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Offline is the new Online

The value of offline connections in our online oversaturated world is growing stronger day by day, as more and more people come to realize that the only part still missing from all our online social networks, is the social one.

Games, as the simplest social tool to connect us in a fun local experience, have always been a part of our culture, and the exponential growth of board games and eSports experiences in the last years are only the start of this offline-first trend:

Welcome to the golden age of board games - brought to you by the internet

Draughts is a funky little café tucked into a railway arch in Islington, in north London. It has exposed brick walls, a bar stocked with trendy craft beers and a selection of comfy chairs. The toast is artisanal and the avocados are smashed. But the most striking thing is the shelves arrayed at the back of the café. They groan with board games – more than 700 of them, according to Russell Chapman, who works there. When it was founded in 2014, Draughts became London's first dedicated board-game café.

All the old classics are there: Monopoly, Risk, Battleship, along with their memories of family arguments at Christmas. But the main draw for the patrons is a new generation of deeper, more involving – simply better – games that have been devised over the past couple of decades. At one table a group of people are playing Pandemic, a tricky, strategy game in which players are cast as doctors and scientists trying to save the world from...


Wall Street’s Latest Secretive Trend? Board Game Nights

The rattle of dice is syncopated but constant.

A dozen or so men sit at different tables, each littered with an elaborate assortment of board game pieces—plastic figures, cards, and tokens. A bowl filled with candy-colored dice sits on one table like a giant assortment of the worst-ever M&M’s.

Although these guys are playing to win, there’s an atmosphere of camaraderie more than combat—no money is wagered—and they walk one another through each round, thinking aloud and discussing strategies. No wonder, given how complex many of the games are. “I could memorize the Torah, or this,” says one man, laughing as he brandishes the brick of a rulebook for Advanced Squad Leader.


Playing board games can make you a nicer person with better relationships

I travel in some fairly nerdy circles. Over the years, I’ve logged serious time playing Settlers of Catan. One of my best friends from high school is a part of a group that has been playing Magic: The Gathering together for more than 20 years. But until recently, I had never heard of America’s biggest, oldest, kindest gathering of nerds: Gen Con, an annual gaming conference held in Indianapolis each summer.

Gen Con features more than a little cosplay, and some online gaming as well—not to mention puppetry programming; a film contest focused on genres like sci-fi, horror, fantasy, and anime; and “nongaming geek centric activities” like knitting, belly dancing, and sword-fighting classes. But at its core, it’s a place for people who really, really love playing board games. Started in 1968 by Gary Gygax, the inventor of Dungeons and Dragons, the convention is a celebration of play—as popular with kids and families as it is with your stereotypical Comic Book Guy.


Life-size versions of popular games like Settlers of Catan are a perennial hit with big and small players, and the convention features everything from classic games like Candy Land or Balderdash to tournaments of Game of Thrones: The Card Game and miniature wargames of Napoleonic battles.


 'Catan’ is the ‘board game for entrepreneurship,’ says LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman

LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman was the special guest at Tech Alliance’s annual luncheon in Seattle on Friday, and he had plenty to say about the current state of technology. But during a lightning round at the end of his talk with tech executive and angel investor Sarah Imbach, we got to the heart of Hoffman’s true passions.

After asking Hoffman, among other things, whether he prefers Android over iOS (iOS!) or scotch over bourbon (bourbon), Imbach asked him to pick between the board game “Settlers of Catan” and “Trumped Up Cards,” the game he created as a response to then-political-candidate Donald Trump.


Games Can Make You a Better Strategist

Play has long infused the language of business: we talk of players, moves, end games, play books and so on. And now we hear often about the “gamification” of work—using elements of competition, feedback and point scoring to better engage employees and even track performance.

Even so, actual games are still taboo in most organizations—the stereotype of the work-avoiding employee cracking new high scores in Minesweeper has given gaming a bad name. And the corporate executive playing games to improve his or her strategy-making skills is still rare. This is unfortunate. We think that games have an important place in cultivating good strategists, and that now more than ever games can give executives an edge over their competition.

First, there has never been a greater need for companies to learn new ways of doing things in response to a complex and dynamic business environment. And second, the sophistication and effectiveness of strategy games at our disposal has risen tremendously. In the past two decades, strategy games have evolved from dull monochrome dialogs to well-designed AI-based apps.

We think that the next generation strategy apps will finally be able to prove a real business case. Just consider some the advantages games have over more traditional approaches in strategy education. Books are great to foster intellectual understanding but are not interactive and do not reflect the reality of busy schedules and declining attention spans. Live pilots are highly realistic but costly, time consuming and risky. And coaching or mentoring approaches have great merits for personal development, but are hard to scale.

Games on the other hand can create an experiential, interactive and tailored understanding of strategy at low cost and in a scalable manner. They allow managers to suspend normal rules in an acceptable way and they provide an effective audiovisual medium for absorbing ideas.


Analytics and board games

Formula D is a simulation of a car race in which players decide which gear their car is in.

Sometimes useful tools for outreach and teaching can be found in unexpected places. That’s particularly true for analytics, since it is an interdisciplinary field that combines aspects of statistics, engineering, economics and psychology. One of the most interesting places I’ve seen analytics concepts appear is in modern board games.

