'Play is not just essential for kids; it can be an important source of relaxation and stimulation for adults as well. Playing with your romantic partner, friends, co-workers, pets, and children is a sure (and fun) way to fuel your imagination, creativity, problem-solving abilities, and emotional well-being.'
Source: HelpGuide.org in collaboration with Harvard Health Publications.
No wonder 'Play' is such a trend in corporate events this year!
Giant jenga, LED foosball tables, life-size Battleship.... it's games, games, games everywhere we look these days. We checked in with our experts, Justin Hapeman, Gary Bordman and Jeff Anderson to explore whether it is just our inner child's dream or an event trend reality. Happy to share our findings.
The Premise: Play is a serious science. The preeminent expert is American physician, psychiatrist and TED speaker, Dr. Stuart Brown, founder of the National Institute for Play. Following the horrific Texas Tower mass murder case committed by Charles Whitman in 1966, Brown was commissioned to start his groundbreaking decades-long study of eventually over 6000 participants' play histories.
“The committee investigating Charles Whitman’s life and motives unanimously identified his lifelong lack of play as a key factor in his homicidal actions.”– Dr. Stuart Brown.
Dr. Brown’s subsequent research of other violent individuals concludes that play can act as a powerful deterrent, even an antidote to prevent violence.
Play is a powerful catalyst for positive socialization.
(Source: National Institute for Play)
Ever more reason for our corporate clients to encourage Play at their incentive and reward events.
Gary Bordman, CSEP, Chief Interactive Designer at Amusement, Exhibit & Event Services. AE&ES and @JustCallGary
Justin Hapeman, Regional Manager - Southern California at Plan-It Interactive
Jeff Anderson, Partner/ Director of Revenue Kinetics, at Party Pals
EW: What trends have you noticed?Jeff: "There have been a few but, more specifically to our observation, there has been a rather pronounced trend towards Lawn Games and Giant Games at corporate events but especially weddings. For corporate events, that’s not to the exclusion of other games but rather the inclusion of Lawn and Giant Games has been pronounced lately. So, what we’re seeing at corporate events is the addition of games like Corn Hole, Ladder Ball (or Ladder Golf), Ping Pong, Giant Jenga, Giant Connect 4, Giant Checkers, Giant Chess, etc.
We, relatively recently, also purchased another throw back, Giant Big Wheels…so, like the Big Wheels many Baby Boomers rode as kids now come in Giant, or Adult versions
Gary: What we have seen more and more people asking for are giant versions of games from the 70s and 80s. Retro arcade games but also Battleship, Connect 4, Light Bright, Tetris, all of these things we are doing life size. Our battleship is 6'x6' each player position. Connect 4 is mega-sized, 7' wide by 6' tall. We recently built a Live Tetris game. So rather than just playing a video game pieces slide down on the playfield and two people are competing to build complete lines without holes. We are seeing this for all age groups. Not just millennials are playing. We see 50-somethings playing at corporate events.
Justin: "Trends come and go. In 2016 it was LED. Now it's Retro Games and Giant Games, like Giant Jenga. We just bought a Giant Battleship, that we just showed at BizBash last week. Giant Pac Man is a big hit, too. The reason for the trend is probably the social aspect. Everyone is always on their phones and looking down these days; playing on their phones, doing social media and so forth. Games take you out of that and I think people really appreciate that. When you are playing Giant Jenga you are not on your phone. You are paying attention. You are having a conversation. It's about interaction, about people being involved. You can have a giant party but if people are not interacting with each other it is not going to be a success.
EW: Are all things old new again? Are Retro Games back?Gary: "About two years ago we had a few clients call and ask for Giant Jenga or something like that. So we started building other games that were not off-the-shelf, that you could just buy online or something. So we started pitching a Big Party. During CVent we worked with MGM Productions for the CVent Connect Event this last month. For that beach party we did everything Giant sized. We even built a human size Pin Press. So you can put your whole body instead of just your face and hands. Some of these things are fully brandable.
The interest is within the corporate market for events like a cocktail reception. You see these as the Opening Night Party of Closing Night Party. I see the trend more in the corporate market than the social market."
Justin: "Yes, definitely. Old things are new again. It's a comfort thing. For instance, we got a Giant Light Brite, a very popular game in the 80s. It really came back. Everyone can play with it. It's social. It brings out creativity. It creates a conversation. And competition is definitely a factor. Everybody gets into it. It's friendly competition. At the same time, these games aren't scary. Everyone knows them. You don't have to force people to play. Everyone gets comfortable with it. The games are relatable.
These games are also low maintenance. Once it's set up, it's ready to play. Most of the games aren't staffed. One less thing for the event planner to worry about."
Jeff: "Yes and it’s probably because the Baby Boomers and Gen X have the money, run the companies and like the throwback stuff at their events. In addition to the above games, Classic Arcade Uprights like Ms. Pac Man, Donkey Kong, Frogger, Asteroids, Space Invaders, etc. are all really popular right now and have been for the past several years. Again, I think a lot has to do with Baby Boomers and Gen X. However, Gen Y and Millennials have also been attracted to the “low tech” games of the 80’s…when games, and technology, were a little more simple!!!"
EW: What games are really popular? Where is this trend going?Justin: "Our straight-forward Retro Games are all very popular. They are so laid back and easy. People do what they are comfortable with. A lot of our games are customizable. The client's branding can be applied to them. It's a game and a prop at the same time."
Jeff: "What has become super popular are LED games. We have LED Ping Pong, Shuffleboard, Foosball, Air Hockey, Corn Hole, Mini Golf, Bocce Ball, Ladder Ball, Skee Ball, Basketball, Frisbee Golf, and more…even LED Volleyball. And, BY FAR, our (Party Pals) most popular game is Giant LED Foosball (13’ L…12 players at a time, 6 per side). We built 2 of these out of hardwood, acrylic, etc. They are super high quality which, I think, is another reason they are so popular. There are a lot of Giant Foosball Tables out there but I haven’t seen any that match ours. Gary Bordman at AE&ES made our Giant Operation Game as well as Giant Battleship and Giant Etch-a-Sketch."
Gary: "Interactive play stimulates the brain so people are more involved. It brings you back to being a kid. It brings memories of when there was no pressure other than to win the game with your friends. What I see coming out of this is getting people more involved as a group. You get your cheering group going. When we do Lite Brite you get more people involved to design the piece of art that you are building. It's a true networking experience. By doing these types of things people come together. I don't think games have replaced other activities. It is just a new avenue. From my standpoint, when we do a Retro Big Party in a ballroom we normally put video games with it. It's not just life-sized board games. We add in the video games. We still get calls for Casino Nights and Photo Ops. I think it's a new avenue more than a replacement."
At the risk of sounding old-school - and knowing full well that we are very guilty of having our smart phones in our hands at all times - we love to have people drop their mobiles. There are so many positives. Games mean less maintenance. They are brandable, customizable and effective for the corporate event - and good for everyone's heart and soul from a scientific point of view.