't stress the fish out to the point where it dies.
Gamers are less delicate than fish (thank goodness), but sometimes we still need that acclimatization period when dealing with new people.
I'm gearing up to run an L5R game, as you may know. At least one of the players doesn't know most of the other players, so I'm trying to schedule a "Bag of Fish" day, where the players can meet and hang out in a stress-free environment.
I'm probably going to throw on some chanbara films, hopefully some that are thematically appropriate for the game we're hoping for. I have a few in my Instant Video library - the first of the Zatoichi films, for example. Probably at least one Kurosawa film. Ran and Throne of Blood are both very good choices for political games. Kagemusha has been a favorite for a long time, too.
But it's a good low-stress way for players to meet one another and start to figure out what sort of (out-of-character) relationships they're going to have with one another, and how their interaction is going to go.
I didn't used to do this, and it often led to stilted and awkward role-play for the first few sessions as players who didn't know each other tried to figure out who each other were both in and out of character.
I'm really excited about this game, and I really don't want it to come to a screeching halt because one (or more) of the players isn't relaxed and comfortable and into it.