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Move Over Video Games, Board Games Aren't Dead Yet


The word gamer is pretty much synonymous with this sound.


MONTAGNE: And also the image of someone glued to a video game. But many people are still getting together in real life to play games - board games, card games. And businesses are cropping up to provide venues for old-school gamers. Marielle Segarra has more.

MARIELLE SEGARRA, BYLINE: This is Brooklyn Game Lab, a gaming workshop and store in New York City.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 1: King, you want to start - oh, call the rolls in order I guess. That's how it works.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 2: OK, so assassin.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 1: Boom, I'm the assassin. And I'm going to kill the merchant. I'm going to kill the merchant.

SEGARRA: Who's the merchant?

And this is a card game called Citadels. As one of my fellow players explains it...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 1: You basically just build things for your city using these currencies. The game ends when someone has finally built eight buildings in their city. Do you understand what I'm - are you following?

SEGARRA: I'm not following. Like a lot of people, I played cards and board games as a kid - you know, Go Fish, Monopoly, Clue. But these games - Citadels, Avalon, Settlers of Catan - they're foreign to me.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 1: Architect. Remember the architect was robbed. Is there an architect?

SEGARRA: I'm sorry, I'm the architect.

This is a new generation of games. They focus on strategy and they often require players to role-play, barter and even deceive each other. But one thing they have in common with the old-school board games - they're not digital. They're tabletop games, which means people play them in person, usually at a table.


SEGARRA: Game Lab has some old standbys like Scrabble on its shelves, but most of its games are from this new era. During the day, the store holds afterschool workshops where kids play and modify games. At night, the adults show up to play. Here's Game Lab founder Bob Hewitt.

BOB HEWITT: I know I've had 600 people since we opened nine weeks ago who've walked in and said, like, I've been looking for this, I'm an adult, put me on the list, let me know when we start.

SEGARRA: Game Lab is one of several interactive game spaces to pop up in New York over the last few years. But this isn't just a New York thing, tabletop gaming workshops, cafes and bars are opening in Seattle, New Orleans, even Fort Collins, Colorado. Now, I know what you're thinking - nerds.

WES SCHIERENBECK: If you tell someone you play Dungeons and Dragons, they're like, oh, so you're like a basement dwelling virgin then. It's like, well, no.

SEGARRA: That's Wes Schierenbeck, 22, from Brooklyn and one of my fellow players that night at Game Lab. He says, yes, he and his friends still get stereotyped. But that may be changing. Andy Nealen is an assistant professor at NYU and part of the school's Game Innovation Lab. He says tabletop gaming spots allow newbies like me to play alongside gamers like Wes, people we may have once considered nerds.

ANDY NEALEN: So it just provides this nice little area where people can come together and engage in the shared hobby.

SEGARRA: You might be surprised who's doing just that. I did an unofficial Facebook poll and found out a lot of my friends play games like Settlers of Catan. But they never mentioned their gaming habit, even after years of friendship. Turns out, even my boyfriend plays these games - he hid that from me for a while. Now, after my night at Game Lab, we've got a new hobby in common. For NPR News, I'm Marielle Segarra. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Marielle Segarra
Marielle Segarra is a reporter and the host of NPR's Life Kit, the award-winning podcast and radio show that shares trustworthy, nonjudgmental tips that help listeners navigate their lives.