I really thought that I would get a lot of work done this summer. I have always been able to write while visiting my family for the summer on the east coast (Canada). For whatever reason, this summer I have not been able to write. At one point, I just had to accept it, and get on to the vacation part of my annual “working vacation” (coupled with the decision to head back home early to actually get some work done).
My nephew (7) is a very creative, bright little guy. He loves math and numbers (was sad that they did not do division in grade 1!). When I got here at the end of June, he was excited to show me a board game he had made – on looseleaf paper. We played a few times, and then decided that we should make our own, full scale board game. We spent the first few days just chatting about what kind of things he finds fun (prefers math and word games over drawing and acting of stuff). We spent a few days talking about what we wanted the board to look like, how many squares, what the goal of the game would be, etc. etc. In the end, we ended up with a game that had challenge cards (both math and word challenges), wild cards (called DK cards, since the game is called DK10 – standing for the first letter of my name and my nephew’s and 2010 – the year we made it… ) which allow you to move an opponent back, switch places with an opponent and other standard board game moves. We went to Staples (office supply store) and bought all the supplies we needed. Since it is designed to be a ‘kids’ game (but fun for all ages ;-)), we bought snap-able containers to keep the cards in, velcro tabs to stick the card boxes to the actual game board; the board itself is a large 2×3 ft foam-core board. The instructions were written out by hand (my sister doesn’t have any ink in her printer…). I bought a plastic document cover that I taped to the back of the board to keep the instructions in. A lot of effort went into finding ways to keep the game pieces together and durable (how many times have I gone to play a game when I was a kid and half the pieces were missing?!). Designing the board was the biggest challenge (or rather, drawing it out). The 75 squares spell out DK10. It took some fancy thinking in order to make the game play from square to square flow and keep things interesting (instead of a snakes and ladder layout). We bought stickers to jazz it up a bit. My nephew loves cars and roads – so there is a street theme to the game. When you land on a square that has a police car sticker, you lose a turn; when you fall on a square with a postal service truck, you get to pick up a DK card; two taxis that ‘slide’ you over to the next part of the board, etc.
We did a trial run (play test) once it was all done, and realized, no matter how much planning went into it, there were inevitable glitches that had to be reworked (from reward and penalty distribution to the difficulty level of the challenges that would make the game ‘fun’ for the whole family to play). Play testing is an important part of any game design ;-). I spent the last few days plastifying the game cards (my nephew is 7 after all). When we started the project at the first of the month, I didn’t realize how much went into making what I thought was a simple children’s game. But as we got into it, my nephew was adamant that he wanted a game he could play again and again. It was definitely learning experience – trying to balance fun and innovation. While relatively rudimentary(my artistic skills have decreased significantly over the years).
Ahhh, summertime – while I did not get to write as much as I would have liked, I don’t think I would trade this experience with my nephew for the world – heck, we even got an inside offer to front us some hedge money if we ever wanted to make this game for the rest of the world.