Settlers beats Smartphones by Dave Kaufman

Settlers beats Smartphones by Dave Kaufman

Put down that phone, I’m talking to you.”

“Can I get a moment of time when you aren’t on that thing?”

“Look at all of us, out together, but on our smartphones. So funny…and sad.”

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“I Forgot My Phone” by Charlene deGuzman

It won’t solve all of these problems but Techlife accidentally discovered a secret. Come closer, I don’t want this one getting out. Are you ready? If you find something that is engaging from start to finish people will stay engaged. Are you saying to yourself, “Not a secret, I already knew that.” Sure you did.

Today’s television dramas are all about your second screen experience. Live sporting events and rock concerts are all about telling people you are there and then looking up stats or recording your favorite song or texting the big screen. Even driving which should be engaging as YOUR LIFE (much less the lives of others) is on the line is still losing.  The smartphone wins the attention war.

“Aha!” says the detective in you, “Theater, as in the title of the column is a place where I can’t use my phone.  Be it a movie, play, opera or musical all of them request you to not just refrain from using them but to turn off the devices too.” True and most people follow these rules, but not by choice. They have to be told. Over and over.

In a crude experiment, I have discovered a form of entertainment that has people voluntarily not using their smartphones, a board game.

Settlers of Catan

I happened upon the secret while playing many, many games of Settlers of Catan. Unlike Risk or Monopoly or their popular brethren “Settlers” as it is known, is an intriguing game where the board is different each and every game. By using two randomizing elements; first movable hexagons and secondly assigning them numbers during setup, the board is unique each game. In addition while the goal of the game is a race to ten points, the multitude of combinations to achieve the goal means each player is using a different approach which changes each game.

The other part, the part that is the secret is this game uses an open outcry market. In other words there is a lot of vocal trading between players each round. The result is players stay fully engaged for the entire game. “I’m a born multi-tasker,” you might be saying thinking you can play Settlers and compose an email. Maybe something simple. But you can’t jump headfirst into your smartphone for the length of the Settlers of Catan game and expect to do well. You will miss trade opportunities and subtle shifts in strategy.

Field Research Results

In early field tests, 26 different people ranging from age 6 to 68 made up of 15 males and 11 females were observed during game play. Each person played at least two games with a small group playing more than 30 games and while smartphones may have been on the table or glanced at for an incoming text, only during one game did two people try to multi-task. In all other cases the players were fully engaged and 100% focused.

Techlife’s conclusion, more testing should be done. Everyone who reads this should join the experiment team. Run your own tests. Silently observe your friends and family. Can you find other ways to voluntarily engage people while they forget their smartphones for a little while? Share your secrets, we all will thank you.