Silence filled the small dorm room as five college students sitting in a circle prepared to write on thin strips of white paper. The sound of pencil scratch soon filled the air, along with no small amount of tension. When they were done, the students handed their papers to Caleb Glick, the dealer, who read them out loud, one by one.
"The line to the lady's room," he said, as the others burst out laughing. "Caleb's laugh. This game."
The students, all contestants in a party game called "Things," had written funny answers to the question posed at the beginning of the round - "Something that takes an eternity." As dealer, Glick had to guess which player wrote each answer.
Almost every weekend, the same group of Geneva College students gather to play games, a pastime most college students gave up in elementary school. But fueled by a desire for more face-to-face interaction, some young adults are turning to board, card and strategy games for a more relational form of entertainment.
"I would choose a board game over a video game or movie any day," said Randi Sayles, who helps organize the group's weekly gatherings. Glick and Chris Strangfeld, Sayles' fiancÃ©e, usually host the event. New players are always welcome, and even if the students don't know each other beforehand, they end the night as friends. On this night, the crowd of juniors enthusiastically welcomed newcomer Katie Horn, a freshman.
Most of the players never lost the love of board games they developed as children. As adults, they enjoy talking with their friends while they play and getting to know new people as well. "Usually people get more comfortable as they play," game night regular Brenna Kregsheld said. All agree that playing games with friends is much better than sitting alone in the dark playing a video game.
Philip Glotfelgy, owner of Game Master, in Pittsburgh, has noticed an increase in college student's interest in board games during the past five to 10 years. He attributes the rising popularity to an influx of German strategy games, including Settlers of Catan, Dungeons and Dragons and new versions of the old favorite Risk.
Students enjoy playing games in which they can only win by making their own choices, Glotfelgy said. Games that are based on luck no longer hold an appeal. Students now want to play games they can be proud of winning, based their own skill, he said.
Cooperation games like Shadows over Camelot, in which players must work together to win, also have gained a lot of followers among college students, who enjoy becoming a unified unit against a common enemy, Glotfelgy said.
The Geneva players prefer group games like "Things" and "Quelf," another favorite, because they help players relax and open up. In "Quelf," players must complete often ridiculous tasks - performing balancing acts, reciting riddles, solving brain teasers - to move forward on the board. If they refuse, they face equally ridiculous consequences. "It gets people out of their comfort zone and it's fun because it's different every time," Kregsheld said.
Another game store in Pittsburgh, Phantom of the Attic, draws about half its customers from either Carnegie Mellon University or the University of Pittsburg.
Manager Dale Nixon, agrees with Glotfelgy that students mostly want to play strategy games. But he disagrees with Glotfelgy's description of an increased interest in real games over virtual ones. The number of young adults who gravitate toward board games remains relatively small, he said: "Many more students wouldn't know a board game if it was stabbing them to death."
Both Glotfelgy and Nixon host game nights at their stores, and people of all ages come to play together. College students sit down with 40 year olds and 12 year olds alike. Age no longer matters; it's all about the game. The sense of community that surrounds game night provides a great way for students to interact with people they would not normal take the time to talk with, Glotfelgy said.
Although some students view board games as a superior alternative to video games, others consider them as just one of several entertainment options. Austin Fodrie, who attends Appalachian State University, choses his activity based on who he's hanging out with: "If it is just one or two friends then video game, but if it is more than that often times bored games or a movie."
Back at Geneva, Glick passed the dealer role to Strangfeld, who was poised to win the game. Those he already had knocked out of play watched intently as the remaining contestants tried not to give away any incriminating clues. In one fell swoop, Strangfeld spit-fired three answers, linking them perfectly with their writers. As he punctuated his win with a victorious shout, the other players accepted defeat with good-natured groans of disgust.