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Rutgers club de-stigmatizes board games

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There are more than 500 student-run clubs and organizations offered on campus, and among these, Unplugged, the University board game club, is one dedicated solely to bringing students together to relax and play popular board games. 

Meeting every Friday at the Busch Student Center from 8 p.m. to midnight, Unplugged “creates the opportunity for (its) members to experience a fun and relaxed environment through social interaction and gameplay in order to help relieve stress after a long week of classes,” said Nicole McGowan, the public relations officer for the club and a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences junior.

The organization has roughly 50 board games at its disposal, many of which were purchased with funds received from the Rutgers University Student Assembly (RUSA) and some brought by members.

“Over the course of four hours, some two dozen people play various combinations of games ... Some games can get pretty intense — especially some of the more popular social deduction games," said Jonah Cohn, the club president and a School of Arts and Sciences junior. "It isn’t at all uncommon to hear loud, impassioned debate over who any particular game’s ‘secret evil bad person’ might be.” 

Though the club dabbles with numerous games, a majority of them can be categorized into three sections team-based, cooperative and individual. McGowan said some common games that fall into these classes are Betrayal at House on the Hill, Codenames and Catan. 

In terms of club favorites, Cohn said that the top two are Secret Hitler and Codenames. While both games require teams to collaborate and reach a goal before their opponent, they differ in their rules and gameplay. 

Secret Hitler requires certain players to assume hidden identities. Teams must use strategy and logic to remain in power while defeating the other team. Codenames is less complex, teams must guess words from clues before their counterpart.

Unplugged hosts several events throughout the year. On Dec. 9, the club will hold a murder mystery event on the College Avenue campus. Unplugged's next large event will be a tournament, occurring sometime during the spring. Individuals will play the game Red Dragon Inn to elimination, the winner will be awarded with choosing a new game for the club to purchase, McGowan said.

Events like these familiarize the University with Unplugged. With approximately 25 members, the organization has flexible membership status for students. If someone attends meetings, they are effectively a member, and members are encouraged to bring friends and non-members. Although there are no restrictions on the club's size, McGowan hopes to appeal to underclassmen, as a bulk of the current members will be graduating soon. 

To reach out to prospective students and keep the rest of the club informed, Unplugged has an active Facebook page that mentions dates of upcoming meetings as well as polls to determine which games should be played at those meetings. 

Looking into the future, its goal is to dispel stigmas surrounding board games.

“Many times when I invited people to the club, I receive negative body language that says 'That’s how you spend your Friday Nights.' There is so much people are missing out on by thinking that board games are sort of child’s play. I feel as though the club has plenty to offer in terms of appealing to people’s taste,” said Lauren Hill-Beaton the club treasurer and a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences senior.

Hill-Beaton said the range of skills learned from playing board games offers another reason to accept their legitimacy.

“When you are playing the game you may not be noticing it, but you strategize and use a series of scenarios (using some critical thinking skills) to get you and your teammates closer to the goal of saving an imaginary world," Hill-Beaton said. "We often do use critical thinking skills in class for homework assignments, exams, etcetera. But here we use it to have a good time and to connect with others.”

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