Ellis Kanner is an entrepreneur, producer, and director who has just launched a board game titled “The Game Plan.” The family game teaches life skills in an engaging and fun way that promotes dialogue and is especially befitting in light of COVID-19.
“The Game Plan” (which retails for $19.99) is a joint effort between Ellie Kanner and Lisa Solomon, that makes it okay to address issues and encourage flexible thinking through the medium of a board game. The game can be a Kickstarter of conversations about topics ranging from personal safety, social skills, good manners and more. Intended for 2 to 8 players between the ages of 4 and 10, players roll dice to move around the board, landing on color coded spaces corresponding to a question category via a deck of cards.
Recently game design Ellie Kanner discussed her experiences designing the game and working within the games industry.
Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you get into designing games and how did you forge a path in the toy industry?
Ellie Kanner (EK): We decided there was a NEED to make this game, there was nothing else on the market so we took the initiative and found a designer. We made several versions and ultimately made a prototype we received helpful feedback from and were able to develop the game we have today.
MM: How did you come up with the concept for “Game Plan” and was it tough to mix series subjects into a fun classic-style board game?
EK: I came up with the concept because I wanted to teach my kids (who were then in preschool) important reading and writing skills in a fun playful way. I brought it to my friend Lisa who suggested we add a safety element to it. Together, we added questions about health and hygiene and tried to keep the fun by creating a category directing kids to get up and move around.
MM: Which questions/challenges in the cards are most memorable to you and why?
EK: The most memorable questions for us are the ones asking kids to recite their parent’s cell phone or their home address because parents assume their kids (even older ones) know it by heart. So many kids don’t know this information. Also, the questions about what to do if they get lost resonate because my kids actually got lost (one in a maze during Halloween and the other at Sea World!) and those experiences can be traumatic for both the child AND the parent. It was important for us to remind parents to talk to their kids so perhaps they can avoid an event like this in their life.
MM: How did you come up with the awesome design for the board and where did you meet the artist?
EK: We knew we needed to attract and hold kids’ attention, so we wanted to use the primary colors. Lisa’s husband had worked with the designer in Hong Kong and we all met online, then in person. His team is great and we are lucky to work with them.
MM: How did you make the dream of this game and reality, what was the process of finding a factory to produce it like, and how long did the whole journey take from start to finish?
EK: We just never gave up. We got distracted many times but what really kept us going, and this is the truth, was the fact that we knew the importance of the game. We felt that lives could be saved and kids could possibly avoid potentially dangerous experienced and situations so we felt obligated to make the game and share it. We came up with the initial idea ten years ago and the journey isn’t finished yet!
MM: How different was the prototype to the final game and what stores have you gotten it into thus far?
EK: The prototype was very similar in color design, but the actual board changed from a classic board similar to most games to a square board that you can fold up for easy storage.
MM: To date, what has been the most rewarding part of working within the toy industry?
EK: We are in a few stores and with the pandemic, we are mostly selling online and by word of mouth. The most rewarding is when we get feedback from a parent, teacher or grandparent about their experience playing the game with their child/student/grandchild and how the game helped them start conversations they didn’t know were needed. And, when the child enjoys the game and can’t wait to play again of course that makes us happy!
MM: Where do you hope your career will be in ten years?
EK: We’d love for every family to have the opportunity to play the game with their children and to truly have a game plan!