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Interviews

Squint: Dreams Take Shape

Squint is one the more recent games from Out of the Box Publishing. Like all of their games, it takes only minutes to learn the rules and there is a lot of interaction during the play. When I first had the chance to try Squint at Origins back in July, I was immediately impressed with the level of energy and excitement involved in the game. Rather than pitting team against team, this guess-my-word game has everyone competing at the same time. Since getting my own copy, I’ve played it with a number of groups. We really enjoy the challenge of making and guessing the words—and believe me, it can be a challenge!Recently I met Deb Boss, the game’s designer, via e-mail. I was interested in learning a little more about the design process for Squint, so I asked her a few questions. She was kind enough to agree to an interview for Fair Play.

Mike Petty: First off, how long have you been designing games?

Deb Boss: Actually, I designed my first game 13 years ago. It was called "Quzzles." I tried off and on to raise money to publish and market it myself, but just couldn't quite raise the money that I needed. Since then, I have designed games as a hobby, with the hopes of one day seeing one of my concepts on the shelf.

MP: What is the story on Squint?DB: I designed Squint 4 years ago. Since puzzles and games are two of the backbones of the toy industry, I was trying to come up with an idea that would incorporate both. As my mind was wandering one day, the "squiggles" started popping into my head and the rest of the game concept came together after I put the shapes onto little cards.

MP: How long did it take to find a publisher for Squint? DB: I only queried two companies with Squint. Many other designers query quite a few companies and receive many rejection letters. I was extremely fortunate that the timing and "match-up" was right. I was researching something completely different on the Internet and accidentally found Out of the Box's web site. I decided to query them about Squint and they agreed to evaluate it. MP: And how much did Out of the Box influence the published version of the game?

DB: The rules to Squint have changed quite a bit from the way it was originally designed. I had designed it to be played in teams, but Out of the Box’s playtesting group decided they would prefer it if there was simultaneous play. They also decided to add the easy, medium, hard aspect to the subject cards. I originally had left the degree of difficulty to the "luck of the draw."

MP: There are a lot of games out there where players have to communicate a word or phrase with pictures or by other means. What do you think sets Squint apart?

DB: In a lot of the other games, you have to do all the work. You have to draw, mold, sing, etc. With Squint, the shapes have already been drawn for you so you do not have to feel intimidated if you are not artistic. All you have to do is put together a little "puzzle" to convey your subject.

MP: It’s as if Squint puts people on a more level playing surface, since everyone gets the same raw material to work with. What sort of players, age-wise or otherwise, does Squint seem to appeal to?

DB: We have playtested the game with people who range in age from seven to seventy-plus–literally. They range from serious gamers to people who do not necessarily like playing games. Some of the people hold major degrees, some are blue collar workers, some are fellow graphic designers, and some are family and friends. In short, we ourselves, test the game with everyone and anyone we can before we will send it off to a manufacturer for evaluation. MP: As I've told you earlier, I really enjoy the game, but I've got to say some people I’ve played it with are really bad at it! Especially when it comes to forming the pictures. Do you have any advice for players who have trouble getting others to guess their puzzle?

DB: I would suggest keeping your picture as simple as possible. Don't get too detailed. If you have a difficult subject to build, start with just a part of it and see if you can get people guessing in the right direction. Try to think about the way young children draw. If your subject is "lady," just put together a stick figure and people will eventually shout out the correct answer. Do not try to add a dress, purse, etc.

MP: We have more fun laughing at each other’s bad pictures and bad guesses in this game than anything else. I suppose over the years of development you've played a lot of Squint. Do any of those hilarious moments come to mind?DB: There have been so many! I think some of the funniest pictures resulted when we played Squint at family get-togethers. For example, one my cousins was trying to put together an ice cream sundae with whipped cream on top, and another cousin quickly shouted, "Uncle Carl's hairdo!" The funniest answers always seem to stem from an inside joke or something known to just the particular group you are playing with.

MP: Now that you've seen a game of yours go from concept to the store shelf, what advice can you offer others who dream of breaking into the industry with their ideas?

DB: The "$64,000 question"! I have to say that I am extremely humbled when I am asked this, being a "newbie" to the industry, but one who has studied it for many years. Based on my research, first of all, do not send your prototype to anyone who has not asked to see it. And do not send your invention to a company that has a line that your idea will not fit intoAnd last, but definitely not least, believe in yourself and your idea. You cannot sell an idea that you do not truly believe in, and neither can anyone else. Even when times get rough and you feel like throwing your idea into the back of the closet, give it one more chance. If you have done your homework and tested your idea, and in your heart you still believe in it, then keep at it! Eventually you will find that manufacturer that believes in it as much as you do. You may not be able to buy that yacht that you've always dreamed of, but seeing your efforts sitting on the shelf beside the touted classics is a feeling you will never forget!
MP: Are you currently developing any other games?

DB: I have 5 other games that I am working on. I tend to lean toward designing party/family games, and my other games are in that genre. Two of them are in the final mockup stage and are ready to be sent out to manufactures for evaluation. Squint was the first game that I agreed to license and hopefully it won't be the last! The toy industry is a crazy business, but one that I hope to be fortunate enough to be a part of for many years to come.

We at Fair Play wish Deb the best in her pursuits and thank her for the interview!

 



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