Many years ago I worked as a childcare provider at a family gym. There were three rooms that you could drop your kid off, depending on their age. First there’s the little baby room, filled with toddler toys, walls painted with cutesy animals. When they hit age 3, kids graduate to the Adventure Room, a room featuring a giant play structure, think McDonald’s play place times two, filled with cars and dolls and books. Then, when they hit age 7, they graduate again. But this was a graduation that the kids didn’t want. 

Because when you enter the Youth room, you’ll find a computer, a printer, and a giant table to sit around. You could see the kid’s faces fall as they learned this was their new place to be.

After kids and parents caught on, kids started shuffling in with phones and tablets. They would sit in the corner all by themselves, spent the entire time staring at their device, and leave at the end.

This concerned me. The toys may have been gone, but there still had to be a way to get the kids to interact. I thought, “what can I do to get these kids to interact and make friends?”

One day I showed up with a box of blank white cards and markers, and the adventure began. I told them that together, we were going to make an epic card game, called Super Battle Pets.

Each kid doodled their favorite animals and gave them crazy powers, and we started inventing rules.

Now obviously if you leave a group of kids to make up random rules on the spot, it’s not going to turn out too well. But I had previously designed a puzzle apps, and as a programmer I have (well, still have) a weird obsession with order and frameworks. I wanted to make sure that the game was balanced, easy-to-learn, and required intense strategy.

 I kept the game rules on a leash and made sure the animals played fair. After months of careful balancing and nitpicking the tiniest details, we were left with a group of animals that fit together perfectly. I recreated the animals in their current digital forms.

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