Playdates for adults becoming an alternative to hanging around in bars

Connect Four, Hungry Hungry Hippos and Twister are the new alternatives to speed dating, nightclubs and staying home alone.


Connect Four, Hungry Hungry Hippos and Twister are the new alternatives to speed dating, nightclubs and staying home alone.

PlayDate, a monthly social event now being held in more than 20 cities, is catching on among adults weary of the usual nightlife. They play old-school board games, Double Dutch and hold dance-off contests in a throwback to youth.

And along the way, some people pick up a few phone numbers.

“The idea was to get together games that are familiar and nostalgic,” PlayDate pioneer Imari Harvard said. “They see things that they are accustomed to and reach back to childhood and indulge.”

The game nights began in 2005 in Harvard’s Atlanta living room. PlayDate has since grown from 80 friends to more than 500 strangers who regularly attend monthly events in Houston, Los Angeles, Seattle, Philadelphia, Chicago and other cities.

The music isn’t too loud. The lights aren’t too dim. The disc jockey isn’t too trendy. And PlayDate — at $10 admission — keeps amusement affordable in a recession.

Everyone wears PlayDate Signature Mood Tags that read “Hello my name is …” The name tags are used as ice breakers. Many fill in the blank with an alter ego that prompts questions right away — aliases like “Clark Kent,” “Beyonce Wanna Be” and ”Gold Digger.“

There are no lines and no sign-up sheets. Just grab an empty seat and play at dozens of booths and tables where the board games await.

In one corner, women stack a giant Jenga tower before it tumbles. Others huddle around a screen showing a Nintendo Wii bowling game. Out on the dance floor, a disc jockey calls out commands to others contorting themselves on Twister tarps.

As the night advances, traditional school yard games take over the dance floor — but with an adult twist.

Simon Says break dance. Musical chairs with women sashaying around men and sitting on their laps — not chairs. Virtual Double Dutch has players choreographing routines with imaginary jump ropes.

And there’s little wiggle room for wallflowers. Staff in “Wanna Play?” T-shirts nudge onlookers into the fray.

“This is so much better than going to a club,” said Ed Hardy, 29, who played Snakes and Ladders with a friend and two women they just met. “You are in an atmosphere where you can’t help it but have fun.”

PlayDate targets professionals 25 to 55, singles, couples and “people who typically don’t go out to party,” Harvard said. It is held only once a month in most cities “to keep its novelty.”

Nashville hosted the largest PlayDate debut in February with some 750 players, said Eric Holt, managing partner of Lovenoise, the marketing company that helped launch PlayDate in Tennessee and Alabama.

Men have played barroom darts and billiards for centuries, but PlayDate creates an inviting atmosphere for women because it is “not confrontational and there is very little to lose,” said University of Pennsylvania sociology professor David Grazian, who studies urban nightlife.

“Playing chess makes one feel less desperate than one on a night out on the town trying to snag a husband,” said Grazian, author of On the Make: The Hustle of Urban Nightlife.

“When strangers play games, the games mediate uncomfortable silence and make personal interaction almost immediate — without need of intimacy.”

Robert Jackson, 26, dealt cards for a game of Spades with his uncle, cousin and brother and talked about his reluctance to hit the clubs.

“I feel like I am too old for what’s going on in night venues,” Jackson said. “I came here because it’s something to do. Not to meet any women, just trying to have fun.”

In 2007, Harvard and friend Ryan Hill created Timeless Entertainment Concepts to redefine American nightlife.

They are managing a burgeoning operation that is testing other nightlife concepts such as an interactive paint gallery and an improv comedy theatre using cellphones for audience interaction.

They’ve also created an online social network, “Meet Me at the Playground.”

Just Posted

Updated: Red Deer welcomes 2019 Canada Winter Games Team Alberta

About 250 Alberta athletes are participating in the Games

Trump says ‘things are going very well’ with North Korea

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Saturday that “things are going very… Continue reading

NDP won’t stop until Trans Mountain is built, says minister

Deron Bilous speaks at Red Deer chamber luncheon

Trudeau fields questions at town hall meeting in St-Hyacinthe, Que.

SAINT-HYACINTHE, Que. — Ottawa’s decision to sign the UN compact for migration… Continue reading

Americans face deadline to file paperwork for Huawei executive’s extradition

OTTAWA — American authorities are facing a key deadline at the end… Continue reading

VIDEO: Students in MAGA hats mock Native American at Indigenous Peoples March

Diocese in Kentucky says it is investigating the matter, caught on video by onlookers

CONSUMER REPORT: What to buy each month in 2019 to save money

Resolve to buy all of the things you want and need, but pay less money for them

Anxiety in Alaska as endless aftershocks rattle residents

Seismologists expect the temblors to continue for months, although the frequency has lessened

Women’s March returns across the U.S. amid shutdown and controversy

The original march in 2017, the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, drew hundreds of thousands of people

Kriechmayr edges Swiss favourite Feuz to win WCup downhill

WENGEN, Switzerland — It takes a special run to beat Switzerland’s best… Continue reading

WestJet plane heading to Victoria slides off Edmonton runway, no injuries

EDMONTON — A WestJet plane has slid off an icy taxiway at… Continue reading

Sam Bennett scores twice, Flames beat Red Wings 6-4

Flames 6, Red Wings 4 CALGARY — Sam Bennett scored twice including… Continue reading

Rare ‘super blood wolf moon’ takes to the skies this Sunday

Celestial event happens only three times this century

Most Read