Sage Advice US

All fun and games: Meet the app connecting gamers in Chicago

Swipe left, swipe right—technology has introduced a whole new dynamic to how people find dates. But what if you just want to find a buddy to hang out with, maybe play a game of ping pong? That’s the idea behind the Game of Arms app. It’s a mobile app that helps people find friends to play games with: everything from table tennis and pool to arm wrestling and rock, paper, scissors.

Jason Ryder is the Chicago-based co-founder, president and CEO of Game of Arms. His idea for the app stemmed from the acceptance of mobile dating, he says. “People are familiar with just meeting a random person out and about,” and now his app gives them a chance to use that approach for a fun, platonic time.

The idea serves a larger purpose, too. “Game of Arms believes that games can add value in our community by making the group happier and connecting people,” their website states. “We want to provide a hunger for more satisfying work, for a stronger sense of community and for a more engaging and meaningful life.”


Shawn (left) and Jason (right) play ping pong

Jason and his partner Shawn Hilgart knew they wanted a worldwide user base to achieve those goals—but first, they had to focus on getting a critical mass of users in Chicago. Since the app is location-based, you need enough nearby users for the app to bring you the results you want. To achieve this, they began taking advantage of Facebook advertising. “We targeted people in Chicago with interest in table tennis, pool, cornhole, and darts,” Jason says. They gained hundreds of followers with this local, targeted approach.

That was a great start, but they knew even bigger things were in the cards for this app. “Shawn is the brains behind developing,” Jason says, everything from the back end to the front end of the app. He focuses on “not building the app for us, but building the app for people who want to use it,” Jason says. They reached out to existing users to find out about their experiences and learn what they could do to improve Game of Arms. That turned out to be the key to their next phase of growth: user feedback.

That user feedback was crucial for evolving the app into its next phase. Users “know where they want to go most of the time, and they will build groups around the area,” Jason explains. So instead of swiping for specific friends, Jason and Shawn realized that people preferred to swipe and select a favorite venue, and then get paired up with fellow players from there. “I think that’s the best advice,” Jason says. “When you go out there and gain the user feedback, take it seriously. It’s going to drive the success of the company.”

They’re also equipping themselves for success in lots of other ways, including attending this year’s Sage Summit in Atlanta. Jason first attended Sage Summit in 2016. “There was so much there to touch and feel, to network with people, to learn about what you need to get your small business moving in the right direction,” he remembers. “We need to be pushing the limits of innovation in business and solving problems,” Jason says, and he sees Sage Summit 2017 as a crucial part of that push.

And they’re already well on their way to the success they’re seeking: Jason and Shawn aim to have 10,000 Game of Arms users by the end of summer 2017. Game on!

To check out Game of Arms for yourself, download it on the App Store or follow them on Twitter at @GameofArmsApp.