Gamely Games founder Hazel Reynolds on hilarious games and great reviews
Hazel Reynolds! Lovely to see you… Let’s talk about Six Second Scribbles. First: I LOVE it! For those that don’t know it, what’s the big idea?
Thanks – I’m glad you’re enjoying the game so much! Six Second Scribbles is the fastest drawing game in the world… Probably! Each player is given a card with 10 things on it, and has one minute to draw as many things as they can from it. At the end of the minute, you pass the paper and have to guess what the person next to you has drawn. You get some absolutely hilarious drawings at the end of it. We love it and so far we’ve had amazing feedback on it that others do too!
I think I said to you – and you know I mean it as a compliment – I couldn’t believe this wasn’t already a game! It’s SO simple and fun. Where did the idea come from?
I definitely take it as a compliment! We aim for all our games to be hilariously fun to play and really fast to learn and I think we’ve definitely managed it on this one. I’m always coming up with random ideas, but for Six Second Scribbles I started with the idea that I really wanted a super-fun drawing game that didn’t involve lots of sitting around and waiting for other people.
Right… A bit of a curse with some games.
Right! I also wanted to create a drawing game that didn’t just result in the most talented artists winning every time! And I think we achieved that with the finished game – everyone’s involved and having fun all the time, and the game rewards quick and clever thinking as much as it rewards the ability to draw… So I really think it does work for lots of different people, including those who wouldn’t usually enjoy a drawing game!
Agreed! I draw like an eight-year old but I do feel I’ve got a fighting chance with Six Second Scribbles. One thing that intrigues me – well, my brother, really – is that you have three different types of card: Easy, Tricky and Almost Impossible. Why make some cards so hard?!
Ha! Well… Whenever we make a game, we always try and make it something that everyone can enjoy, from the youngest to the oldest; from the least confident to the most. And so we wanted to have a mix of difficulties in the game. Easy is very straightforward – things like cat, dog and so on. It’s great for younger players or for people who want an easier introduction to the game.
Tricky is probably where most adults will end up playing. It’s difficult and challenging, without being too hard – just right for most! And we included the Almost Impossible cards because we found them brilliantly fun to play! They present a different sort of challenge to players. There’s no way people will be able to successfully draw all 10 things in a minute – though if your brother or anyone else ever manages it, I need to hear from you!
He’s a lonnnnnnnnnng way from it!
It’s a round that forces you to think harder and more outside the box; it really tests your drawing skills. Personally, it’s the round I love playing the most, and lots of people have told us the same.
We’ve talked before about the technique of a creative one-star review. How would you sum that up? And how do you use that approach?
Yes, that’s a great one, and I need to thank you again for suggesting it in your book…
This is the reason I brought it up; the book needs a plug!
Considered it plugged! As you know, we do a lot of playtesting of our games and one of the challenges can be getting people to give really honest feedback. People love telling you a game is good, but it’s much harder to say if they don’t like it. By asking playtesters to give an imaginary one-star review for your product, it forces them to focus in on the things they don’t like… It gives them permission to be a bit critical, or get constructive with their feedback.
Not easy, though?
No! People often find it difficult but it’s really helped us pinpoint issues with our games that need ironing out. I’d definitely recommend it!
So now… Despite that process, this game DOES have a one-star review… Just one! It’s from someone that, despite your providing several photos, IMAGINED the box would be bigger. There’s also a THREE-star review with the headline: ‘Sent Back’. They don’t have a bad word to say about the game… Rather, they acknowledge that they already have Pictionary. So here’s my question… How do you deal with it when – despite all your work – people give low-star ratings for gobsmackingly stupid reasons?!
It’s definitely tricky. We read all the reviews we get – whether it’s a one or a five star – and fortunately we get far more of the latter! The first thing to say is that we only release the games we think are brilliant and that people will really love. Doing lots of playtesting gives us our initial confidence in a game, but when we receive so many positive reviews for games like Six Second Scribbles it’s really encouraging. Unfortunately, there are always going to be a few negative reviews – but I think that’s just part of releasing something to the world. Not everyone can love everything you do all the time!
But when the reviews are inane? Or insane?!
