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Adults reach back to childhood games to network, meet new people



At first glimpse, PlayDate OKC is chock-full of family games like Connect Four, Hungry Hungry Hippos, Taboo, Monopoly, chess and Wii's plugged into large-projection televisions. Organizers are clustered at the front like workers at a day-care center ready to check in children.

The only thing is, there are no little tykes bursting with anticipation and ready to find their favorite game amid the dozens of tables set up and awaiting players. PlayDate is 21-to-enter, so the only people being registered into the room are adults, couples and church groups looking for a good time " albeit a clean, good time.

"The concept behind PlayDate is really nostalgic, going back to the times of cheap dates that are fun," said Candice Henderson, president of "Us" Productions, which organizes PlayDate OKC. "It's meant for the more religious and spiritual. You don't have the club setting, there isn't a liquored-up person in your face and it's nonsmoking."

PlayDate, now in its third month, isn't just an extension of church, however. Secular pop music blasts through speakers; no religious fliers are to be seen; and there is a fully stocked bar. PlayDate organizers recruit local restaurants to sell affordable entrees and then give the adults room to play to their hearts' content.

"It makes it so much easier to network," Henderson said. "When you sit down to play a game of Connect Four, by the end, you will know where someone works, what they do. It's just so much easier to grab someone and say, 'Let's play,' because it's more lighthearted. There is no pressure. It's not about, 'Are you single? Are you married?' It's just good, clean fun."

PlayDate OKC moved to a different venue for July as the attendees for June's event topped 600. PlayDate actually began in Atlanta and is steadily expanding across the country, Henderson said, spurred on by adults tired of the club scene.

"It evolved into a thing where couples can go out and it isn't awkward for them to interact with other couples," she said. "If you went out to the club, a husband might get insecure with other people talking to his wife. It also works for groups. You can bring a church group, a sorority or fraternity, even your family, because that's what it feels like: a big family reunion."

Doors open at 8 p.m. and, until 10:30 p.m., Henderson said the event is a free-for-all, where adults can play whatever game they want. After 10:30 p.m. and continuing until 2 a.m., the "interactive" games begin, including red light/green light, musical chairs and potato sack races.

"Anything you can think of, we have it," she said.

"We are trying to take you back to the time where you didn't have to think about all the things going on right now, back to the time where you were much happier," she said. "When they get in here and really start enjoying themselves, once 2 a.m. rolls around, it's the Scrabble players that are still going."

PlayDate OKC begins at 8 p.m. Friday at Cox Convention Center, 1 Myriad Gardens. "Charles Martin

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