A couple months ago my inventor pal Gina Manola asked if I would take a look at her new game when it came out. While I don’t really fit into the target age demographic (kids 3-6), I am a sucker for cute and funny. Her new game is called Feed the Woozle manufactured by Peaceable Kingdom Press and yep, you guessed it — it’s about feeding a Woozle! The game is pretty simple and it all revolves around using a spoon to feed the charming monster a series of disgusting yet funny foods, like worm pie and moldy macaroni. It’s a cooperative game and there are three different levels of play so a variety of ages can enjoy this game. The key thing to remember is that the Woozle doesn’t abide by the “5 second rule” and won’t eat any foods that drop off the spoon, so dexterity is key to the players being successful. In more advanced levels you have to do funny actions are even blindfolded and you still have to feed the Woozle — with a little help from the other players. It’s hilarious for humans of all ages!
And now, a couple questions for the inventor! (Thanks Gina!)
1. How did you get started inventing board games?
In my business, CALICO, I design games and packaging for toy companies and I have a background in product development. It was a natural transition for me to get into inventing.
2. Can you tell me how you came up with the idea behind Feed the Woozle?
The name for the game came first. Then I built a narrative around the character from which the components and game play evolved. I wanted to create a game where the character made silly demands while wanting to be entertained by the players. This is where the twist comes in—we think of games as entertainment for us, which they are, but in Feed the Woozle, the imaginary character driving the game also wants to be entertained by YOU.
3. Did you know right away that it was a cooperative game, or did you change it to make it a cooperative game?
From the beginning it was meant to be a cooperative game. Typically, when I invent games, the theme, content or targeted age range of the game will dictate whether it is competitive or cooperative. If appropriate, I will write rules that offer both ways to play.
4. Did you come up with all of the funny foods in Feed the Woozle?
Yes. The silly snacks are a key ingredient of the game play!
5. Can you share your inventing and prototyping process?
It depends on the game. Some games are built from the title and a narrative as described above. Other games grow out of an objective or challenge that I, or a client may set. Some games are developed around a philosophy of play that I think is important. In all cases, I do a lot of sketches—first on paper. Scribbly and fast to get my thinking down as quickly as possible. The game really begins to take shape for me when I can see it. Then I build a prototype, play with it and push myself to remain open to the game going in a direction that I hadn’t planned for. Play-testing and refining of game play comes next. From the beginning, I look at the game from a marketing perspective and ask myself what the distinguishable features are. I try to see it the way a customer might see it on the store shelf. Ultimately I try to create an experience that’s fun and meaningful. (actual prototype pic at right — thanks Gina!)
6. You do a lot of work with the Young Inventor Challenge, which is judged at ChiTAG. What kind of advice do you give the young inventors you work with?
I encourage them to keep their antennas up because ideas can come from anywhere. I also encourage them to cast a wide net and never discount any idea when they begin the brainstorming process. Eventually, their ideas will coalesce into a few strong concepts to take to the next stage. Once they have a strong concept, I’ll ask them to pitch their idea to me. This helps them focus their thinking and really define the essence of their idea. Based on that, they can make sure that the best or most unique aspects of their toy or game come through.
Website for Young Inventor Challenge: www.chitag.com/yic
More about Gina:
Gina Manola is an inventor and the owner of CALICO, www.calico-kids.com, an award-winning, design studio offering product development, design, branding, and marketing to companies in the toy, game, gift and educational markets. Gina has developed successful toy, game and gift products for the specialty and mass markets and her work has been honored by “100 Best Children’s Products” and “10 Best Socially Responsible Products.”
Feed the Woozle stats:
$20 Amazon and some mom & pop stores