PARK SLOPE — Dragon slaying, treasure hunting, and werewolf tracking will be part of the curriculum at a new Park Slope after-school program.
The Brooklyn Game Lab, opening Feb. 1 on Seventh Avenue and 10th Street, will use elaborate fantasy board games to teach skills like communication, probability and spatial reasoning.
"The goal is to do something that's equally educational and fun and cover things you don’t often see covered in a program like this, like social skills and critical thinking," said owner Bob Hewitt.
Hewitt has designed a curriculum around four categories of games, each of which teaches different sets of skills. One is built around classic battle games with dueling knights, where players learn alliance formation and game theory. Another focuses on more cerebral mystery games where players investigate each other and learn deductive reasoning.
The areas of study — called King of Brooklyn, Brooklyn Werewolf, Brooklyn Island and Settlers of Brooklyn — consist of popular games such as King of Tokyo and Settlers of Catan.
At each after-school session, groups of kids will play games for 75 minutes. Then they participate in a post-game analysis called a "lab research" workshop. Kids will evaluate their performance in the game and pinpoint "winning tactics" and "losing lessons." Players will also be encouraged to add their own rules to the games, giving kids a taste of game design.
An only child who grew up playing board games, Hewitt has had a lifelong interest in game design. As a kid he liked to tweak games with his own ideas; he once added nuclear bombs and coups to Risk. As an adult, he co-founded a Silicon Valley gaming company, HashGo.
Hewitt lives in Park Slope and is married to a science teacher at P.S. 321. He bounced his ideas for Brooklyn Game Lab off teachers at the high-performing school. However, the new gaming center isn't just for kids. Hewitt will offer night sessions for Scrabble-playing adults. The space, a former real estate office at 353 Seventh Ave., will also be available on Saturdays for birthday party rentals.
Hewitt says Brooklyn Game Lab will give kids the opportunity to step away from video games and other screens for face-to-face play with others.
"In today's day and age where everybody takes four iPads out to dinner, the kids are unplugged," Hewitt said. "They’re not playing Minecraft, they’re sitting around a table with other human beings…You have 100 percent of their attention and focus and the underpinning are completely educational."