Identity Games’s Chief Creative, JM Duparc, discusses how The Traitors went from TV show to family game
JM, we’ve spoken before over at mojo-nation.com… People can read a little about your background here! To kick us off, what’s been keeping you busy?
Luckily I’ve been doing the fun stuff lately. Finally visiting toy fairs, meeting with inventors, showing our cool new games and working on some very exciting, fun new projects!
Of which… One of the fun new projects you showed us at Nuremberg Toy Fair was a board game based on the hit TV show The Traitors. How did you come to be involved with that?
Well, The Traitors is actually Dutch…
The original TV show is Dutch?
Right! It aired in the Netherlands three years ago. We were instant fans; we followed the project closely and kept in touch with the creators. When it became clear the concept was going global, we were over the moon and started developing the game right away.
I didn’t realise it had taken so long to come to the UK. So in terms of the board game, tell us about it: in a nutshell, how does it play?
We wanted the experience to come as close to the program as possible so we worked real closely with the actual creators. In the game you’re trying to complete tasks together to earn as much silver as possible. However, there’s a traitor amongst you that has a hidden agenda…
But that person’s not trying to sabotage the task, are they?
No, that person’s never trying to sabotage the task… Instead, they have to complete their own secret task without the other players noticing. That way, everyone becomes really aware of their own behaviour – and suspicious of others. And of course, there’s a round-table discussion with accusations, banishments, murders and a very tense final!
And I have to say – from what I saw on the stand – it’s wonderful! You’ve really captured something. So I wanted to ask: while extending The Traitors brand into a physical game, what essence of the TV show was it that you had to transfer across, do you think? What makes it special?
In the TV show, people aren’t related to each other and there’s a lot at stake… So it can become quite brutal and people get eliminated from the show. But because you’re playing the board game with friends and family, we didn’t want to make it too intense… We also wanted everybody in the game until the very end.
Right. Not a lot of fun in a board game if you’re not playing it!
Exactly! So our goal was to find the right mix with a lot of fun and just enough tension that you get really involved, but it’s not the last evening you ever spend together. Because we worked so closely with the creators and us being genuine fans of the show, I feel we managed to do just that.
Ha! “Not the last evening you ever spend together!” So how did you make sure of that, JM? How did you preserve the tone of the show… And marriages the world over?
Testing, testing, testing! We played the game so many times with different groups to get it just right. One thing they all had in common: they were all fans of the show.
Another property for which you hold a license is the beloved children’s character, Miffy. You’ve had some amazing success with toys on that front… Can you tell me about those lines?
Yes, we introduced a Miffy hide-and-seek game over 10 years ago, and it’s been a huge success for us. In fact, our hide-and-seek game has now been used with many characters and in many countries. The game we just introduced, though, is called Miffy Peekaboo. It took us 10 years to come up with a new game that an 18-month-old can play, but I’m really proud of the result!
It’s completely enchanting! For those that haven’t seen it, it lets a child play peekaboo with Miffy, basically. It’s so simple and charming… With that in mind, here’s a question that’s puzzling me: what have Miffy and The Traitors got in common? What is it you see when you look at those properties and think, “I really wanna work on those brands!”?
Good question! I think the thing is, we like to take risks. Creating games for an 18-month-old is probably one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever had. Even though those little buggers are great, try explaining rules to someone that has a vocabulary of 10 words… It took us 10 years to come up with Miffy Peekaboo. But when it was finished, we knew we had it.
What was the element of risk with The Traitors?
With The Traitors, the risk was that we were creating a game, putting all this work into it, while the brand was totally new and we had no idea the TV show was going to be a hit abroad.
Great answer. And I’m glad you said that, because whenever inventors ask me what kind of ideas they should show you at Identity Games, I always tell them the same thing: whatever you don’t show anyone else!
You say that?!
I do! For the most part, you’re not gonna take Snakes & Ladders, are you?! But if someone comes to you and says, “I’ve got Snakes & Ladders – but with real snakes…”
…I bet you’d look at it! You might not be able to sell it, but your risk-taking sense of curiosity would force you to look. Anyway, I digress. Let me ask you this: what’s the one thing I could’ve asked you today but didn’t, JM?
What’s the coolest game you guys launched last year?
Excellent… What’s the coolest game you guys launched last year?
Well, thank you for asking! We launched a game called Head of Security. One day, our head game developer walked into my office wearing a box on his head with a LEGO contraption on it. I understood the game in seconds – and before I knew it, I was on my hands knees trying to stay out of sight. We had so much fun with this project and I can’t wait for it to take off.
Fantastic, JM! It’s always such a pleasure to tie in with you, it really is; thank you so much for making time.
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