When I was at the Chicago Toy and Game Fair before Thanksgiving, Nick Metzler was demoing his new game with PlaSmart, Squashed. As Nick was talking with small crowd of people there was one boy who didn’t want to play with the manufactured version of the game – instead he wanted to play with the prototype. What is it about prototypes that fascinate us? I love seeing prototypes – even the rough and ugly ones.
As an inventor there are limitations as to what kind of prototypes I can produce in my tiny closet-sized office. I also have to take into account the cost to produce a prototype on spec. I can’t sink hundreds of dollars into a prototype when I don’t know that my idea will ever make money, so it has to be a balance of what I can do cheaply with what needs to be done to get my idea across. Overall though, it’s a craft project and there’s something about seeing another inventor’s craft project that I find interesting. I think part of it is that you can see more of that initial “seed of the idea,” but it’s also the transformation the game made from idea to prototype to manufactured product — which is sometimes more extreme than others.
It’s always been one of my missions on The Game Aisle to share pictures of prototypes and not just because I find it fascinating, but I hope that it helps any aspiring inventors realize that they don’t need to spend big bucks on prototypes. Earlier this year I shared a prototype pic for my game Raccoon Rumpus and now I’d like to share a few pics of my game Cheese Louise. For the pics to make sense, I need to explain a little about the game first. It’s an all-play game in which players have slices of bread with stuff on them. Players are looking for a slice of cheese with holes that doesn’t allow any of the stuff to show through when it’s lined up squarely with their slice of bread. It’s funny and silly and the idea just popped into my head and I couldn’t stop laughing so I made this prototype:
The cheese is made of foam sheets I got from the craft store and punched by hand using a metal punch and hammer which I purchase for $12 off of Amazon. I won’t lie, that was the worst part of making this prototype — it was so hard to get nice edges, so there were lots of pieces that got thrown out. The bread is printed card stock that I cut using an xacto on the 3 straight parts and then with scissors for the round parts. I did the design work myself so that might be a little harder for anyone who doesn’t know their way around graphics programs, but it didn’t need to look as pretty as it did. I licensed Cheese Louise to Fat Brain Toys and now it looks like this:
Side by side, my prototype (left) is definitely smaller and less polished looking…
…but still pretty similar, right? Well that’s not often the case — in fact, I’d say it’s one of the few exceptions. Raccoon Rumpus, wasn’t even about raccoons when I showed it – it was about chipmunk-like creatures. Still, a company makes changes that will hopefully make it a better product for them and as an inventor you have to be okay with that. But sometimes they like it just the way you envisioned it — down to the foamy cheese and all!
Cheese Louise Stats:
$12-13 at Amazon, Fat Brain Toys, and (hopefully) your local game store
Ages 6 and up