Mike Creger: It's really just a conversation
I agree that Steve Benson's board game, Agreed, is a tough sell.
I told him so last week in the sparseness of the farmhouse he just moved into north of Two Harbors.
Try asking someone in today's red-blue, white-hot political climate to play a game in which the end result is agreement, consensus and, gasp, conversation.
Steve is more than aware of the how pushing a game of get-along is difficult in today's society. The board game industry has told him as much. So have many of the retailers he's simply presented the concept to. "Most games are based on greed, conquering and acquiring," he said.
I've played Steve's game and seen others I never expected to take to its concept end up in deep, personal conversation.
Talking with Steve about the game, I asked him just how an idea spawned from idle time with a friend turned into what seems like a passionate mission today. He takes orders online, pitches the game to any retailer who will listen, and packages the orders right at home.
"People said I had to bring this idea out," he said. Testimonials come in and amaze him each week. "You're changing the world," one Agreed player told him.
"I had to jump on something I believe in."
He lost his job offering wilderness adventure tours through Two Harbors' Soltreks last fall, just when he was about to go hard on publicity for Agreed. "One arrow hit the ground and another one shot up," he said. Days into unemployment, there was a seminar offering help in marketing business ideas. It helped ease his fears about taking out a loan to get traction for Agreed.
After modifying and simplifying it, he's getting out the message of this game that truly surprises in its ability to draw out ideas and conversation.
He has a master's degree in rehabilitative counseling and sells a curriculum online designed to help teens get a "life plan" together. He does other part-time counseling work to make ends meet while marketing Agreed.
"I can't base a livelihood on it right now," he said, but he sure hopes to some day.
I would like to see a greater variety of quotes than the 16 people he includes in the set now. They will be coming, he said. But now he has to work on cash flow before offering any add-ons.
It's easy to tell that Steve lives by the impression he tries to make in his game. Something "noble and helpful" when it comes to peaceful resolution in the world against a gaming world where "people tend to go toward the devil," in dividing and conquering the enemy, he said.
What I liked about the game is the lack of any tension to speed it up, or "get through" it.
You ease into conversation and almost forget you are playing a game at all.
That's when you hit the "a-ha moment," Steve said. "It's enlightenment that happens."
For now, Steve suggests a simple phrase to get people to play a game with you. It makes sense. "Are you interested in a game with common ground?"
A few minutes or a few hours is all you will need.
Mike is the editor of the Lake County News-Chronicle. E-mails can be sent to mcreger@lcnews chronicle.com or call 834-2141.