Shut Up & Sit Down is back at GDC 2017 with a board game bonanza

Hunted and gathered by the minds behind Shut Up & Sit Down, this exhibit will once again offer GDC attendees a calm oasis where you can relax and play some of the best tabletop games of 2016.

Good news: Passes for the Game Developers Conference are still available, and today we're excited to announce more details about the third annual ‘Shut Up & Sit Down’ GDC board game exhibit, which will be open to all GDC 2017 passholders at various points during GDC week -- February 27th through March 3rd.

As always, this excellent exhibit is carefully curated by the clever folks who run tabletop game enthusiast hub Shut Up & Sit Down, and will offer GDC attendees a calm oasis where you can relax and play some of the best tabletop games of 2016. Video game makers can learn much from the world of tabletop games -- something GDC is embracing this year by hosting a Board Game Design Day!

This time around the Shut Up & Sit Down space at GDC 2017 -- one of many engaging interactive spaces spread across the show -- promises to be bigger and better than ever. To find out more, we had a brief conversation with Shut Up & Sit Down cofounder Paul Dean about what to expect this year.

Plus, after the interview we have the full list of games that will be available for GDC 2017 attendees to play in the Shut Up & Sit Down Games Lounge!

Hey Paul! What's new with Shut Up & Sit Down at GDC this year?

Everything is new! We'll be bigger, busier and broader, with more space, more volunteers and more games to show off. Last year, we repeatedly found ourselves full to bursting point, so we're hoping this time around we can fit as many people into our Games Lounge as want to play, talk about games or just hang out.

We'll be showing off all sorts of titles, with an emphasis on accessibility, and getting as many people involved as we can. Expect all sorts of interesting visitors to drop by, too. Last year, we became quite the hub. Surveys show that nine out of ten of the coolest people at GDC like board games and we'll have both video and board game designers swinging by.

So how do you select the games you bring to GDC every year, and why?

We want titles that really show board gaming at its most novel, it's funniest and its smartest, but we also want to get as many people playing as we possibly can. That means selecting titles that are pretty quick to teach, as well as ones that have larger player counts.

For example, to echo some of our most popular titles of last year, I'll be bringing my own copies of Spyfall 2 and Codenames Pictures. Both the original Spyfall and Codenames were constantly attracting big tablefuls of players, producing all sorts of laughter and even causing people to make new friends. If we can bring games along that get people smiling, socialising and breaking the ice, I think we're doing a fine job.

At the same time, we also want to show off games that are particularly smart in their mechanics and their execution. Last year we ended up talking to a lot of people about Pandemic Legacy, the constantly evolving board game that gradually evolves and tells you a story each time you play. A lot of modern board games are inspiring video game designers, so we see it as our mission to keep tightening the ever narrowing gap between the two.

Paul, you're bringing board games to a video game show. That seems crazy! What do you think video game developers can learn from stopping by and checking out the games you're bringing?

There's a lot to learn from board games. Obviously, the history of game development before video games goes back into all sorts of board and tabletop games anyway, with a lineage that runs through things like D&D, Chainmail and Advanced Squad Leader, but now we're seeing all kinds of new influence echoing around.

First of all, we frequently like to show off games that have a strong social component, games that have players either co-operating, or at odds with each other, bluffing and backstabbing. Board gaming has been an amazing catalyst for getting us to be more and more sly. Humans are really good at understanding context, working with incomplete information and acting off suggestions or subtle clues. Plus, everyone enjoys being a little devious now and then.

Then there's the asymmetry. We really enjoy our asymmetrical games, even games that are designed to be biased toward one player or one team. These encourage people to engage with a game in a new way, to think differently about how to play. While some designers, analogue or digital, are all about balance, really interesting things can happen when you make that far less of a priority.

In fact, ideas like these are increasingly permeating video games. Last year we saw a lot of talk around both Subterfuge and Really Bad Chess, two games that explored those two ideas and there are so many board games giving video game designers new inspiration, new direction. Plus, I think the new growth of board games has been part of the return of local co-op, as they're encouraging more of us to remember how much we enjoy playing together, in the same space.

In a broader sense, what were some of your notable takeaways from studying the tabletop game industry in 2016? Did you see any big trends or interesting changes?

For sure. I think 2016 was the year that modern board gaming began barging its way into mainstream consciousness. Not only has there been another year of continued growth in sales, astronomical Kickstarter figures and more recognition within gaming circles, there's also been more mentions of the hobby in mainstream media. In just the last couple of weeks, both Quinns [SU&SD cofounder Quintin Smith] and I were featured on BBC and CBC radio respectively, while the hobby has been covered everywhere from The Guardian to CNBC.

Left to right: Shut Up & Sit Down hooligans Paul Dean, Matt Lees and Quintin Smith

There's also been even greater growth in the number of board game cafés opening, as we push board gaming further afield, introducing more and more people. It's creating a snowball effect, as more interest inspires more cafés inspires more interest inspires... You see what I mean. And the effect all that coffee has had on me.

Indeed. Thanks for your time!

Here, then, is the full list of games that will be available to play in the aforementioned Games Lounge at GDC 2017:

  • Inis
  • Junk Art
  • A Feast For Odin
  • Mechs Vs Minions
  • Captain Sonar
  • Dolores
  • Star Wars: Rebellion
  • Diamant
  • Beyond Baker Street
  • The Mouse Guard Roleplaying Game

Shut Up & Sit Down staff will also be on hand throughout the week to offer guided demos of the games, as time allows. 

Don't miss this little slice of tabletop game paradise at GDC 2017, and don't miss your opportunity to save money by registering early -- the deadline to register for passes at a discounted rate is January 18, 2017. GDC 2017 itself will take place February 27th - March 3rd at the Moscone Center in San Francisco.

For more information on GDC 2017, visit the show's official website, or subscribe to regular updates via Facebook, Twitter, or RSS.

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