by The Bloom Report | 24 Oct 2021
The Bloom Report
Tell us who is part of the PopHaus Collective!
Robert Freeman Smith – Merrill, MI – Co-Founder
Joseph Boyle – Alsop, IL - Co- Founder
Josh Kemper – Baltimore, MD – Operations and Playtesting
How did you meet each other? What are your "day" jobs?
We all live in Chicago and met through mutual friends and had been friends for years before Robert came up with the original idea (October 2018) that would turn into It’s Kind of a Fun Story.
Robert – Content Creator
Joe – Data Analyst
Josh – Waiter/Actor
What's the story behind the name PopHaus Collective?
A name Robert had been toying around with for a while. PopHaus brings the sense of community with the upbeat nature of “Pop” as a verb. Collective as a group/team of artists all coming together under a common goal – in our case, bringing people together through shared experiences.
What inspired you to create It's Kind of a Fun Story?
Robert’s original idea was to create a space where friends would feel comfortable sharing their “deepest darkest secrets” in a fun atmosphere. We all really saw the need to bridge the gap between “fun party games” and forming deeper connections with those around you. We wanted to be able to play a game and not only have fun—but to also connect through storytelling and sharing experiences with one another. Each story a player shares brings the group closer together.
How did you create it? Who did the visuals?
The game started as a construction paper Jeopardy board taped up on a wall of probing questions that had our friend group rolling with laughter and we realized that this could go somewhere. We developed the game for about a year, game tested with 250+ players for eight months, and continuously reworked the questions in the game so they would resonate with anyone who picked it up.
The game visuals were designed by Rudy Rios, a local Chicago designer, whom Robert had previously worked with at a previous “day job”. Rudy is a Creative Director at an advertising agency in Chicago.
For the design of the game, we were really inspired by the vibrant colors used in psychedelic art nouveau posters from bands in the 1960s. They had everything we wanted the design of the game to have: abstract curves and bright colors. Hippie aesthetic. A little Adventure Time/cartoon cuteness thrown in too, to showcase the diversity of people who are invited to play the game. We wanted the visuals of the game to match the same joy that playing the game elicits and feel that this design best conveyed that.
What's the concept / premise?
We were inspired by combining the “fun fast party game” aspects of games like Cards Against Humanity, Exploding Kittens, etc… with the “get to know you” games like We’re Not Really Strangers or Deeper Connections. The concept of the game is to ask questions you may have never thought of and learn more about the people around you, but in an atmosphere that doesn’t feel like you’re probing people or putting them on the spot.
Timeline of creating the game?
The first “Jeopardy board” was created for a Halloween party back in 2018. The beginning steps of the game were created over the next year and a half between Joe and Robert. In March 2020, the two really started diving into virtual playtesting to perfect the game and brought Josh onboard to help the game mechanically. Our successful Kickstarter was funded in December 2020 and we have been working with AdMagic to get the games printed and to the states ever since.
How do you play?
Players start their turn by drawing a card from the top of the deck. Reading each card out loud they can choose to share a story or skip. If a player thinks they have a more interesting story based on the prompt, they can play one of their Hear Me Out cards to tell their own personal anecdote. Afterwards, players vote on who told the better story. The deck also contains different categories of ‘party play’ cards that keep the game moving, dish out additional points, and help create hilarious & jaw-dropping moments. The first to seven points takes home the win and a round of applause (second part is optional).
You mentioned that It's Kind of a Fun Story resonates with all humans from all backgrounds. How does it do this? Why was this important for you? Also you mentioned that it makes everyone comfortable, provides a safe space, can allow people to share deeply personal, scandalous, and/or funny anecdotes -- please elaborate on this.
It was important to us to create a game that didn’t just resonate with us, the social butterflies of our friend groups, but to anyone who may not be as outgoing or has any walls up in a “story sharing” setting. We really believe that the best way for people to get to know each other is by sharing personal stories and so we spent much of our development time figuring out how to help people put their guard down and want to participate. All of this is curated to create an atmosphere where the players can trust each other and are “in this together”, even though the game is still fun and competitive.
