Meet the Toy Makers...
An interview with Jacobe Chrisman of I Can Do That Games!
Tags: Jacobe Chrisman, I Can Do That Games!, Dr. Seuss
Posted: 2010-10-14 17:20:16 By: by Stephanie Oppenheim

 

I first became aware of Jacobe Chrisman's work while he was at Cranium. He was part of the team that made games that consistently won the hearts of our toy testers. When Jacobe started I Can Do that Games!  we were really excited to see what games and concepts his new company would come up with.  Several Platinum Awards later....it's clear they understand young children and how to engage them.

 

Here's my interview with Jacobe:

 

When you were a kid, did you dream of making toys when you grew up?
Not exactly, I dreamt of being a superhero when I grew up. Spiderman or Wolverine would do just fine. All I needed was to swim in a pool of toxic waste or get bitten by a radioactive spider and let the transformation begin! I was sorely disappointed when puberty became the only transformation I went through.

 

What were some of your favorite games/toys when you were little?
Action figures were my main vice. He-Man, GI Joe and Star Wars figures cleaned out my allowance every week. As a younger child, I also played a number of the classic board games and was a Risk addict even by age 5.

 

You've help create some super fun games, how do you get your ideas?
While I'd love to say that I don't allow myself to leave the basement until the next greatest game idea occurs. I'm incredibly fortunate to have collaborated over the past decade with one of the most talented and creative teams I have ever worked with, Forrest-Pruzan Creative. We find that inspiration comes from everywhere, classic schoolyard games, nature, experiences in life or even from some of the classic literary properties that we make games for. That initial spark though, is really just the tip of the iceberg. It takes months of playtesting, design rounds, focus groups and thoughtful discussion to turn a great inspiration into a great game.

 

 I know you spent time visiting an orphanage in Nepal - how did that influence the types of games you wanted to create?
 I used to play a "fast find" style game to teach English in the monastery courtyard. Essentially, kids would draw flash cards with English words on them and then rush all over the courtyard to get the matching objects back to the center. Simple game but quickly taught them simple English words in an active and engaging way. I think most great games need to possess similar elements in that they should be simple to play, incredibly fun, wildly engaging and help a child to acquire important developmental skills. This winning combo makes for games that both kids and parents alike love to play again and again.

 

 

Do you think there is a universal language of play?
I certainly do. I've worked with children in Nepal, Cambodia, Mexico and of course the US as an English teacher, camp counselor and Soccer coach. No matter where you go, kids all have a similar passion and understanding for play. The common thread may not be a particular game as each culture has devised their own unique games but all love to learn a new game as long as it's fun.

 

 

Now that you're a new dad, which of your games are you most excited to share with your daughter (in a few years of course)?
Definitely our Richard Scarry Busytown Game. I like games where the focus is on collaboration and teamwork. Solving the Goldbug mysteries together as a team is truly rewarding when playing with your child. There's a very sweet and subtle bonding going on there that you don't always get in directly competitive games. However, there is still a nice balance of tension and excitement in the game as you have to get to Picnic Island before Pig Will and Pig Wont eat all the food.

 

When you test products with kids, are there any funny responses you didn't expect?
Usually it's when the child calls out the parent to join in. Like when we were testing Super Stretchy ABCs and this little 4-year-old girl responded to the question asking if she wanted to play with her mother. She said, "oh no, she's not very stretchy, she might hurt herself". Of course, the mother wasn't about to back down from a challenge from her little girl and got down on the mat and almost won.

 

What's your favorite ice cream flavor?
Mint-chocolate chip - but with real mint, very dark chocolate and real vanilla ice cream.


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