ILNews

Nothing boring about board games

Marilyn Odendahl
August 27, 2014
Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Patrick Olmstead had prepared for his day away from the office by packing his tablet to check messages periodically and grabbing his keyboard just in case he had to draft a document.

However, the Greenwood attorney was more occupied that day with slabs of cardboard, dice, cards and miniature pieces. Dressed in a T-shirt that says “Jesus Loves You: But I’m his favorite,” Olmstead was at the 2014 Gen Con indulging in his passion for board games.

Tabletop games seem to lack the pizzazz of their flashy video counterparts but the low-tech pastime attracts legions of avid fans, as evidenced by the massive crowds that invade Indianapolis every year for the annual gaming convention.

gencon-olmstead-15col.jpg Greenwood attorney Patrick Olmstead, left, demonstrates how to play the card game Diamonds during the 2014 Gen Con. Many attorneys like Olmstead say they love to play tabletop games because the popular pastime gives them a break from practicing law and allows them to spend time with family and friends. (IL Photo/Marilyn Odendahl)

Attorneys, like Olmstead, number among the board gamers, often speaking about the designs and rules of the games with an infectious enthusiasm. The table

top contests give them the opportunity to forget about the law and instead focus on conquering the world, building railroads, settling new frontiers or outwitting flesh-eating monsters.

“Ultimately, I’m happy if I can play a game and have a good time,” Olmstead said.

Attorney and mediator Steve Spence combined his board-game hobby with his profession when he used a board game to teach mediation skills to students in his negotiation and alternative dispute resolution class at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

He used the game Diplomacy, which requires players to make decisions about when to forge alliances and when to backstab opponents. The complex rules and time required to play may have hindered the game’s success at teaching the students, but Spence remains a fan.

He grew up playing chess, Stratego and Risk, and he noted playing the games does provide practice for his professional work. A mediator does not say or do something without a particular reason, he said, just like a chess player does not move a piece without a reason.

But his main reason for playing board games is the enjoyment it brings.

Olmstead caught the fever for board gaming when a former colleague took him to Gen Con in 2005. Playing games with other convention goers got him hooked, and he started his personal collection of games with The Settlers of Catan.

For the 2014 event, Olmstead spent part of his time volunteering in the Pick Up and Play room. Attendees could come to the room near the convention floor, open their new purchases or check out a classic from the library, and play. Olmstead helped gamers who had questions about the rules of a particular game or who needed an extra player.

Having changed into a bright orange T-shirt emblazoned with the word “VOLUNTEER,” Olmstead looked over the rows of people playing board games and talked about the correlation between the Pick Up and Play room and litigation.

“I think it’s great,” the attorney said. “If you’re a litigation attorney, it’s good training.” He explained teaching a random group of individuals a bunch of rules they are unfamiliar with is very similar to trying to sway a judge or jury to your side during a trial.

But what keeps him coming back to playing board games is the family time the activity brings. His wife, Julia, and their two daughters will switch off the television, gather around the table, and hang out.

“That’s what I like about gaming,” Olmstead said. “You turn everything off and you focus on spending time together.”

His sentiments are echoed by other attorneys.

Rachelle Ponist Harshman, associate at Patrick Olmstead Law, and her husband, Tippecanoe County Deputy Prosecutor Aaron Harshman, regularly welcome friends into their home for game night.

“I think it’s a productive way to spend time with people,” she said, explaining everyone at the table is involved in the game which creates a lot of laughter and a “joyful experience.”

Board games have always been a part of Ponist Harshman’s life. She would crowd with her girlfriends into the basement of her childhood home and play cards and board games all night. Since high school, board games have fostered key introductions.

She met her husband during moot court at Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, and their first date was to a trivia event at a local bar. After graduation, her connections and friendships in board-gaming circles led her to Olmstead and eventually a job offer.

Aaron Harshman shares his wife’s enthusiasm. He described himself as a “bit of an evangelist” for board games, explaining he likes to play, he likes to teach others how to play, and he has even helped design a couple of tabletop contests.

The main element that attracts him to the low-tech gaming is the chance to be with friends. Board games, with their slower pace than video games, bring out the players’ personalities and require them to be thoughtful. And, they can be paused whenever the participants want to take a break.

John Lowery, attorney at Lee & Fairman LLP, saw the allure of board games when his two sons put down their video games to join him and his friends at the table. Lowery shares with a neighbor a collection of roughly 50 games that includes Acquire, Empire Builder and Executive Decision.

In high school, he enjoyed many rounds of Risk with his cross-country teammates and in college, while working as a law clerk, he spent a couple of nights each week huddled over a board game with friends. The competition and figuring out a strategy for winning kept him coming back.

Andrew Kanis, of Indianapolis, loves board games so much he is giving up the law. The solo practitioner, who has 700 games and has been a serious player since college, got his dream job when he saw a want ad from Panda Game Manufacturing.

It was not an impulsive move. Kanis has long wanted to work in the gaming industry but figured the only job openings would be for designers or artists. He now knows the industry needs account managers as well.

The social experience and the ability to interact with friends are his favorite aspects of board gaming, he said. Players of video games can be in different locations, but rolling the dice and moving pieces around a board requires all the players to be in the same room.

In the end, work did intrude on Olmstead’s gaming day, but in a good way. Someone at Gen Con chuckled at his “Jesus Loves You” T-shirt which led to a conversation and a new client.

Like Kanis, Olmstead has dreamed of working with the board-game industry. He is working to expand his practice to include legal representation for game designers and publishers. To be successful at adding a new practice area to his firm, Olmstead certainly has the love for the games, but he may need more catchy T-shirts.•

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  2. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

  3. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  4. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  5. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

ADVERTISEMENT