A Social Escape: D&D, Alexa, and Gaming Crates
  • A Social Escape: Gaming Crates, Alexa, and D&D


    Social games are all the buzz thanks to a raft of interviews and marketing pushes by Hasbro and Mattel touting the benefits of "social gaming." Long before these game juggernauts discovered the term, tabletop role-players were gathering around a table and playing games. But the new kids on the block may still be able to teach tabletop gamers a few things.

    Social Gaming: A Crate Idea

    Hasbro and its competitor Mattel have recently discovered the marketing potential of "social gaming." The definitions vary widely, from an online-only socially-networked game, to board games and card games, to role-playing games and alternate-reality games. They all have one thing in common -- the "social" -- which means the games require people to get together in some capacity.

    Hasbro has touted this form of play as intrinsic to the board games they offer, but only recently has it become a prominent sales strategy. Jonathan Berkowitz, senior vice president of marketing for Hasbro Gaming, explained in Fortune how a traditional face-to-face gaming company is competing in the online space:

    "Social gaming is exciting. It is fun to play and fun to watch," Berkowitz said. But he added that while Hasbro is finding inspiration online, it doesn't mean the company must add digital functionality to make their games a hit. In fact, the new social games feature no digital bells and whistles—they are more classic forms of play. "People play face-to-face games to connect [with each other]," Berkowitz added. "If you focus on making a great game that connects people, you will win."

    Hasbro is not alone in recognizing social gaming as a new opportunity to sell games. Ray Adler, Senior Director, Global Games at Mattel said:

    "We know that in a digitally focused world, consumers are gravitating toward social game play. This new introduction brings friends and families together to re-create the thrill captured in the entertainment experience."

    Thanks to gamers getting older and a wave of nostalgia, social play is once again on the rise. This focus on social gaming has benefited tabletop play and by proxy, role-playing games and D&D. But that's not the only gaming channel that's benefited.

    Escape Rooms Come Home

    Both Hasbro and Mattel's leadership referenced a "game in a box," a model that focuses on adult gamers who get together for social play. Hasbro recently launched a new gaming crate subscription model. But in Mattel's case, it's something new for the company: escape rooms.

    We've discussed escape rooms before and their relationship to role-playing games. Escape rooms are now something you can play at home. Thames & Kosmos has its Exit: The Game series and Asmodee has the Unlock! series.There's even an escape room game for kids, Thinkfun's Escape the Room: Mystery at the Stargazer's Manor. Mattel is capitalizing on the escape room craze with its "Escape Room in a Box" series, beginning with The Werewolf Experiment which debuted at Gen Con:

    A breakout form of entertainment, Escape Room in A Box: The Werewolf Experiment™ challenges teams to solve both physical and mental puzzles to unlock clues to free themselves before time runs out. Once players open the game they have been exposed to a virus that will turn them into werewolves. Players are given one-hour to solve 19 puzzles and find the codes to open three-locks to ultimately escape the virus, and the room.

    We've previously discussed the role-playing possibilities of Amazon's Echo, and Mattel seems to have come to the same conclusion that the audio-based tool can supplement tabletop play. Werewolf leverages Amazon's Echo to keep track of time, ask questions, and play a music soundtrack. If this sounds familiar, it's because the Alexa is fulfilling a same role that dungeon masters have been doing for decades in their D&D games.

    Given the renewed interest in Dungeons & Dragons from Hasbro, perhaps we'll one day see a smart home-enabled device that can act as a DM's assistant to run D&D adventures.

    Mike "Talien" Tresca is a freelance game columnist, author, communicator, and a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to http://amazon.com. You can follow him at Patreon.
    Comments 4 Comments
    1. Libramarian's Avatar
      Libramarian -
      I haven't played an escape room yet but I think my ideal D&D dungeon is basically a fantasy-themed escape room with some persistent character elements.

      I think modern D&D tends to overemphasize the persistent character elements and as a result attenuates the the search and think phases of the escape room experience
    1. CM's Avatar
      CM -
      [Alexa|Siri|Cortana|Ok Google]? What's the range of fireball?
      The range of fireball is 150 feet.

      Is this a thing yet? Because it's something i've been waiting about 5 years for.

      It also happens to be the only type of task I'd actually use one of those spyware assistants for.
    1. DMMike's Avatar
      DMMike -
      We know that in a digitally focused world, consumers are gravitating toward social game play.
      So the pendulum has already swung so far that people are tiring of computer games? Or Mattel is just trying to repackage what they've always been selling...

      it's because the Alexa is fulfilling a same role that dungeon masters have been doing for decades in their D&D games.
      Great. So AI isn't just going to put professionals out of work, but GMs as well?

      This article just raises more questions!
    1. Ralif Redhammer's Avatar
      Ralif Redhammer -
      Not sure, but I know Siri will roll a d20 for you. She'll also scold my wife for swearing at her. Which only induces more of said swearing.

      Quote Originally Posted by CM View Post
      [Alexa|Siri|Cortana|Ok Google]? What's the range of fireball?
      The range of fireball is 150 feet.

      Is this a thing yet? Because it's something i've been waiting about 5 years for.

      It also happens to be the only type of task I'd actually use one of those spyware assistants for.
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