When it’s like the examples you gave, it can be a bit frustrating. The size one is a good example. We’re actually very proud of the small size of our games – they’re intentionally designed to use as little natural resources and shipping fuel as possible, and most people love that they can be carried around to play anywhere!
Right! They slip in a bag easily, even a coat pocket…
It’s also our job to make our listings as clear as possible to ensure the size isn’t a surprise when the game arrives. We’ve tried many ways to show off the size online – including showing the game prominently in a human hand – and are doing all we can to reduce any surprises and help people fall in love with games that are small in size but just as BIG in fun!
Great answer! While we’re on the subject of amazon, I get the impression your sales are pretty impressive. What’s your big secret?
We do sell the majority of our games on amazon, but we also sell through major retailers like John Lewis and Waterstones, as well as a number of independents… So I like to think it goes well everywhere! In terms of secrets – I’m not sure we have one. We put lots of effort into making our amazon listings appealing and clear, and we work hard to make the design of our boxes as attractive as possible. The number-one thing for us is making sure the games are as fun as possible, though.
You mean the secret of selling games is creating great games?!
I do think that, if you make super-fun games, then people will share them, talk about them and ultimately want to play them. I like to think that’s why lots of people have bought our games.
In other news, you recently licensed one of your games to Moose Toys…
That’s right! We’ve licensed Soundiculous to Moose globally, excluding the UK, which is exciting for us. We’ve thought about licensing in the past, but we always felt like it really had to be the right opportunity if we were going to go for it.
Who approached whom?
Moose approached us last year on the back of seeing how well-loved Soundiculous was in the UK. We went in cautiously and without getting our hopes up too much, but the more we chatted to the people at Moose, the more we felt this would be a great fit for us… It made sense in lots of different ways. We’re really delighted to be working with Moose, and we feel confident they’ll be able to share the fun of Soundiculous with many more people in the US, Canada and Australia than we’d be able to do ourselves!
What’s next for you?
Two things spring to mind. First, I’m excited about continuing to create more new games to help bring people together to laugh and have fun with one another. I always have loads of ideas and as a team we love developing and creating new games. We have a few in the pipeline that we’re excited about and we’ve actually also just licensed our first game from another inventor, which will be out later this year – watch this space for that!
I will! In fact, I’ll invite you back to talk about that. And the other thing?
The other thing I’m excited about is continuing to grow Gamely as an engine for good in the world…
Oh! In what way?
We’ve just tipped over the £50,000 donated to charity mark, which we’re super proud of as a small company. We also give thousands of games to good causes each year and it’s so lovely to share our success with others in these sorts of ways. There’s lots of other fun things we’re working on to try and make the world a better place for our team, for the people who play our games and for the wider world, and it’s those things, together with all the fun new games ideas we have, that really get me excited.
Wow. I didn’t know about the donations; that’s an extraordinary amount – really terrific! So let me ask you this: If the Hazel Reynolds talking to me today was to give advice to the Hazel Reynolds that started Gamely Games, what would she say?
I think just to be confident and really go for it! I could never have imagined the journey I’d go on to get where we are six years down the line. I remember how unsure I felt before I released Randomise out to the world…
Unsure of what, specifically?
Unsure in both myself and in whether anyone would actually buy this thing I’d made! I think those sorts of feelings were perfectly natural, but if I could go back to myself six years ago, I think I’d put a big arm round my shoulder and give myself all the encouragement I could. There are always lots of reasons not to do something, or to not believe in an idea or project, but having that confidence and courage to go for it really can make all the difference.
Brilliant. Terrific answer, Hazel; thank you. Let’s wrap this up with the one question I forgot to ask you last time we spoke… What’s the most interesting thing in your office, or on your desk?
Well… We work in a lovely co-working space in Brighton so I don’t actually have my own desk or office. Luckily, all I need to do my work is my iPad, my notebook and a pen!
That’s right! I forgot that actually; you have meetings on the beach!
We do! As a team, we love a meeting on the beach – often followed by a refreshing sea dip! We also like to go walking in the woods up the road… So maybe the most unexpected ‘work’ things I have in my bag are muddy boots or a swimsuit!
The same as Billy Langsworthy then! Although God only knows why he has speedos in his bag; he’s miles from the coast.
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