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History in the making – of a board game! Jason Exum on the HISTORY Channel trivia game
In a recent Mojo Nation interview, you mentioned the release of your first trivia game – a collaboration with HISTORY Channel. Before we start, can you remind us how that came about?
A+E Networks reached out to us to see if we were interested in creating a HISTORY Channel game… We’re big fans of the brand, so we jumped at the opportunity!
And why do you think now is the right time for you to try a licensed title?
Licensed games are more popular than ever, but more importantly they no longer have a reputation for being terrible…
That’s an excellent point!
Thanks to excellent games like JAWS from Ravensburger, or The Thing from The OP, gamers can now buy a title based on a beloved property and feel confident that it won’t just be a cheap logo slap. With HISTORY Channel specifically, the concept of a trivia game immediately made sense. It is the perfect fit with the brand, and the type of games we love creating.
Great answer, thank you. Meanwhile, I don’t think I’m alone in worrying that the wrong history questions could ruin an otherwise fun game…
That’s definitely true! Although… It’s not even so much that there’s a ‘wrong kind’ of history question so much as it could be ‘too much’ of a specific type of question or subject.
That’s a very precise distinction! In what way?
WWII questions are great, for example, but if that’s all there is then it becomes a bit of a slog. You need to intersperse the heavy stuff with questions about classic films, beloved performers and exotic locations.
Got it. And how did you address that? By what criteria did you create the questions?
Ultimately, our criteria was that the questions be diverse, interesting, and most importantly FUN for everyone.
What else keeps the game fresh, Jason?
We took a deep dive into dozens of different trivia games, both classic and modern, to figure out what we liked and what we didn’t like. Rolling to move around a board was OUT, as was tons of boring downtime while one player answers an endless string of questions. Nobody’s having fun if it takes an hour to get back to your turn, just to roll a die and land on a category you’ve already answered.
The result is a trivia game that’s fast, exciting and strategic. Games can be played in 30-45 minutes, and players stay engaged because there’s very little downtime. Players answer ONE question on their turn; right or wrong it’s the next player’s turn. But there’s a strategic twist…
No matter which category you answer on your turn, you get to choose which category replaces it, even if that means there is now a second – or third, or fourth – category of that type on the board!
And just so readers understand a little of you process, what was the biggest challenge extending that brand into a game?
The biggest challenge for ANY licensed game is keeping it true to the DNA of the brand. It has to feel authentic – and fans know when it isn’t. Honestly, we knew right away that our first HISTORY Channel game had to be a trivia game; it just made sense, so that part was easy. Making it something that will truly be appreciated by fans of the HISTORY Channel was the hard part, but I think we’ve succeeded…
It looks great…
The HISTORY Channel team shares our vision for this game and have supported us every step of the way, and HISTORY Channel has a powerful brand identity that lent itself very well to what we wanted to accomplish with the visual style of the game. Their team provided awesome suggestions for improvements as we dialled in the art and overall ‘look’ of the game.
Can you give us an example of that?
Yes, of course… For example, there are five historical images on the back of the box, and when we originally submitted it to them they were black and white. The HISTORY Channel team suggested that colour would make history feel more vibrant, and they were right.
Perfect! That’s a great example, thank you. Thinking about the future, are you looking for other licenses to work with? What would you be looking for in a licensing partner?
Absolutely! We’re always interested in exploring new licensing opportunities. The primary criteria are that we’re interested in the brand, and that it makes sense to translate into a game – especially the style of games we want to make.
We need to start wrapping things up, Jason, but here’s a very specific history question for you… The name Exum: what’s the meaning of that? Where does it come from?
My dad traced our ancestors back to early 1600’s England, via descendants who were colonists in Georgia. As far as the name Exum itself, I’ve read a variety of backgrounds and meanings. Some say it’s originally German, as an occupational name for a maker or seller of AXES… Which is actually pretty cool. Others say it’s from England.
A maker and seller of axes! I want that to be true; that’s great! You’re not 100 percent sure, though?
Heck, No! One genealogist even told me that it might’ve come from an ancestor who was illiterate… When they were asked to sign their surname, they just dashed out a big ‘X’ and mumbled that their family name was “Ecchs… Ummm…”. So who knows? A mystery lost to time…
Ha! I’ve changed my mind! Now I want THAT to be true! Last question, then, Jason: what’s the one thing I could’ve asked you today but didn’t?
“Since we’re talking HISTORY, what’s your favourite game based on a historical person, place or event?”
Oh! Love it! Pretend I asked that!
Ooooh, great question Deej!
Thanks, Jason! What’s the answer?
Looney Labs makes an awesome little card game called Chrononauts, with players taking on the role of time travellers moving backwards and forwards through history. They have to collect priceless artefacts while witnessing – and altering – iconic events as they try to return to their own timeline.
That sounds cute!
It’s awesome, it really is. I also have a soft spot for Risk: Europe – definitely my favourite of all of the many flavours of Risk, and it’s one that my son and I play together.
Brilliant. Thanks for making time to chat, Jason. All the best with the game.
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