Just as there are people who are surprised to hear that there are professional game inventors, there are also people who are surprised to hear that there are professional game content writers. And while, I know lots of inventors are also content writers (me, for example), I thought it would be fun to talk to someone who started their career in the industry as a content writer so I did a quick interview with Alice Langholt. But before I get to the interview, I’m going to quickly explain the game she wrote the content for: Flippin’ Out.
Flippin’ Out is “The Chip Flippin’ Name Game” invented by Brian Turtle of Endless Games – and the slogan pretty much explains the game. Spin a color, pull the card, read the category and then take turns calling out answers that match a letter on a face-up chip and flip it over so no one can use that letter again. It’s a last-player standing game and with only 10-seconds to answer you have to be quick on your feet when you’re left with difficult letters like U, V and I.
Flippin’ Out includes 880 categories on 220 cards – which is a lot of categories to come up with. I asked Alice about that and how she got into the industry; here’s what she had to say:
1. How did you get started being a content writer for board games?
It all started when I was a teacher who created a Jewish version of Apples to Apples for a class I was teaching. The game was so popular I pitched it to Jewish Educational Toys, who contacted Out of the Box Publishing about sublicensing an official version of Apples to Apples. I worked with OTB on creating the cards and rules, and learned the technical writing aspects of game content writing. I ended up freelancing, then working full time for OTB. When OTB downsized, I started freelancing for other game companies in content development.
2. Coming up with as many categories as you did for Flippin’ Out seems to be a daunting task, how did you keep going?
To be honest, the first 700 or so were pretty easy. I carried a pad of paper around with me and wrote down every idea that came to mind. Usually whatever I was looking at would spark an idea. For instance, look out the window. There’s: weather, car makes, plants, outdoor clothing, things to do in the snow, types of birds, rodents, dog tricks, and lots more! Simple observation will usually produce a big supply.
The hardest part was to avoid duplicates. I typed everything into a table and would sort by abc order. That helped me cross check, but sometimes differently worded categories would dupe without me catching them until later. I came up with categories 500 at a time and submitted them. The whole project took about 3 months.
There’s an age range so we like to work within appropriate guidelines. There can be some flexibility for a little bit of sauciness, but generally speaking, it’s pretty PG.
4. Do you test your questions to make sure that people can answer them or does the manufacturer do that?
I had to be sure that I could think of at least 20 answers for every category. If I could (or together my husband and kids and I could), the category was ok.
5. What other projects have you worked on and which one was your favorite?
I gotta say, of course Apples to Apples is close to my heart, and when I worked for Out of the Box, I also worked on a game called Party Pooper. That was hilarious. But Name 5 and Flippin’ Out were great too, and I’m really proud to have been such a big part of the creation of these excellent games. I’ve also worked on Oh! The Places You’ll Go! and “Thanks A Lot?!” for Forrest-Pruzan Creative, as part of a team of content writers, and those games are also excellent. I really gravitate to word-related games, and love to be creative.
We take Name 5, Flippin’ Out!, Apples to Apples (Jewish Edition), Thanks A Lot?!, X-Ceter-O and regular playing cards. I have four kids and all of them like to play. Name 5 and Flippin’ Out! are especially family- friendly because you play in teams. My kids are really good at them!
7. Anything else you’d like to say about getting into in the industry?
I really think that I got lucky, getting into the industry as I did. I can pitch new game ideas directly to Endless Games because of my ongoing relationship with them, and we really have fun playing with different scenarios. I help them with the rules wording and that’s challenging and creative, and I feel good about the excellence of the rules when we’re done. I know that most people have a harder time breaking in, so I’m certainly an exception and was in the right place at the right time (as we always are, even if we don’t know it at the time!)
Flippin Out is up for a People’s Play Award – you can vote for it here: www.PeoplesPlayAwards.com