Yardgameguy Duncan Taylor takes kids of all ages back to a simpler time
Like many Millennials, Duncan Taylor and his sister played board games like the motorized Forbidden Bridge. They posed their pressing questions to the wizard in Ask Zandar, and sought to claim the estate of the wealthy old woman in 13 Dead End Drive.
“I grew up in the ‘90s and games were just so much cooler back then,” says the now-32-year-old Ottawa resident. “To this day, my friends and I have weekly board game nights. The resurgence in interactive games during our modern day of technology,” he says, “is really reassuring.”
So much so that in spring of 2022, Taylor founded Yardgameguy, renting out classic games like Cornhole, washers, ring toss and ladderball for special events. With a talent for creativity, Taylor was soon inspired to recreate his own large-scale versions of Jenga, Kerplunk, Guess Who, Connect 4 and Battleship, a childhood favourite. “Yardgameguy grew naturally from a passion to be creative,” says Taylor.
His mind races with ideas, but inevitably there are problems encountered, he says. “I’m often working out kinks on the fly. There are no instructions, just a small version of the game to reference. I wouldn’t say I’m handy or skilled with tools—just driven to bring an idea to life.”
Regardless of players’ ages, there’s something about games—particularly large-sized games—that bring people together. Taylor thinks it’s the novelty. “People haven’t seen them that large and it’s automatically catchy due to their size, then they realize it’s something they enjoyed as a kid,” he says. “Seeing an adult light up when they play a giant version of one of their favourite games is very rewarding. These games are still popular in our culture even for the next generation, but it’s the adults who identify with them as well that make them so popular.”
The winding down of pandemic restrictions also contributed to the success of the business. Social events are gearing up, which Taylor calls “definitely good timing.” He rents his games out to people organizing events of all kinds, including weddings, birthdays, cottage weekends, community events and workplace functions. “I have a lot of corporate clients who book giant games for team building events,” he says. “They love getting out of the office and doing something.”
A year after starting his business, Taylor has over 100 games in his collection—a mixture of giant board games and yard games like bocce and horseshoes—and having recently finished Blokus, Hungry Hungry Hippos and Light Bright, has turned an eye to creating more abstract games like human Foosball and human Pac-Man. He also hopes to add inflatables and puzzle boxes to his offerings, and is in the process of putting together a yard game league for the summer. “I’m always on the lookout for new competitive sports-related yard games,” he says.
As a full-time psychiatric nurse at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre, Taylor says play has many social, emotional and psychological benefits. “Socially, they help us break the ice,” he says. “Games and play are important for development as a child, but also for our well-being as we grow older. They keep us social, mentally sharp, and get us outside.
“There couldn’t be a better time to get out and have some fun.”
Looking for the perfect game? Ottawa’s Duncan Taylor has you covered
For the thrill-seekers
“Kerplunk. It’s such a hair puller watching others pull the sticks out.”
For a children’s event
“Light Bright. Let’s see what they create!”
For a family reunion
“Giant soccer billiards — kids vs. parents.”
For a corporate picnic where the boss will be present
“Guess Who. Your deduction skills may be getting judged by the boss.”
Giant Guess Who. Photo Courtesy Yard Game Guy
For a teambuilding event
“Labyrinth. It’s the only cooperative one I’ve got!”
For a date night
“Let’s get the couple moving with a good old game of inflatable soccer darts.”