Game Inventor Insider ft. Gina Manola
March 29, 2017
March is National Women's History Month! Here at Peaceable Kingdom we celebrate women every day. We are taking the opportunity to highlight our female game inventors and how proud we are to have them on our team! See for yourselves why these women are so great.
Gina Manola grew up in the small Midwestern farming town of Williamsville, Illinois. At that time, the population hovered around 900 people and I dreamt of being an artist and moving to NYC, which I eventually did!
The advantage of growing up in such a small town is that my friends and I had to exercise our imaginations if we wanted to have fun. We loved music and we’d spend all day listening to records and crushing on musicians. We made art. We made mischief by creating flyers for fake events and posting them around town. We loved making prank phone calls, re-arranging canned goods on store shelves, skateboarding…. anything that fueled our creative energies. We were innocent pranksters.
1. When did you begin inventing games?
I began inventing games as a kid…which is what all kids do, right? My friends and I would play a game we invented together called, “Who Killed Shaun Cassidy?” We’d draw cards from a traditional deck of cards to see who would be the detective, the murderer, and Shaun. Everyone else was a party guest. We’d dance around with our eyes closed listening to Shaun’s music. The murderer would tap Shaun on the shoulder and Shaun would fall to the ground. The music would stop and we’d open our eyes and try to guess which friend killed Shaun. I think it was really just a creative excuse to listen to Shaun Cassidy records.
2. When did you know you were interested in gaming?
I’ve always thought of myself first and foremost as an artist. I am interested in experiences that enhance creative and flexible thinking. And I think game inventing allows for the creation of those kinds of experiences in a way that can be shared.
3. When and what was the first game that you invented?
The first real game that I invented and self-published was the card game Notable Novelists of the 20th Century….which was intended as a long overdue update to the old “Authors” card game.
I rewrote the rules completely. The focus was still on authors and their literary works and included a bit of a biographical information for each author. The game also included a larger representation of authors of different genders, races, and sexual orientations.
4. What Peaceable Kingdom games have you designed?
Feed The Woozle and Race To The Treasure
5. How did you come up with the concept for 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 central character of the game made silly demands. That’s the twist! We think of games as entertainment for us, which they are, but in Feed the Woozle, it’s the Woozle driving the play and he wants to be entertained by YOU. He’s hungry. And he wants a show!
6. How did you feel when you first saw your product on Target shelves?
Excited and grateful. Race To The Treasure in on Target’s shelves now too.
It’s an honor. I’m very proud to be a part of the Peaceable Kingdom family.
7. Can you share a bit of the project process that went into Feed the Woozle?
I really think that Feed the Woozle was born out of funny exchanges that my son and I would have when he was little and sitting in the back seat of the car. I’d be driving and we used to pass the time by trying to come up with the perfect “feeling” for different foods. For example, what would a “shy tuna sandwich” look like? or a “frustrated french fry.” It was both a way to talk about feelings and engage the imagination in thinking about the point of view of an inanimate object. We’d try to outdo each other and of course, crack each other up! In the case of FTW, the name for the game came first. Then I built a narrative around the character from which the components and game play evolved. The original prototype that I created is very similar to the finished game. I was absolutely confident that PK could execute this game exactly as I imagined it. And they did!
8. What is your favorite silly snack?
Toenail Toast and the Cheezy Slipper of course!
9. What is your favorite memory of Peaceable Kingdom?
I love the PK team! They are good people who are doing good work. I love hanging out with them when I visit San Francisco. As far as a memory goes, I am very proud of the work that I did in creating the new Peaceable Kingdom logo. I’m as proud of that work as I am the games I’ve done with PK. It was a wonderful collaborative experience working with PK president, Donna Jaffe on the new identity. When PK brought their first cooperative games to market, the game bore the new PK logo. The PK brand feels like a part of me—having developed the new company logo at the same time as my two cooperative games were launched.
10. If you had advice to young game inventors what would it be?
Look at what experiences are missing that could really make a difference in someone’s life. Create a game that allows for that experience to happen and ground it in a story that is engaging.
10. When do you find you have your best ideas?
Hmm. That’s a very hard question to answer. It depends. I will usually carry a word, a phrase, or image in my mind that intrigues me. I might carry it around for a year, create a few sketches, and see how it develops. I am not particularly interested in inventing just for the sake of inventing...I like to feel inspired. I like an idea to snuggle up to me for awhile so I can get to know it...see its potential. The idea needs to earn the right to take up space in the world.
11. Please include any other fun facts that you would like to!
I am a firm believer in stretching and breaking the rules. Not in a destructive way, but in a way that expands one’s emotional, intellectual, creative, and social growth. When I create games, I develop a set of rules that allow for the game to be played in a specific way, but alongside of that, I try to build in ways in which the players might see opportunities to break the rules, expand them, and make the game their very own creation. I’m really still the innocent prankster that I was as a kid. I still love music, art, and spending time with my friends. My imagination is still my ticket to everywhere I want to go and the starting place for everything that I want to do.