Gray Matters Games: How a road trip and Google search started a Game Company

by People Of Play | 01 Sep 2020




Gray Matters Games started on a family road trip when co-founder, Joe Barron, had a car full of passengers to entertain and whipped up a trivia-based game with a Name That Tune betting twist. After a year of testing it with friends and family, the initial concept for the company's first game, You Bet-Cha!, was born.


Now all Joe and his co-founder (and also wife) Lauren needed to figure out was how to publish a board game with no previous industry experience. Enter...the Google search. Lauren started with a search for “game designer Chicago,” and the third entry down was a company called Idea Monster headed by Luis Diaz.  Little did they know that Luis is known for being one of the most talented designers in the industry, plus he is a blast to work with.  Luis then introduced Joe to Jodi Meusel, now CEO of The Creative Fold.  Jodi and her team are phenomenal and have helped Gray Matters successfully navigate the game industry since day one. Next, with Jodi’s introduction, Joe found himself at a coffee shop eating donuts with Mary Couzin and learning about CHITAG (now People of Play)!  Joe attended the New Inventor Track at CHTAG in 2017 and met tons of amazing people in the industry. Since then, Gray Matters has published five games that are sold in over 3,000 stores across five countries - all thanks to a Google search and the power of networking!






Joe and Lauren believe that business should be a force for good and wanted to use Gray Matters Games to support a cause that has affected their own families - Alzheimer’s Disease.  Because of this, Gray Matters donates a meaningful portion of its profits to Alzheimer's research and sponsors many annual fundraisers including Paint the Night Purple, The Longest Day and The Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Joe also plays an active role in the Illinois Chapter of the Alzheimer's Junior Board.





Joe Barron: Co-Founder & Game Inventor


In order to survive the long winters in Northern Michigan, Joe enthusiastically took up board games in his childhood.  After seeing the movie, Searching for Bobby Fischer, Joe fell in love with the game of chess and still occasionally puts Lauren’s medial chess skills to shame. He enjoys his family’s annual Thanksgiving weekend game night and is passionate about finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.




Lauren Barron: Co-Founder & CFO


Lauren’s family always played cards or board games after their weekly Sunday night dinners, and this is where her love for friendly competition blossomed. Lauren has joined Joe in helping fund Alzheimer’s research while bringing engaging and community-driven games to families far and wide. She also is the resident Gray Matters numbers cruncher, and often takes the first pass at helping Joe tweak his new game concepts.




Kim Grotto: CEO of Grotto Marketing


Kim partnered with Gray Matters this year to set the course for GMG’s brand and marketing strategy.  Growing up in a family of 10, Kim had some stiff competition on family game night, which is why she will probably kick your butt at just about anything you bring to the table.




Alena Lyons: Graphic Designer


Each year growing up, Alena competed for her position on the family Skip-Bo champion plaque during their summer reunions, which was the start of her love for games and friendly competition. She is passionate about communication design and enjoys working on projects that strive to make the world a better place, making Gray Matters Games the perfect fit!




Samantha DeRango: Digital Media Consultant


Sam is a recent graduate of Elmhurst University where she received her BS in Marketing & Communications with a minor in Dance Education. She loves working at GMG because she gets to play games and write really cool articles. Her favorite game to play growing up was Monopoly because it always aggravated her little cousins.




Gipper: Chief Security Officer


Despite an intense napping schedule, Gipper manages to run a tight security detail at Gray Matters Games. Her responsibilities include barking at all who come close to the premises and “protecting” Joe or Lauren by hogging the office chair...while they sit in it.





Rudy: Chief Fun Officer

Rudy is all about bringing the energy to every situation, which includes jumping four feet straight in the air from a standing position when he gets excited, to giving socially

awkward face licks. He loves sitting on anyone who isn't joining in on the fun, so you best comply, or you might be his next seat!








Gray Matters continues to develop and discover unique games that Brighten Your Play! GMG just released their team building game, Office Decathlon, where you can Show the Office Who’s Boss! The game, a series of Olympic-inspired physical and mental challenges, replicates a traditional decathlon and the humor of “The Office” television show.  Event examples include Office Chair Bobsled, Coffee Cup Relay and First Paycheck. The Gray Matters team has also adapted the game to play over Zoom!






2021 will see Gray Matters’ release of The Root Beer Float Challenge - a fantastic family game created by Chicago inventors Brady Peterson and Tim Swindle.  The get-off-your-couch family party game has players take turns competing in fun Solo, Cooperative, and Head-to-Head challenges to complete their Root Beer Float.








Last year Gray Matters moved into Innovation DuPage to help grow and scale the business. The move has led to great partnerships including projects with local universities such as Elmhurst University, Northern Illinois University and College of DuPage. 


The Gray Matters team loves to connect with other inventors, entrepreneurs and toy & game professionals.  Please reach out or follow us on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.


Learn more about Gray Matters Games at




board games boardgames game inventor notre dame game designer game designer chicago

Tait & Lily, Inventors of Betcha Can't!