Growing numbers of single Americans have discovered PlayDate, a popular new game night that is also the hottest new venue for meeting Mr or Ms Right.
"PlayDate is the alternative night life for people who don't want to go to the clubs," said Tony Sharpe, one of the organizers of the popular event in Arlington, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, DC.
The name is a play on words: American children often have "play dates" -- organized get-togethers at home with their toys or at a neighborhood playground -- arranged by parents who feel the need to take charge of their youngsters' social calendars.
At PlayDate events for grown-ups, however, many of the activities are the same ones that the would-be daters enjoyed in their childhood -- games such "Connect Four," "Operation" and "Hungry Hippo."
"I grew up playing board games, card games with my family," said Arlene Williams, 30, one enthusiastic PlayDater in Arlington. "I like going to the disco, but sometimes it's a little too much."
PlayDate events, organized by the group Timeless Entertainment Concept, began in the southern city of Atlanta, Georgia in 2005 and have spread quickly across the United States.
There are currently about 20 cities hosting PlayDate gatherings including Miami, Los Angeles, Denver, Seattle, Philadelphia, Chicago, and New Orleans -- with more being added all the time.
One reason the concept works so well, organizers said, is that prospective daters lose themselves in the fun and spontaneity of going head-to-head in a fun-filled competition against a prospective romantic interest.
What ensures a raucous good time -- whether or not participants find love -- are the board and floor games that evoke positive associations for most participants and which break down the inhibitions and self-consciousness that can make the typical dating scene so painful.
The founders of Arlington's PlayDate said the event doesn't replace going to clubs, but can be a nice change of pace.
"People are not bored with nightlife, but nightlife is the same scene over and over for the last 10, 20, 30 years," said PlayDate organizer Orin Gillian. "This is something a little different from the normal nightlife."
Arlington's PlayDate event, the first in the Washington, DC area, held in a chain-hotel ballroom one recent evening, drew several hundred people who paid 15 dollars (10 euros) per person admission.
PlayDate's organizers have not entirely forsaken classic dating fare: In addition to fun and games, there is a cocktail bar along with a dance floor at one end of the ballroom, complete with a DJ spinning classic soul tunes.
Eric Randolph, 42, said the unconventional date venue took some of the pressure off the typical singles scene.
"This is ... an opportunity to meet people in an environment that is completely different," he said.
Randolph knows that if he is lucky, he may just meet the girl of his dreams over a game of "Snakes and Ladders."
But if not, he said, he can still "just have some fun, play some games that I haven't played since I was a kid."