A lot of this is built into the mechanics of the game itself. By allowing people to skip story cards, they can take their time until they reach a prompt that really resonates with them. The Hear Me Out cards allow people to shine as well if they miss something on their turn and also is a nice “catch up” mechanic if someone feels like they don’t have a lot of points yet. The party cards help keep everyone involved so no one feels like they’re fading into the background of the game and we have seen these cards be the favorite part for many introverted players. We also have the “Nope Card”, which is based off of the X-Card created by John Stavropoulos for tabletop RPG spaces. Players can flash this non-competitive card if any topic is uncomfortable to them, and the game is able to move on.
An example of the thought put into our questions prompts and making them universally playable: At some point during development, we had a card along the lines of “What was your favorite family vacation growing up?” Although a fairly open card, we understand that due to any sort of socio-economic difference, it is quite possible that players never went on a family vacation growing up. To make this more accessible, the question was changed to “What was your favorite family gathering growing up?” This slight change still allows for someone to talk about a vacation but opens it up even more to not demand a monetary aspect to the question. It is still not accessible to everyone, but if a player does not connect with this card, they can still skip it or use their Nope card if talking about that subject would cause them mental harm.
What's next in terms of It's Kind of a Fun Story? What's your vision for PopHaus Collective?
For now, our plan is to continue self-publishing games and fill in the gaps that we see in the gaming community. Our first plan is to create expansions for It’s Kind of a Fun Story so players can customize their game experiences even further. If these are successful, we plan to branch out into other products as well.
Where can people buy it? When will it ship?
The game is currently available on our website www.itskindofafunstory.com for pre-order and will continue to be available there and on Amazon once the game arrives. We are also working with retailers nationwide to have the game available in brick-and-mortar gaming stores across the US. Expected shipping is currently mid-late September, barring any additional major global shipping delays at the ports in LA, and then we will be offering free two-day shipping on domestic US orders once the game is in stock.
Social Media Links for people to stay tuned for more
What trends do you see in toys or games that excite or worry you?
In our current area of party games, we really love games that aren’t afraid to be a little experimental and try something that isn’t simply a “rebranded version” of an existing product. One particular game that comes to mind is Wavelength by Wolfgang Warsch, Alex Hague, and Justin Vickers. The whole concept of the game is so simple but phenomenally executed. They were not content to sit on the laurels of the success of The Mind and Monikers and created something completely new.
What advice would you give a young adult graduating from high school or college today?
Have fun. Don’t get discouraged. Pick yourself up and dust yourself off. Find what you love and jump into it as best as you can. Find friends to surround yourself with that will encourage, support, and grow with you. You can stumble as many times as you need to if you create for yourself a support system that exists outside of any sort of business endeavor.
How do you define creativity?
The act of making something from a simple idea or concept. Pulling it apart and putting it back together in numerous ways simply to see how it looks. The act of exploration and pushing your boundaries in the pursuit of the next idea that brings you joy.
How do you define innovation?
Innovation is being able to realize what you feel is missing from an experience and then using your creativity to introduce that missing component into something fresh and exciting.
Favorite childhood toy / game? Current favorite toy / game?
Robert: My favorite childhood toys were my power rangers action figures or my Pokémon cards. I still remember the excitement of getting my first Game boy. I also loved playing Mario Party and Mario Kart on my N64.
Joe: I am to this day undefeated at Dr. Mario. I want to thank the Nintendo Switch for helping me demolish a new generation of friends in my favorite game.
Josh: I was (and continue to be) a huge video game fan growing up. Started with a Sega Genesis and have had consoles throughout my life. Also, I am a big board gamer and am hitting year three of the same Gloomhaven campaign with friends. And eagerly awaiting my copy of Frosthaven when it arrives next year.
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