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"Your 'reality', sir, is lies and balderdash and I'm delighted to say that I have no grasp of it whatsoever."
— Karl Friedrich Hieronymus, Freiherr von Münchhausen

$150,000 and a Dream

I came across an article via Board Game News about a determined amateur game designer named Cheri Norgaard, a 45-year-old wife and mother from Laguna Hills, California. Her brainchild, "Up the ... Corporation", is a lighthearted look at office politics, where you win by climbing to the top of a ladder-shaped "board". As reported by the L.A. Times:

In case you didn't know, you don't just snap your fingers and create a new game. For Norgaard, it was a four-year odyssey that began in the way lots of things do: with an idea and a passion.

She thought of the concept and then set about learning how to pull it off. "If I'd walk past a computer in the morning, I couldn't walk away from it," she says. "I said, 'I love what I'm doing.' "

She learned things she didn't know, even though she'd helped her husband with his small construction company. "The learning process was huge," she says.

I ask if, early on, she thought of giving up. "Yes, the first time someone said I need to send $25,000 to China and another $30,000 in 40 days."

Norgaard says she's now sunk $150,000 into the effort and is confident the game will sell. She hand-delivered some to various outlets over the holidays and will attend her fourth trade show next month.

You can check out the demo and get more information on the game's website. It will retail for $48.

Being an amateur designer myself, I'm interested to see where her game goes. I thought I was crazy for investing the $300 or so that I've put in so far. She's obviously gone much further than I have and is now reaching the final stages – selling the game – but I have serious doubts as to whether her game will be the next Trivial Pursuit or Monopoly, as she hopes it will. For one, Trivial Pursuit and Monopoly retail for considerably less than her game, and for another, after playing the rather clunky Flash demo, it seems this game has little to no strategic element to it. Success in Trivial Pursuit and Monopoly both rest on the individual players' skills, and I think it was that challenge that kept players coming back. I applaud her dedication, but I can't help but wonder, what will make me want to play a game like that? Kitsch and novelty are all that seem to be going for it. Oh, and can someone please explain that retarded ellipsis in the name?

It's not often you find a mainstream news story that focuses on the area of game design, so what's unique about this one is I actually have some insight as to the process of developing and ultimately selling a new game. I will post an update when and if there are further developments.

Comments on $150,000 and a Dream
  Comment from Blogger MacFurious at Thursday, January 12, 2006 5:44:00 PM
"If there are 2 male players with the lowest salary cards, they ARM WRESTLE EACH OTHER to see who goes first!"

  Comment from Blogger Cheri at Monday, May 07, 2007 1:35:00 PM

This is Cheri, the designer. I thought I would share my progress.

In February 2006 listed Up The......Corporation© as one of 10 great business games.

The game took on its own market as corporate trainers and educators are utilizing the game not just as entertainment but as a tool in classrooms and corporate training. Within our first year Up The......Corporation© went international. It is being used in Germany by non-English speaking business men as a tool to learn more about American business as well as the English language. The game is also sold in Singapore.

I am shifting my strategy away from marketing a game to providing a service facilitating corporate meetings and seminars.

Here are some of the testimonials I have received:

“The game really is marvelous. I teach a variety of management skills classes, and so thought it might be something I could use in class. I had some students beta test a variety of management games, and yours was by far the favorite. (I was hoping they'd feel that way, because when I played them I very much preferred yours as well, particularly when compared to things like "The Apprentice Game" and the "Management Material" card games.) I plan to have my students play the game in class to both a) monitor team dynamics as they play, and b) engage in discussion of organizational politics and power.”
Carolyn Wiethoff, Ph.D., Management Department, Kelley School of Business Indiana University

Up the…Corporation “delightfully tackles some lower profile human resource issues” and “most thoroughly explores the unpredictable twists and turns of gender politics”.
Darren Garnick, Working Stiffs, BOSTON HERALD

Dedication, commitment and the entrepreneurial spirit utilized in development of Up the…Corporation.
Dana Parsons, Take a Chance? She’s Game! LA TIMES

“The premise of Up the…Corporation gives people 16 and up a chance to deal with the high pressure competitive world of corporate America.”
Rita Freeman, Games People Play, SADDLEBACK VALLEY NEWS

This has been a long process and it has challenged me and my family as we learn what it takes to manufacture and market a product. I learned more, and worked harder producing this game than I ever did at any company I ever worked for. It is no longer about selling the game it is about building a company.

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The Red Bull Diary is the personal pulpit and intellectual dumping-ground for its author, an amateur game designer, professional programmer, political centrist and incurable skeptic. The Red Bull Diary is gaming, game design, politics, development, geek culture, and other such nonsense.