Meet Our Members – More Than a Sandbox
More Than a Sandbox, Inc. operates More Than a Game Café, which is both a board game store and a premium café. Our mission is to bring board games – and the benefi ts they bring – into Thai culture. Although only open since July of 2014 we already have two locations, with a third location opening in February of 2016.
There is a wealth of evidence that play is one of the most powerful learning methods. Incorporating thinking skills into play is benefi cial for children’s learning and for adults to exercise their minds. Board games come in a wide variety of types, formats, and diffi culties. Many types of thinking are used in board games, often several in a single game: critical thinking, strategizing, resource management, creative thinking, negotiation, math and probabilities, and many more.
Another benefi t of board games is human interaction. Online or mobile games are isolating: seeing families all staring at their phones instead of talking to each other is heartbreaking. With board games people interact directly. Whether it is a cooperative or competitive game you are playing, you are interacting with others while having fun. We want to see families playing board games and having fun together.
With these goals in mind, we set out to design a store that would appeal to as broad an audience as possible, but especially to children, families, and the youngat- mind. In order to make the location one that would be seen as safe, attractive, and enjoyable, we designed a store that was open, well- lit, clean, and staff ed by helpful people knowledgeable in board games. We also worked with an excellent pastry chef and some baristas to create a menu that any stand- alone café would be proud of, with signature waffl es made using a special recipe. Understanding that there is not a long history of board game playing in Thai culture, we created an innovative staff position: the Game Master. Game Masters provide friendly help and guidance. They help select games that fi t people’s experience level, help explain games so people can begin quickly, and generally make the entire board game experience as enjoyable as possible. Once people have one or two good experiences with board games, they often become repeat customers. In this way we are building our own customer base. Judging from our ever- increasing clientele, it is a model that works.
So who are our customers? On any given day you can see a wide range of people in our stores: groups of Primary or Secondary students after school, university students taking a break from studying, a group of friends having fun after work, or families enjoying a fun time together. Students usually have a pretty good idea how fun games can be – it is often the families and groups of adults that are unsure. But after a fun and simple round or two of “Spot it!” followed by a slightly more complex game of “Ticket to Ride” or “Splendor,” we often have new repeat customers. Some of our most loyal customers are families. There are several families that come in regularly, sometimes several time a week. We host birthday parties at our store, and they are often thrown by and for these regular customers. Several of the parents have remarked to us that they can see improvements in their kid’s cognitive skills - comments we love to hear.
We strongly believe that board games can also help businesses. Games are excellent team building activities – people learn how to eff ectively interact while having fun. They can be used to practice and strengthen critical thinking, negotiation, creativity, planning, and strategic thinking. We provide workshops, host events, corporate game libraries, and games for educators. We have worked with several corporations, including some that are quite large ( True and Unilever, for example.)
Although More Than a Game Café is doing well day to day, it is when we have a store fi lled with families, laughter, and people having fun that we feel like we are truly succeeding.
Robert Mullarky is Chief Fun Officer at More than a Sandbox. He can be contacted at robert@ morethanasandbox. com.