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Interviews

Frank Juritsch wrote me a few months ago asking if I'd consider Who Said That?, the game he and Andrew Peters created, as an addition our Independent Designers Program. As soon as I read a summary of gameplay I wanted to like this game. It has such a simple premise: Players write answers to a question, the answers are read in random order and each player must guess "who said that?" Well, I asked Frank for a copy and we gave it a try. I'm happy to say the game did not disappoint. We played it with a few groups over the Thanksgiving holiday and I quickly added the game to our program. Who Said That? is a great social game that offers plenty of laughs and allows everyone to get to know each other a little better.

I've enjoyed working with Frank and Andrew since we started carrying their game. When they agreed to grant us an interview, I took the chance to find out how much work goes into making such a fun social game.


Mike Petty: To start things off, why did the two of you decide to make a game together?

Andrew Peters: We've known each other for over 15 years now and we've spent a lot of time sitting at the dining room table playing various types of games and had a lot of fun doing it.

Frank Juritsch: From cards to Monopoly to in-depth war games to trivia games, we've played a lot of them and always had a good time. I guess playing other people's games sort of inspired us to take a stab at creating our own and maybe giving people a chance to enjoy something that we created. So far we think we've done okay.

MP: I'd say you've done very well so far!

AP: Thank you.

MP: Developing a game and getting into the industry is a huge challenge. Would you say you had a good idea of how hard it would be when you first decided to make a game?

AP: We certainly didn't go into this blind, but I would be lying if I said we had anticipated everything that has been thrown our way. Frank and I have always had the philosophy of "baby steps". Which is to say that we take each step or stage of this project one thing at a time. We talk about every move and get as much outside opinion as we can before we make any decisions. We trust each other and so far it's worked out OK.

MP: What was the biggest lesson you learned while you worked on Who Said That?

FJ: I think it's one that we had an idea of before we started this venture, but have had reinforced repeatedly as we've gone along. That being as much as we think we've learned to this point, we've really only scratched the surface and still have a lot more to learn.

MP: Who Said That? is really a simple concept, but I think the questions are very well suited and bring the game to life. How did you come up with all those questions?

FJ: The questions were a long and arduous task for us. Actually, they were the longest component to put together out of all the different aspects of Who Said That?. Basically, we just did some serious brainstorming over the course of many, many months, sometimes together and sometimes individually, and compiled a list of about 400 questions.

MP: What criteria did you use to determine which ones worked and which didn't?

AP: We tried to draw upon personal experience, thoughts triggered from news events and everyday happenings and concepts suggested by friends and family. Once we had our 'master list' we sat down and edited it down to about 200. The initial criteria was to try to use questions that were suitable for almost anyone to play, to put together a list that could be suitable for as large a demographic as we could reach. After we did some initial play testing, we developed some further parameters. We removed any questions that were gender specific, for instance "What movie star would you most like to go out on a date with?", any multiple choice questions, like "Of the five senses, which one do you feel you rely on the most?" and any yes or no questions such as "Do you feel there is too much violence in the movies and on TV now-a-days?"

FJ: Our primary intent was to lay out a selection of questions that ideally, would stimulate conversation while playing, because that's where we felt that the inherent entertainment value of our game lay, and also what we set out to do when we first came up with the idea of Who Said That?.

MP: Do you have any favorite questions? And along those lines, do any answers really stand out over all the times you've played the game?

FJ: To try and isolate one or two or even a few questions as our most favorite is difficult because whenever we play, the dynamics of each question changes depending on who we're playing with.

AP: For instance, in one game the question "If you could meet any person out of history, who would it be?" came up and two of the answers were God and Hitler. You just don't know what to expect whenever you open up the box.

MP: How did you playtest this game?

AP: Primarily we relied upon friends and family and through them additional groups that were a little farther removed from us to try and get as many unbiased reviews as we could.

MP: In the overall development and marketing of this game, what's been most difficult?

FJ: Well, each phase had its own unique trials and tribulations. Designing a play system that allowed for as much flexibility as possible was pretty tricky. Going back and forth with the graphic artist was frustrating at times. The questions were in a category all of their own.

AP: The actual production, once all the ground work was done, wasn't too bad. Now, we're into the marketing phase and it's presenting all of it's own little hiccups as we go along. The biggest issue however, which we've encountered throughout the course of the whole project, is the resources that you have to employ and manage when undertaking something of this magnitude.

FJ: Time and money, those are the two biggest factors that we've had to juggle in every step of the project. generally, when we have one, we don't have the other. Or, we don't have either. That's when perseverance, and sometimes pure stubbornness, is all that you have to rely on to see you through. One of the things that we're repeatedly told is that overnight successes don't happen overnight, they usually take a few years. If that's the case, then we're pretty much due for a breakout year any year now. We've learned that the game industry is run on a bit of a paradox. Without mentioning any names, we've been playtested and approved any a number of large chains in both Canada and the US but they won't carry us on their shelves until we're "mainstream". We look at that and say "How are we supposed to become "mainstream" if you won't put us on your shelves?". Somewhere someone got off the logic train there. Whether it's us or them we don't know yet.

MP: This is a game about expression and communication. In the games I've played, you really get to know people. I wondered if you've had any comments or thanks from players really shows how this game brings people together.

FJ: We do get some really good positive feedback from people that have played the game and that really makes us feel good. It gives us a solid feeling of accomplishment. We've actually had praise from people affiliated with counseling associations that use our game as a counseling tool, which to be quite honest with you, blows us away. We set out to create a game that people could sit down and spend a little quality time with their friends and family and have a few laughs with them. Now we're discovering that people believe it's a viable medium to promote communication and self-expression in a relaxed and fun atmosphere. We never would've guessed it.

MP: Do you produce any other games or have others in the works?

AP: Yes, we do have other games on the drawing board. We actually have one that we were prepared to bring to market about five or six years ago but we would have ended up losing about $10 on every one that we sold. Even being new to the business, we figured that wasn't a good way to launch our company. We are however looking at adapting it to a computer environment so we can't really divulge too much about the concept at this point in time but if we get it to work we think it'll fly pretty good.

FJ: It's nothing like Who Said That?, but it was that game that spurned the creation of Finchetto Games Company and ultimately led us to where we are now. Hopefully, it'll lead us to a more prosperous future too.

MP: We look forward to your future projects. Thanks to both of you for your time!

AP: It's our pleasure, Thank-you.

FJ: Thanks for the opportunity to share some of our story Mike. We've really enjoyed this.


 



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