Now, it’s certainly true that the connection between games and analytics has been evident for a long time. For example, the concept of probability was developed in the 16th century by Cardano to model games of chance. Von Neumann and Morgenstern’s “Theory of Games and Economic Behavior,” a foundational book on game theory, is full of examples from chess, poker and bridge. Raiffa’s “Negotiation Analysis,” a classic text for decision support, includes numerous small games and experiments. In Analytics magazine, the “Thinking Analytically” column often features game-inspired puzzles to solve. In other words, the links between games and analytics have been explored by many researchers and have inspired the development of many analytical and mathematical ideas.

When the connection between games and analytics is used for educational purposes, the games teachers and authors select tend to be classics such as poker or chess. These are beloved games, and there is value in the fact that many students are already familiar with how they are played. Instead of spending time explaining the rules, the teacher can spend time explaining the actual analytic concepts he or she wants to illustrate. 


What Board Games Can Teach Business

As a maker of games (when I’m not creating new products for Harvard Business Review), I’m also interested in the lessons they offer us. Can they help us build the skills we need to operate effectively in the real world? Beyond the traditional emphasis on competitive spirit and resilience in the face of bad luck, what more is there to explore?

Take one of the most popular board games of all time and the one most commonly associated with big business—Monopoly. As Mary Pilon’s new book, The Monopolists: Obsession, Fury, and the Scandal Behind the World’s Favorite Board Game, reveals, the game was intended to be a teaching tool.


The initial version, known as the Landlord’s Game, was invented by Elizabeth Magie in the early 1900s to teach players about the evils of monopolies and private land ownership. Over time, as the game spread through word of mouth (with people often creating their own localized boards), its focus shifted away from those progressive political roots. Its central theme became creating monopolies and bankrupting opponents. That’s the game that Charles Darrow, and later Parker Brothers, turned into the juggernaut we all know today.


Local co-op video games bring us closer together

There are no greater moments in gaming than those you share with people you care about. My gaming history goes back pretty far, and I’ve always looked to the games that let me play with my friends and loved ones to fill my library.

Local co-op — also called couch co-op: playing a game sitting with someone in the same room — has been around since the early days of arcade. The O.G.s (original gamers) of yesteryear earned their co-op stripes in 1979, spinning out of control in Asteroids. I got my first taste of couch co-op in Konami’s side-scrolling shooter Contra, one of the original UUDDLRLRBA games.

Local co-op includes games from every genre and platform. In Divinity: Original Sin we see the formula used in a tactical RPG which works great on PC and consoles. The split-screen mode for Borderlands and its sequels works great — even on smaller TVs — thanks to the stylized graphics and excellent user interface. Moonhunters is a multiplayer personality test that you can play with your friends on PC; it’s coming to Xbox One this July.


How Board Game Restaurants are Winning Big with Customers

Board games are big. Sales of hobby games have increased every year for the last decade, and board game conventions sell out like Beyoncé concerts: The 2016 BoardGameGeek convention in Dallas sold out in two hours, all 3,000 tickets, and “Mad Men” actor Rich Sommer, who is a board game fan, was there to announce the door prize winners. This year’s event is scheduled for November 15–19, and tickets are $150.

And it’s not all Monopoly and Scrabble anymore: An estimated 3,900 new board games were published in 2016, with themes ranging from collecting sushi to Terraforming Mars. Games can last anywhere from one minute to three hours and up, and while most games are competitive, many are cooperative in nature, allowing players to work together toward a common goal.

People love to play games while noshing on their favorite snacks, so it’s no surprise that the foodservice industry has hopped onto the trend. Board game cafés and bars have been appearing in major cities, where guests can enjoy a game of Cards Against Humanity with their coffee or beer. In fact, as of this writing, Kickstarter lists 66 projects related to “board game cafés,” and nine for “board game bars.”


Poker-Playing Hedge Fund Managers Have an Edge

Do poker players make good hedge fund managers? On one hand, there’s skill overlap. Both activities demand aggressiveness, accurate calculations under pressure, keen behavioral insight and shrewd risk-taking. On the other hand, poker seems like a risk-seeking activity, suggesting reckless and overconfident managers. Poker requires deception and gamblers are often considered untrustworthy. Also, time spent learning and playing poker is time taken away from investing.

Academics Yan Lu, Sandra Mortal and Sugata Ray try to answer the question  in a new paper titled “Hedge Fund Hold’em.” This is part of an emerging academic interest in correlating recreational activity to business and investing success.

The most famous paper in the field found that hedge fund managers who own powerful sports cars have the same average returns as managers who own everyday cars or take the bus, but take more risk, so they have lower Sharpe ratios and less alpha. Studies have shown that chief executive officers who play a lot of golf and win awards tend to deliver lower performance, presumably due to the distraction from business.


Coworking Is Not About Workspace — It’s About Feeling Less Lonely

Working remotely has many benefits: flexible hours, no commute, and autonomy and control over how you work, to name just a few.

But as any remote worker will tell you, there are also considerable challenges. According to a variety of studies, isolation and loneliness are among the biggest complaints. Working remotely means missing out on the human interaction and social aspects that being in an office provides.

According to Vivek Murthy, the former Surgeon General of the United States, increasing numbers of remote and independent “gig economy” workers is one of the key reasons for the growing “loneliness epidemic”. Murthy also points out that loneliness is much more than just a social problem. It’s also a health problem, “associated with a reduction in lifespan similar to that caused by smoking 15 cigarettes a day and even greater than that associated with obesity.”