Sandy turns tech-addicted East Coasters into board game Luddites

 

New York

Forget "Words With Friends." After superstorm Sandy knocked out power, Internet and wireless services for millions in the Northeast, many tech-addicted residents dusted off their old-fashioned board games.

About 3.63 million customers in the region were still without power today, four days after Hurricane Sandy made landfall on Oct. 29, according to the Energy Department. Many may not have electricity restored for weeks, forcing people who rely on mobile phones, tablets, computers and TV video games for entertainment to suddenly go analog.

When Shannon Hobbs and her husband lost power at their Long Island house, the Xbox- and PlayStation-playing couple reached into their cupboard for strategy games such as "The Settlers of Catan" and "Dominion." Many of the guests for their wedding, held two days before Sandy struck, are stranded at their home.

"Playing games with six or more is a hell of a lot more fun than just my husband and me playing board games alone," said Hobbs, whose husband proposed shortly after Hurricane Irene hit the same region last year. "We have a huge cupboard full, so we are suited for this situation."

Played on Apple's iPhones and Samsung's mobile phones, many recent digital games such as "Words with Friends" and "FarmVille," are social games that require a Web connection to interact with others.

Children have remained at home this week, as most schools are closed through Nov. 5, adding to the urgency of parents seeking alternatives to video games.

At the peak of outages, Sandy cut power to more than 8 million homes and businesses along the Northeast. Public transportation systems were shut down and many businesses were temporarily shuttered.

Disruptions hit hardest in New York, which had 1.27 million people without electricity today, and New Jersey, which had 1.59 million. Outages affecting people in nine other states, as far West as Michigan, went without power because of the storm, according to the Energy Department.

"I played 'Risk' for the first time in a very long time," said Kristin Tweedale, a Rutgers University student who lives in North Arlington, New Jersey. Her power went out Sunday night and returned Wednesday morning. "We gathered all the candles we had."

Wayne Charness, a spokesman for Hasbro, which makes "Risk," did not respond to calls seeking comment.

New York, a city of 8 million, is still reeling after being hit by the largest tropical system measured in the Atlantic. People were seen recharging their smartphones in drug stores and standing outside closed Starbucks coffee shops to access free Wi-Fi.

After power and service went out on Manhattan's Lower East Side, Laurie Keith, a media director at a non-profit, walked to a friend's apartment to play poker by flashlight and candlelight. It was unusual to see people playing cards without multitasking with electronic devices, the 29-year-old said. She's now staying with friends on the Upper West Side.

"On a normal day I'm constantly blogging and refreshing, and I wasn't able to do that until I got uptown," she said.

Sandy knocked out cable or phone connections to more than 1 million customers in the New York area and weakened wireless service from Virginia to Massachusetts.

Minnie Romanovich, a freelance illustrator and photographer who lives with her husband in the East Village, is still without heat, hot water and cellular service. For entertainment, they resorted to "Trivial Pursuit," "Foodie Fight," "Labyrinth" and gin rummy.

"It's like indoor camping," she said.

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