A child plays Magic the Gathering at The Brooklyn Strategist. Credit: Bess Adler/Metro
On any given day, patrons of The Brooklyn Strategist may crush fantastical armies, master ancient gaming tactics or swap Scrabble tiles.
But at the Cobble Hill game store, cafe and social club, there is one limitation.
"No computers in any way," said store owner Jon Freeman, 48.
The goal of the community-based, hands-on card and board game center is get people to "think, have fun in a healthy and spirited way," he said.
"In this digital age it's all too easy to isolate, not pay attention, not be present," Freeman explained. "When you're playing a game with somebody, it literally forces you to be present. It takes away that ulterior expectation that something has to happen."
A clinical psychologist, Freeman used to be a director at a neuroscience research firm in Manhattan. He opened the store in January 2011 after "burning out in academia."
Freeman cites a "wealth" of scientific research showing the cognitive benefits of playing strategy games. Though The Brooklyn Strategist still has classics like Monopoly, Freeman focuses on "games that require forward thinking," he said.
Jon Freeman sells cards to kids at The Brooklyn Strategist. Credit: Bess Adler/Metro
The store hosts after-school programs for children, clubs for adults, magic tournaments and "Warhammer" events. Customers can also have their pick of more than 400 games in the shop's library.
Freeman hopes the kids classes — and, really, the adult clubs, too — increase engagement, particularly for those children with learning disabilities. He said there are social and emotional benefits to playing games with other people.
The shop has a dedicated and growing following after just three years. Freeman said he's already hoping to open a second location.
But that, like his favorite games in the shop, requires strategy.
"We have to make sure we can afford it first," he said.
The Brooklyn Strategist 333 Court St., Brooklyn Sunday-Monday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. $10 for four hours to play any game in the library; cost varies for clubs and other programs More information and an event calendar are at thebrooklynstrategist.com