Lee Allentuck - Gameboard-1: One Board. All Play.
Inventor Shail Mehta Uses Life Experience and New Technology to Build a Global Community of Board Game Lovers
Super game enthusiast and rookie tech inventor, Shail Mehta, believes that she and her team of talented engineers have bridged the physical and digital divide for board games. All it took was a connection to friends.
When she first immigrated to the United States in the 90’s, Shail Mehta found comfort and friends in playing games.
“I couldn’t speak English and the only way to connect with other kids my age was to play games like Chutes & Ladders, Sorry! and Candyland,” Mehta recalls. “As young children, we didn’t need a written language and we could laugh and play without words. This was how I learned, connected, and localized myself. Playing board games was more than a hobby, it was my community.”
It was that early experience with games that has come full circle for her nearly 25 years later. After years of a successful financial career working with hedge and venture capital funds and consulting for the Nuclear Regulatory Committee and municipalities, Mehta is now entering a new phase in her career: Inventing.
“It started from a simple idea: how can I see and play with my friends more – even when they aren’t present,” Mehta says. “And how can we continue our epic battles and adventures for longer periods of time without having to clean-up and reset the board every single time?”
This wanting to connect with her friends led to a revelation -- a digital/physical hybrid gameboard with not only the right technology but the ability to build a community of game lovers. But having no experience, how was she to build such a platform? A meeting over beers with legendary XBox hardware guru, Rob Wyatt, would set this project into motion.
“We talked about the fact that technology was only one barrier due to the fundamental flaw with current touchscreen devices,” Wyatt said. “I knew we could overcome that. The larger barrier was how to build a community around this device that felt both comfortable and delivered a unique experience. In order to do it right, we had to start from scratch.”
The two gaming enthusiasts discussed how today’s video gaming has been attributed to depression, ADHD and many other ailments that plague our society. In order to break these trends, a gaming device should be built to enhance the human connection. Hobby gaming has thrived in our society because of its fundamental truth, it brings people together. Face-to-face.
And in the wake of the COVID-19 Pandemic, collaborative, social gaming is more important than ever.
Enter Gameboard-1, a new platform that creates a whole new way of playing tabletop games, board games and social games but with the familiarity and the comfort of a traditional physical game.
“Gameboard-1 was born out of the need to address the analog challenges of hobby games like: set-up and clean up; learning rules; exploring new games before purchasing; saving a game; or finding someone interested in playing,” Mehta says. “But this couldn’t just be a digital version of the game. That’s not compelling enough for someone to buy this. It has to be a new and enhanced version to physical games that you can only do on the digital platform.”
The team, which now expanded to include former NASA and Disney software engineer, Tim Schukar, experimented with a number of current technologies and quickly determined that to create a unique and enhanced game experience, they had to reimagine the gaming technology and design from the ground up. The team focused on versatility, intuitiveness, ability to expand, and durability. But most of all, it needed to be an interactive touch experience like no other.
“We needed to create a digital device that could recognize physical objects for varying shapes and sizes, especially the types of objects that are needed for hobby gaming,” Wyatt says. “For me, it’s just a box that allows digital and analog to interact. The magic is in our patented SenseScreenTM technology that allows for endless touch sensing across the entire board – not just in a few specific spots. The result provides unlimited opportunities for interaction.”
Gameboard-1 is designed for the entire game industry and all are invited to play.
“We’re building a community of game lovers to return to social gameplay that is enhanced by technology, not replaced by it,” Mehta says. “The community is an evolutionary way for fans to connect with friends, fellow fans, and the creators they love and follow. Imagine a global online family trivia night or an epic 3-week, no holds-barred D&D tournament with your college buddies. The connections are endless.” Built with an open Software Development Kit (SDK), Gameboard-1 allows any game developers to easily create rich, engaging and deep experiences for their fans. The data-centric platform provides full-circle feedback to creators on how to improve their games to offer a better game experience. And a shared-revenue model allows for a better return on investment.
“We’ve designed this platform for the community of creators to get closer to their fans,” Mehta explains. “Whether you build in Unity, Unreal or even native Android, this is a sandbox and the best games on our platform will most likely be something we haven’t even thought of yet. We leave that to the creatives of the industry.”
The company just recently launched their online community forum at https://community.lastgameboard.com/latest
The Door Is Open
With a consumer launch planned within a year, Gameboard-1’s Software Development Kit (SDK) is available to anyone who wants to build games on the new platform. This is an opportunity for game designers to look under the hood and onboard new or classic games or even launch and test all new gaming experiences. The future of gaming is merging the physical and digital, and Gameboard-1 is on the frontier of this new category.
“We see this as a new era in board gaming that will benefit the creators and fans,” Mehta says. “Half the fun is watching the amazing things this industry will create and we hope that all designers become part of our movement. ‘One board. All play’ is our motto. All games. All the time. No boundaries.”
To learn more about The Last Gameboard visit (www.LastGameboard.com) or schedule an online demo of Gameboard-1, please contact Lee Allentuck at Lee@LastGameboard.com.