Eric Poses is the creator of the board game Loaded Questions. A new, updated version of the game was just released last week. Eric is a bit of a GeekDad himself, with two kids (ages four and one) now. I got the opportunity to speak with him about Loaded Questions, taking a chance on board game design, and playing games with young kids.
Read the interview, or listen to the audio.
GeekDad: Let’s do obvious introductory questions first: Tell me just a little about yourself.
Eric Poses: I’m 35, I live in Miami, and I’ve been in the world of board games for 13 years now. At the age of 23 I had an idea for a board game while I was working as a copywriter at an ad agency in Miami. I thought the idea was great, I quit my job, invited friends over for pizza and beer. We tested it out, and it worked well. Not too many weeks or months afterward I produced 5,000 copies of my first game, Loaded Questions. Shortly after that, I started driving around the country for 16 weeks selling the game out of the trunk of my car to mom and pop stores.
I’d sleep on friends’ couches. I was just out of college, I wasn’t married, no kids, like I am now. Very few responsibilities, so I was able to camp out and sleep cheaply. You know, I’d splurge on a Motel 6 if I needed to.
During the trip the game was pretty successful. I sold about 1,000 games, I got a lot of good media coverage. That year, 1997, Toys R Us decided to test it in about a hundred stores and it tested very well. The following year they brought it into all stores, and that’s kind of the early success of Loaded Questions. Today the game has sold a million copies and it’s at Target, Toys R Us, Barnes & Noble, Borders, all the websites and such.
So that’s the start of my board games–it started with the one idea.
GD: Well, that definitely takes guts, to quit your job before you start doing all your playtesting and producing.
EP: Well, like I said, I was 23 and young and dumb, it was kind of a dead end job.
I think I did test play the game a couple times before I decided to quit so I genuinely thought I had an idea on my hands. And actually, my boss at the time—I let him know why I was quitting and, without a contract being presented to me, he did offer to bankroll the project in exchange for having a large percentage of the success of the game. Thankfully, I decided not to do that and just went on my own.
So from that first idea, though, I certainly now think in terms of board games. If I have an idea, I usually say: “Oh, how can that be a board game?” Or if I’m in casual conversation with a friend and an interesting topic comes up or some sort of game we might play just organically, I think: “Hey, how can that be packaged? How can that be turned into a more formal concept?”
GD: Have you published any other board games?
EP: I’ve done twelve games, five of which are Loaded Questions games. A few years ago, I partnered with the New Yorker magazine and did a game based on their weekly caption contest that runs in the back of the magazine, where you see a cartoon and come up with your own caption.
I did a game called The Joke Game where, if you don’t know the punch line, you make one up. If you know the punch line you advance on the board and if you don’t you’re trying to come up with the funniest one. Whoever writes down the funniest original one gets to advance. You’re trying to get your chicken, which is your game piece, across the road.
But, no, I’ve had several duds, several that have done well, and then the Loaded Questions games have been my most popular games.
GD: Now did you write all of the questions for the first edition, and the new edition?
EP: Pretty much. The new black edition has more than 1300 questions and I’m probably responsible for 1200 of them. And I do write the content for all my games. Except for the New Yorker game—I didn’t draw all the cartoons! But the content for my other games, yeah, that’s the real fun part I have with my business.
GD: What board games do you enjoy, before creating Loaded Questions, for instance?
EP: Aside from test playing my own games to death, my wife and will definitely play the occasional Scrabble. I like playing chess with friends, backgammon. But in terms of party games, I’ve pretty much stuck to the classics that your average non-gamer probably mentions: Trivial Pursuit, Monopoly with nieces and nephews. Any new game out there I’ll buy at your local Target or Barnes and Noble and check out, give it a go. But in terms of common gameplay around the house, I’d say that Scrabble and chess are the two most popular.
GD: Most of the games I play that I’ve been getting into are more of the European “designer” games or “tabletop” gaming…
EP: … Settlers of Catan …
GD: … Carcassonne, and from there on. But I did play a lot of Taboo in college…
EP: That’s a great game.
GD: And I’ve always enjoyed Balderdash, and Loaded Questions reminded me a little of Balderdash. You know, everyone comes up with an answer and you’re trying to guess the right one.
EP: Yeah, definitely, if you’ve played Balderdash this will seem familiar.
GD: But I like the idea that with this one you’re not trying to get the “right” answer. You’re trying to guess what everyone’s answers are.
EP: Right. The game tests players on how well they know each other, with all the fun personal questions.
So, yeah, the European games and all the role-playing games are definitely a different world than I’m in. You know, my games tend to be the adult party games, social interaction games. Anyone in the game world has to have a great deal of respect for the kind of games you’re talking about, which are much more complex, especially in terms of development. For me, my games, it’s: “Hey, this would be a cool thing to do.” And then I’ll sit down and whip up content, and work with my graphic designer to package something that looks really cool, and hope that like-minded adults will have fun playing this. But my concepts are very simple: you get through the instructions in about 3 minutes.
GD: Yeah, I was very pleased to be able to read through the instructions and go: “Look, it’s the whole thing!”—front and back and that’s it. Now, I have to ask, since you’ve got young kids at home, when you do your game development, and writing up all the questions which obviously takes a lot of time… when do you do that?
EP: I do it at the office—I’ll put a pot of coffee on at night. You know, if I have to put in a little bit of Bailey’s to keep me into it, then I will.
The questions also just happen, where if I’m in my car, you know, someone might cut me off, and I’ll think, “What’s the worst thing someone can do while you’re driving?” and I’ll write that down in my car. So the questions happen all the time.
