Meet Our Mem­bers – More Than a Sand­box

Thai-American Business (T-AB) Magazine - - Member Profile - Writ­ten by: Robert Mullarky

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.

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