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Where singles go to play all sorts of games

  • Story Highlights
  • PlayDate offers fun alternative to nightlife scene with board games, video games
  • Timeless Entertainment Concepts runs PlayDate, Paint By Numbers
  • PlayDate offers hula-hoops, musical chairs, Scrabble, Jenga, Pictionary
  • To "not be an adult for one night" is kind of fun, participant says
  • Next Article in Living »
By Jacque Wilson
CNN
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ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Lynne Lucas is taking herself off the meat market. Monique Brown is sick of having to look cute all the time. And Scott Hayes is searching for his inner child.

Alisha Wheeler, left, plays Scrabble with a few other PlayDaters.

Imari Havard, co-founder of PlayDate, dances with some participants on the dance floor.

It's Saturday night at PlayDate in Atlanta, Georgia, where 400 adults have gathered to play games, drink and socialize.

"It's not your usual bar scene where I look good, you look good, I'm scared to talk to you," Hayes says as he scans a giant Jenga tower for the right block to pull. "You'll talk to anyone when you're playing games, because you're trying to beat them."

Next to Hayes, Brown watches a rambunctious game of Pictionary while a twosome fights it out with Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots nearby. Across the room, Lucas joins her friends in a game of Trouble. And on the dance floor, Imari Havard is hula-hooping with some ladies.

Havard is the co-founder of Timeless Entertainment Concepts, host of PlayDate, with Ryan Hill and Ronald Gaither.

Timeless' mission is clear: provide a fun alternative to the typical nightlife scene for an entrance fee of just $10 per person. In other words, if you're looking for love in all the wrong places, try a game of Hungry Hungry Hippos. Tell us how your and your sweetheart first met

PlayDate began in Atlanta in 2005 and has slowly expanded from a monthly crowd of 80 to 500 twice a month in nine cities across the nation. The three men hope to start affiliates in another 20 markets this year.

"It's a pretty simple word-of-mouth advertising," Havard says of how they've made PlayDate so popular. "The No. 1 question asked on a Monday morning, is 'How was your weekend?' The number two most popular question is 'What did you do?' Well, we've built our entire program around answering those questions."

While Gaither takes care of the legal and administrative aspects, Hill and Havard attend events and deal with affiliates.

The two opposites complement each other. Tonight, Hill wears a red polo shirt and jeans. Havard wears a stingy fedora and a pin-stripe suit jacket. Hill uses the words "overhead," "clientele" and "venue negotiation" regularly in conversation. Havard is more likely to shout phrases like "Patricia's in the house, y'all!"

And while Havard is swiveling his hula-hooping hips, Hill blends into the background.

"Someone has to have a respectful corporate face," Hill says as he laughs at Havard's antics. Photo See photos from the event »

Meanwhile, Alisha Wheeler has on her game face. A man she just met is teaching her to play Scrabble, and it's not as easy as it looks. Wheeler found out about PlayDate on the Internet and decided to check it out.

"To be able to play games again and not be an adult for one night, it's kind of fun," she says. "It's not the typical, uneasy having to go up to someone you don't know, because everyone has on these silly nametags, and [the games] are like an icebreaker."

Todd Jones agrees. A PlayDate veteran, Jones has been coming to the events since they started three years ago. He's even attended launches in other cities and says the atmosphere is the same everywhere.

"When you go to a club, people will stand around. They're very defensive," Jones says. "But here, you really have to intermingle."

Gesturing to the six women he's playing Uno with, Jones says he doesn't come to PlayDate looking to hook up. "I just come here really to have a good time. If something happens after that, then, fine."

Havard says that's the basis of his company, Timeless, which also offers Paint By Numbers and Call Me UP. Paint By Numbers lets people socialize while painting a 100-square-foot mural. Call Me UP is a new interactive take on a stand-up comedy club.

"You go to a nightclub, a lot of times, that scene is the same," Havard says. "It's too loud; it's too dark; it's too smoky. A lot of people have on their nightclub personas, so you don't get to know real people. What we've found with PlayDate is, it lets people let their guard down and be themselves. It's romantic, in a sense, because you begin to connect like you did when you were younger."

Back on the dance floor, Havard narrates a game of musical chairs. As the music stops, a woman and man fight for the last chair. "Girl, you've got a nice booty, but it ain't in the seat," Havard shouts into the microphone. "Everybody say byyyyyeee!"

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As the crowd shouts a farewell, Hill looks at his watch, shrugs proudly and smiles.

"It's not every day you can answer 'what do you do for a living?' with 'I have fun, and I make sure other people have fun, too,' " he says. "I mean, where else in the world would you see 30- and 40-year-olds playing musical chairs at midnight?"

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