And then, just like I did in high school and just like I did in college, when I’m getting close to production time and I go through the questions that I have and I say, “Oh, shoot, I need at least a couple hundred more,” I will pound it out where I will just lock myself in a room and just start writing. It’s amazing, how effective that’s been for me for high school, college and the last thirteen years running my business, in terms of the cramming.
GD: Have you involved your kids in the creation process yet? Or playing?
EP: Playing, actually, yes. I just came out with a travel version for Loaded Questions and tried to skew it for—the original game is for teen to adult, and the travel version is ten to adult. My daughter’s only 4, she’s turning 4, but I would sort through the questions that were appropriate for her and play the game with my daughter and my wife. And she actually got into it. You know, there were certain questions she couldn’t understand but some that she could, in terms of how to properly answer and if she could actually have a perspective on it.
Like: “What would be a terrible summer camp to go to?” is something we could have fun with. Or “What would be a funny name for a monster?” So I had to pick and choose, but, it’s great and it’s fun to see their minds working and the content is certainly appropriate for anyone. There’s no dirty words or the subject matter is not too risqué—that’s the adult version. But, yeah, I have played with my daughter and she likes it.
GD: Okay, well, I might give this a shot with my 5 year old then.
EP: She’ll like it! With the black version you have—that’s the new “original” version—you’ll find at least a couple hundred questions that she’ll really get a kick out of answering, I bet.
GD: I think like some of the other geekdads, you don’t want them to grow up too quickly but at the same time, I really want her to get to the age where she wants to play the games that I play.
EP: Yes, that’s very true. I have that same thing going on at home.
GD: Although I guess in your case, you could start designing games: “We’re gonna get a five-year-old game next, and then a six-year-old game…”
EP: Well, I have gone to her school and I made up a couple games for the kids in her class and the older kids. So there’s always homemade games that you can do. And I did a homemade game out of Loaded Questions where it was basically, I did a big poster board of likes and dislikes. Each kid came up and whispered to me one thing they liked and one thing they disliked. And then I would read out, “Okay, one of the kids in your class really doesn’t like Batman. Who do you think said that?” All the kids were having fun trying to guess which one it was. There were only fifteen kids in the class—not too many to choose from—and it was fun.
I did another funny game with them where I pretended I was a mad scientist who had just come down to Earth. I would say, “I have a great idea for an invention. It’s something that has four legs and you can sit on it if your legs were tired.” Everyone would say, “That’s a chair, silly!” and I’m like, “Wait, a chair’s already been invented? That was the name I had for it.” And so I’d go through a bunch of things like that and they were having fun with it.
So … you have to be really basic and silly for games for kids that young.
If you were to play with your five-year-old, the way we did it is: on her turn, you would read out the question and you’d say, “All right, mommy and I have our answers, one of us said this, one of us said that, who do you think said what?” Or your daughter and your wife bring it, and your wife reads out the questions and answers and you have to guess who said what. That’s the home version.
GD: We may have to try that one out. It’s exciting getting more games that we can include our kids in.
EP: Are there games you guys play as a family now?
GD: There’s one that we play, it’s actually a kind of dexterity game called Gulo Gulo. It’s little wooden eggs in a bowl that you have to pull out the right egg without knocking this egg alarm over. The little kids tend to be much better at that than the adults. You just use your fingers, so you know little kids with tiny little sticky fingers tend to do much better than clumsy adult fingers.
There’s a very silly card game called There’s a Moose in Your House. It’s very simple but basically you play empty rooms on someone and then you fill them with moose. Actually, the high schoolers here really enjoy that one as well. But it’s something that is simple enough that preschool or elementary school kids can get. And it’s got silly photos of moose sleeping in a bed, or moose in the bathtub.
EP: There’s that series of I Can Do That games. They partnered with Dr. Seuss and … the content runs a little thin, after like two or three times playing it. But it’s something my daughter, when she was three, was really into. You have to perform different activities. So you turn over three cards and you have to balance a ball under your chin while you hop on one foot a few times. But it only comes with about twenty-five cards. Once you play the game a couple times: “All right, I guess I have to put the ball under my chin again…” So I would maybe stay away from those games.
GD: And then we have the classics like Chutes and Ladders, and Hi-Ho Cherry-O and that sort of thing.
Well, did you have anything else you’d like to share about Loaded Questions or any of your other games?
EP: I think geekdads like you and me and other geekdads will truly appreciate the humor with the questions that I come up with in this version. It’s pretty much automatic fun and the one thing that you mentioned is, you look at the instructions and you’re like, “That’s it?” and that’s kind of a good thing. You can kind of jump into the gameplay immediately. I think that’s one positive.
And I tell people that the RPGs and the advanced strategy games are beyond my pay grade but I’m a pretty funny conversational guy, and hopefully that comes out in my games. so there’s definitely a lot of creativity and fun in them.
GD: All right, thank you very much! It’s been nice talking to you, and we’ll look forward to trying out Loaded Questions!
The new Black edition of Loaded Questions is available at various major retailers as well as online. There is also a new travel version available, released last month. The older Blue edition of Loaded Questions, now about twelve years old, may still be in stock at some stores, but Eric mentioned that the new version has a completely different look to it, with new graphics, custom playing pieces and die, and a lot of additional content.
Watch for a review of the new Loaded Questions soon.
For more information about Loaded Questions and Eric’s other games, visit the website for his company, All Things Equal.