Around 300 of the smartest people in the Capital Region and the world have come together this weekend for the sole purposes of judging games and having a good time.
Mind Games 2011, which is sponsored by and for Mensa members, is part of a tradition that was begun in the mid-1980s and involves round-the-clock playing of new games that companies want evaluated.
Mensa is an international organization for people whose IQ is in the top 2 percent of the population.
Running from Friday through today and taking over a vast stretch of the second floor at the Best Western Sovereign Hotel, Mensa members young and old fill dozens of tables as they try out games that are just being released.
Players are required to try 30 of the 58 games, which they judge on criteria including originality, aesthetics and repeat playing value. Players are also trying to devise the best game strategies, which at times is a struggle.
Jennifer Morris, 28, of Albany, acknowledged that some of the participants have a tendency to overthink some of the games, which can be designed for children.
Going the distance
For her part, Morris was staying hydrated with energy drinks and water so that she could embrace the all-day availability of games. She estimated that on Saturday she would play about 20 hours.
A large attraction of the event, and Mensa in general, is the social dynamic. While some participants, who come from all over the country, already know each other, many are forced to play with strangers. But the inclusive and warm attitude of the members ensures that strangers soon become friends.
Garin Ardash, 42, of Pittsburgh, argued that the reason Mensa members get along so well at local or national gatherings is because of shared interests and a similar way of thinking. “This group gets the joke,” he said.
As evidence of the bonds that can be created, Garin was in attendance with his wife CJ, 46, who he met at a Mensa meeting eight years ago. For their first anniversary they went to a Mind Games event, according to CJ.
“For me it’s purely a social organization,” she said. “Nothing pretentious about this. It’s a place where you can be comfortable and as nerdy as you want to be.”
At this year’s Mind Games the self-proclaimed “nerd” culture is proudly on display with witty T-shirts, a celestial organizational system and jokes that might require an extra second or an explanation before you chuckle.
The camaraderie is evident by the loud buzz of conversations, but the dating potential may not be obvious. CJ suggested that a survey of the room would reveal a lot of “double Ms,” who are people that met at Mensa and got married. “The odds are good, but the goods are odd,” she joked.
In attendance for this year’s event were two members from Iceland who had decided to incorporate the weekend of games into their trip to New York City. They were staying with other Mensa members in the area, but most of the people from outside the Capital Region were staying at the hotel, which had provided amenities and a buffet so that guests wouldn’t have to stray far from their games.
Once all the reviews and comments are tallied from the weekend event, the best games are given the “Mensa Select” label. Event creator Steve Weinreich of New Jersey revealed that one game company whose product had gotten the “Mensa Select” sticker on the box had estimated it was worth $1 million.
He said that not all the games will benefit from being submitted for a review. “We get some terrific games and we also get some terrible games.”
A variety of games that were deemed “Mensa Select” include the popular game Apples to Apples, available at www.boardgamecentral.com/mensa_mind_games.html.
Anyone interested in joining Mensa can take a qualifying exam at the hotel today. The test will began at noon and costs $40. Try a “Mensa Workout” at www.mensa.org/workout.