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Brain Games expands the program for designers

What to do Queen’s Gambit, Akeelah and the Bee, and Dream spelling have in common? They are all media depictions of so-called “brain games”. Although brain games differ from regular sports tournaments in that they are tailored more towards skill than athleticism, they fulfill the same needs and desires as a regular sports tournament.


First, most tournaments that can be classified under the umbrella of “brain games” are multi-day tournaments involving people or teams from a specific area – district, region, state, or national. Therefore, the need for information about airports, rental cars, accommodation, restaurants and other excursions before planning a trip is still fruitful. However, since most of these games work on a win-to-travel basis, it is easier to reach and find suitable people than a regular sporting event.

Zaila Avant-garde won the grand prize and viral internet moment at the 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

In finding a place to host a brain game, today’s planners utilize hotels and convention or conference centers that are connected together. This makes it easier and safer for players to travel to and from competitions. SportsEvents talks about hotel partnerships and room blocking in this issue, so read through the article for ways a hotel or CVB in conjunction with a hotel can better serve you and your event.

The arrangements of the mentioned competitions also remain unchanged. While a designer may not be able to set up a baseball field or find someone to paint the yard lines on a soccer field, he will build tables, chairs, and appropriate systems in air-conditioned environments. Sound like fun?!

Even though these games don’t have combat or physics, they are still in high demand. Currently, many sports markets across the nation are expanding their roster of champions to include these contests.

The national speech and debate tournament is an excellent example of the market expanding beyond its normal sporting events. This year the competition will be held in Louisville, Ky., and the next two years in Phoenix, Az., and Des Moines, Iowa.

Who Wants to Be a Millionaire is a perfect example of a brain game.

The national speech and debate tournament also publishes a schedule of prepared topics 1-2 months before the competition, so individuals and teams have enough time to prepare. Other brain games that post information or topics before the event include Scripps’s National Spelling Bee, Hi-Q tournaments, and oratory contests.

Some brain games do not require preparation of competition materials in advance: poker, chess and checkers are a few examples.

Awards, scholarships and Savings bonds

Because many brainstorming competitions are aimed at high school individuals or teams, the awards often differ from the standard sports trophy, medal, and ring that are often presented at the closing ceremony.

The Scripps National Spelling Bee has awarded tens of thousands of dollars in scholarship money to its winner each year. In 2016, officials raised the prize to $50,000. The winner will also receive a $2,500 savings bond, a Nook eReader and a large gold trophy engraved with the Scripps logo. While most of the money comes from its nearly 300 sponsors, Merriam-Webster also pitches in to award prizes to the winner — it is, after all, a spelling bee.

Merriam-Webster will give all contestants a copy of their third new international dictionary on CD, and the winner will receive a reference library, a $100 savings bond in the form of the Samuel Louis Sugarman Award, and a Microsoft Surface 3. Encyclopedia Britannica will also award the winner. For years, they have given each winner $400 in reference books and a lifetime membership to Britannica Online Premium.

Other brain game prizes include scholarships to local/state colleges, scholarship money to any college, collegiate textbook savings, laptops, backpacks, and anything that can be directed or used for educational purposes.

In some brain games, such as poker or checkers, which are not aimed at high school students, the prize often consists of money from a “prize pool”, often consisting of an entry fee or bets placed during the competition.

Going hybrid

During the pandemic, many sporting events were cancelled. However, since most brain games consist of all high school students who were still in school, hybrid brain games were developed. The spelling bees were conducted via Zoom, the geography bee was conducted via an online test, and the debate/speaking competitions were conducted via webcast and a virtual panel of judges.

In our 2022 trend report in the April issue Sports events, it was reported that several events such as marathons, cheerleading competitions and dance competitions will continue to be offered as a hybrid option to increase the range of participation. As brain games go hybrid in 2020, will they continue in the future?

What is a “brain game”?

A “brain game” can be classified as any competition that not only stimulates, but also engages the brain. You have probably participated in the game yourself!

Examples of brain games:

  • Spelling/Geography/History Bee
  • Chess
  • Oak
  • Math/Scholastic/Chemistry Decathlon
  • Poker
  • Scholar’s Bowl
  • Hi-Q Competitions
  • Science fair
  • Oratory competitions
  • Debating competitions

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