Whether you’re inspired to learn chess after watching The Queen’s Gambit or want to design a better way to play Monopoly, The Academy of Games will help you do these things and more.
At the very heart of The Academy of Games (TAG) are kids. In fact, when co-founder and former teacher Joe DeSimone decided to make board games a trending topic again, he did so with kids in mind. TAG started as an afterschool program just as the pandemic swept across the globe. And like everything else in COVID-19’s path, TAG switched gears and altered its game plan, so to speak.
In order to continue providing a creative, safe environment, TAG didn’t skip a beat and moved its in-person program online. While the program is virtual, the experience is still a social one thanks to the creators of Zoom, although the concept poses its challenges. As entertaining as the games and participants are, kids under 8-years old have more difficulty with focusing in a virtual setting. Programs with short durations seem to work well, while children over the age of 8 are typically better adjusted to working in a virtual group.
TAG has added different structures with built-in decompression time and altered how the learning process works. But the TAG basics remain the same: play games, talk about the games, deconstruct the games, and then put the games back together. TAG might be virtual at this point but they aren’t letting that stop creativity and collaboration.
So, why try to bring board games back? Although the times are now very different than when video games were first introduced, the obsessive, addictive nature of them remains unchanged. DeSimone easily identifies with kids today because he was once one of those kids, hooked on spending countless, often mindless hours playing video games only to awaken the next day tired and drained.
DeSimone says, “As a teacher, what I see today, what I once considered bad, is now the baseline for these kids. There are better ways to play games than to play obsessively. We can play creatively.” That’s the primary reason behind TAG — to take games back to their creative, social roots.
Board games, roleplaying games, and game design can give people a much-needed break from staring at their screens. Although TAG started with kids, they’ve since expanded. Adapting to the virtual world, TAG has introduced sessions for adults so they, too, can escape the monotony of day-to-day life to get together with like-minded adults and creatively pretend.
TAG can take any popular game and customize it to the interests of the players. From idea through to execution, the TAG team helps people make the games that are right for them. Their game designers guide the idea into a fun form and their graphic designers work to bring their designs to life. Participants can start off with one type of game in mind and end up with something completely different as it evolves, but that’s also part of the fun.
For kids who want to participate in the afterschool program, the first thing to do is to choose a TAG program: Roleplaying or Board Game Design. Kids will then play a variety of games to find out where their interests truly lie. They’re then put into a pod with like-minded kids and guided through both play and design sessions with seminar-style discussions at the end to reinforce what they’ve learned. TAG announces new games every month to keep things fresh and new.
For adults, TAG is more about fun and decompression: Happy Hour events and team-building exercises based on games. TAG runs games that adults may have wanted to learn or wanted to play but never had the chance. Plus, TAG helps keep the game flow going so participants can focus solely on having fun just like they did when they were kids.
Although the current virtual world has its challenges, TAG continues to provide the same level of fun, learning and camaraderie as it did with its in-person programs. And there’s no game that cannot be examined, rebuilt and redesigned when creative minds align.