Everyone faced challenges when COVID-19 effectively shut the world down. Working within the aviation industry, as borders closed and flights grinded to a halt, I found myself with a scaled back work schedule and uncertain future outlook. I decided I needed to turn my attention to a healthy and productive outlet in lockdown, which led to researching creative entrepreneurial endeavors. I completed a Bachelor of Business Studies in 2007 and never really pursued an opportunity to put it to use by starting my own business venture…until 2020.
As I sifted through a variety of options, mostly in the “too unattainable” or “lack of resources” category, I concluded whatever I did needed to be fun and combine my passions. With four young boys at home as well, I sought something that could involve them or that they would be excited about. I looked at articles listing top stay-at-home businesses and although the idea did not need to be entirely original, I wanted a unique aspect to it. When I saw “make your own board game” something resonated.
In my childhood, I recall stealing money from the Monopoly bank, knocking the pieces off the chess board when losing to my brothers and getting frustrated at my unguessable drawings during family games of Pictionary. As I entered adulthood, we had a solid friend group who regularly got together for game nights, but my overly competitive spirit often dampened my enthusiasm to play party games (see Loser, Sore). I did however begin to really enjoy Euro-style strategy games - Catan being the top of the list - along with other games such as Carcassonne, Ticket to Ride and Dominion. These would go on to influence some of the mechanics in my own game design.
Sitting outdoors one lockdown night with a local craft beer in hand, I contemplated thematic ideas if I were to make my own game. As I surveyed the beer can from Muskoka Breweries that I was drinking, inspiration struck - what better game to create than one based on an iconic area where people play board games…at their cottages. The concept of basing a board game on a geographical or popular area is not new, so I went online to search for a Muskoka based board game. Nothing came up.
I ran it by my amazingly supportive wife Brenna-Lynn, who affirmed the idea and would go on to be my constant sounding board, as well as endless source of encouragement. I got started the next day by copying a screenshot from Google maps into MS paint, mapping out main locations and drawing routes by land and lake between them. I did mention my unguessable drawings earlier, right? My artistic skill had not improved (as you can see below) but the theme and ideas were coming quickly and naturally. Even if it ultimately led nowhere, it was a pleasant distraction in the meantime.
I consumed articles, blogs, books and podcasts dedicated to board game design and what it entailed. I started formulating a business plan to build the framework for viability. I went to the dollar store and got a bunch of supplies to make up a rough prototype. My 7-year-old son won the first ever playthrough and when he wanted to play again right away, I thought maybe I had the makings of something.
We met virtually and I pitched the idea - showed them an outline of the business plan and arranged the rough prototype for them to play. They bought into it as a fun project and point of connection for us to work together over the coming months of lockdowns. It has been amazing to journey with them, as well as so many other supportive family and friends, who have helped immensely along the way. Over the coming blog entries, I will detail more about the numerous aspects of both game design and business creation that we went through (such as researching manufacturers, play-testing, creating our business name, the list goes on) to bring our product within a few weeks of launch!