Exploding Kittens CEO Elan Lee on wanting to change the world of kids’ games
Elan, it’s great to tie-in. Exploding Kittens is entering the world of pre-school games! What prompted the move?
The inspiration for the line started when I was playing games with my own – at the time – four-year-old daughter, Avalon. We tried to play the games available for her age group and to be honest, they were terrible! They were mostly luck-based, she wasn’t learning anything, and I was so bored and miserable.
One night, we were watching a Pixar movie and I had a bit of a lightbulb moment. I wanted to do the same thing for tabletop games that Pixar had done for movies – create experiences that are just as fun for adults as they are for kids. Pixar was able to change the entire film industry and I suspected that there was a similar opportunity for us in the world of kids’ games.
So, the range falls under your new Kitten Games banner and these four titles were designed by you and Avalon. What did that father/daughter design process look like?
Avalon and I spent 18 months using literal paper, markers and stickers to come up with these four games. We worked on about a dozen games and only four actually made it to the finish line. Avalon had the last say on which titles made the final cut.
I’ve worked on hundreds of games in my life and designing with a four-year-old was an entirely new ball game. There were some games she absolutely loved at age four, but by the time she turned five, she wanted nothing to do with them. Her feedback was everything, and together we learned how to build games that equally delighted each other.
And how important was it for these titles to respect what young kids are actually capable of grasping in a game? I’d imagine it’s very easy for a pre-school game to talk down to kids – or be a little too simplistic.
While Kitten Games are genuinely fun for parents, we first made sure they were appealing and productive for pre-schoolers – a difficult balance to achieve. There are two different sets of instructions in the games – one for grown-ups and one for kids – to make sure every age group is grasping the gameplay.
Kitten Games also subtly integrates cognitive benefits like counting and addition, creativity, pattern recognition, decision-making and family bonding into game mechanics, so kids are learning without even realising it!
Fantastic. And how did you ensure this range still felt authentically Exploding Kittens?
With characters like chicken butts, Martians, and earthworm-flavoured ice cream, Kitten Games are consistent with the signature artwork style and humour that fans of Exploding Kittens have come to know and love. I always say we’re not aiming to make entertaining games, but instead to make the players themselves more entertaining, and Kitten Games were designed with the same philosophy in mind.
Is the Kitten Games line something you’re looking to expand down the line? And on that, should inventors be looking to pitch you kids’ games moving forward?
Yes! If the line does well, we’ll keep adding to it. We already have several more games in progress that I’ve been working on with my daughter, her friends and our team of developers.
At Exploding Kittens, we’ve spent endless hours over the past year playing games with kids, and we know that at the end of most games, the kids say: “Can we play again?” That’s the easy part. The hard part is adding games to our line where at the end of the game, the grown-ups are the ones asking the kids if they can please, please, please play again!
I can imagine! Well, the first wave of games looks great. Thanks for taking time out to chat Elan and congrats again on the launch.
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