German game night at UR
Wunderbar! German Studies professor Kathrin Bower congratulates rising sophomore Beckett Rebele-Henry for incorporating a German word he learned in class into a round of Code Names.

Playing along: Campus game nights mix knowledge and chance

May 20, 2024


Students are finding ways to connect while flexing their academic muscles at campus game nights.

In the Commons Room on the second floor of the Humanities Building, students practice their skills in a Jeopardy-like experience that includes buzzers and a little competition.

History professor Michelle Kahn tallies up the scores on trivia night. “It's about bringing people with history degrees together to have some fun,” said Nick Lewis, a rising junior.

“Yes, there can be bantering,” said Nick Lewis, a rising junior. But it’s all part of the fun of history trivia night, he said, which can draw as many as 60 students.

Each team tries to get the fastest correct answers on topics created by the students such as “Ancient Civilizations,” “Famous Quotes,” and “History Majors Can’t Do Math,” which concerns dates and numbers.

“Since these categories change every time, it’s a good way to be introduced to different cultures and histories, which broadens our outlook,” said rising senior Sydney Tellis, vice president of sponsoring organization, Phi Alpha Theta. “It is also just a fun way to bond with the department in a competitive way.”

German game night or Spielabend began in Fall 2018. At first, it was structured around a theme, with related vocabulary. Students in German language courses had to attend at least one game night as part of their coursework. It’s no longer a requirement, just a fun way to learn and socialize.

“Spielabend has evolved into more of a community building activity, where students and faculty come together to enjoy German music, games, and snacks,” said Kathrin Bower, professor and coordinator of German studies. Brezeln, German soft pretzels, are a favorite.

The group plays familiar English games as well as German favorites Drecksau, and Mensch ärgere Dich nicht (the German version of the board game Sorry).

“German is not required for participation, but you will frequently hear students and faculty speak a mix of German and English,” Bower said. “German music is a staple, however, and students sometimes sing or hum along with songs they have learned in class.”

The student organization, Games Club, has 100 members. They come together on Thursday nights to play card and board games such as Catan, Wingspan, and Anomia. While the group’s purpose sounds simple, its impact can be significant.

“Those four hours on Thursday nights, I don't think I would have been able to survive without them,” said Marcos Hendler, a rising senior and one of the club’s student organizers. “To me, the Games Club was the first place I felt I belonged here at the University.”