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HED: Monopoly 2.0

DEK: By

Board games, arts and crafts, ping pong. An evening's itinerary at the local seniors' home? Maybe, but they're also just a few of the hobbies that a younger demographic – the most plugged-in segment of society – is embracing these days in an effort to unwind and "unwire." As technology continues to encroach on every aspect of our lives, early adopters are actually opting out – at least for a few hours at a time.

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In both Canada and the U.S., video-game sales have dipped and stalled since the 2008 recession. According to the NPD Group, a market-research company, the video-game market was worth $82.9 million in Canada in April, a decrease of 4.5 per cent since last year.

By contrast, the WiFi-free board-games café Snakes and Lattes in the Annex neighbourhood of Toronto is bustling. Described by a co-founder, 27-year-old Ben Castanie, as the only one of its kind in North America, the café offers, along with cups of coffee, a choice (for $5) of any boxed diversion from its in-house library – shelves filled floor-to-ceiling with games. The staff, Castanie explains, travels from table to table to promote interaction among strangers, encouraging people to merge matches. The café and the concept have become so popular, he adds, that Sanakes and Lattes will expand this summer, less than a year after opening.

According to Castanie, "90 per cent [of customers] are either university students or young professionals – say, 25 to 35 years old." And although he doesn't want them "to stare at a computer all day," it was social media, ironically, that spread word of Snakes and Lattes to its growing fan base in the first place.

Younger, wired patrons are also the core demographic of PaintLounge, a "social painting" cafe that opened last fall in Markham, a suburb of Toronto. For a fee of $30 to $80, customers get a canvas and art supplies, partake in refreshments and, in the company of like-minded peers, explore their inner Jackson Pollocks. And despite the back-to basics nature of the business, Samantha Chan, another 27-year-old, says social media is a key part of the artistic fun.

"When a person comes in to paint, they take photos of [the results] or check into the lounge [via Foursquare, a social media app, that lets people know where they are]," Chan says.

As analogue and nostalgic as these increasingly popular pastimes are, conjuring the feeling of a more innocent time, before everyone had their noses buried in Blackberries, they clearly rely on and in fact are enhanced by digital technology. Where, in other words, would we be without all our apps? Even when the aim is a game of Monopoly or Clue, we still often need them in the quest to turn off, tune out and drop in.

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