Group Play

Group Play
The New Social Lubricant?

Quintin Marcelino | 23 Sep 2008 12:01
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"There's no sign up sheet or anything," Caligure said. "There's the system, the controllers and some games. If you want to play, you just go up and grab a controller. If somebody else is playing, you actually have to ask them to play. It forces people to talk to each other."

But The Whistle Stop isn't the only bar in San Diego that offers videogames in lieu of more traditional fare. The Bluefoot Bar & Lounge, just up the road in North Park, often has a couple Wii consoles hooked up to projectors. The atmosphere isn't nearly as laid back as The Whistle Stop, but that didn't stop bar patrons from playing Mario Kart and Wii Sports, laughing and chatting it up all the while. One particular stand-out moment the evening I attended involved an attractive young woman swinging her arm wildly and accidentally releasing the Wii remote, sending it flying across the bar and straight into a man's back. Is there a better conversation starter than that?

Back at the Whistle Stop, I talked to Brian and Leanne, a couple who have sat down to play Super Mario Bros. 2. When I asked them what brought them to the bar on a Tuesday evening, Leanne smiled and pointed at the large screen.

"This! I come to play Mario now," she said with excitement. Previously, she went out to other bars in the area for the music, until she realized her favorite game from childhood was playable just down the street. Now, it's strictly about the games.

Unsurprisingly, not everybody is there for Nintendo on the big screen. In fact, Caligure admitted that most people come to Friends Chill for the board games rather than the digital entertainment. But Caligure told me that the most important thing is that people are talking and having a good time together, whether they're playing board games, billiards or videogames. He's even seen gamers bring in their PSPs and play wirelessly across the bar.

"We'll keep doing this until people stop coming," Caligure told me. The fact that people keep showing up, especially when they could easily have a beer and play videogames from the comfort of their own living room, seems to show that people crave social interaction.

Of course, videogames have yet to replace alcohol as the number one social lubricant, and they probably never will. Still, it's nice to be able to make a quip about red tortoise shells and get a smile instead of a blank stare.

Quintin Marcelino is an Intellectual Properties Developer for Upper Deck. He has recently begun to preach the importance of gaming to attractive women in bars and other public places and has been met with a tepid response.

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