Teaming up with our friends and game aficionados, John Teasdale and Justin Robert Young, we worked closely together to develop a card game inspired by the vim and vigor of presidential debate. Over the course of six months, we grew from an abstract concept into a full-fledged business. We launched a Kickstarter campaign that raised $140K, 950% of our original goal, that coincided with the first Republican presidential debate of the 2016 election season. The game is currently the second highest rated game on Amazon and has received both national and international coverage.
Game Development Perfecting the game mechanic was a crucial first step. After a lot of playtesting (and a few bottles of beer) we honed the flow of the game, ditching the suits and numbers originally conceived by Justin and John in lieu of a more free-form debate structure, making it fun for everyone to play. In our interview with Steven Heller, we discuss more about our efforts to keep the game as non-partisan as possible.
The deck is comprised of hundreds of one-liners based on real quotes from presidential candidates throughout American history. We researched these quotes by combing through endless debate transcripts, articles, letters, and debate videos. Check out our list of sources.
Brand Development In crafting The Contender’s visual language, we drew inspiration from the vast archives of mid-20th century political campaigns, creating a system that relies strongly on proportional relationships, a restrained color palette, humor, and a bit of intentional awkwardness. The goal was to create a language that felt old but new.
Kickstarter Campaign With satire on our minds and the fires of patriotism burning in our loins, we set out to create a Kickstarter campaign to propel our game into reality. With Justin and John’s charismatic performance, a few sparklers, around 300 balloons, and a lot of puns, the video came together as a key tool to help us earn over $140K on Kickstarter, significantly surpassing our original goal. For details on how we structured our campaign, take a look at our post on Medium.
We directed and edited the Kickstarter video, shooting with a Canon Eos 6D and recording audio with a RODE boom mic. Strategically, we wanted to echo the awkwardness of political videos, capitalizing on the often simplistic and low-budget feeling of these campaigns. To that effect, we used the simple graphic nature of the American flag as our ready-made backdrop and set.
Launch Promotion To promote the completion of our first run of the game, 20,000 units, we created a short video parodying the language of advertising and infomercials. Our goal was to create a full-length video that could easily be divided into bite-sized, shareable animated GIFs for use on social media.
Brand Collateral There are so many visual opportunities in politics to parody: buttons, lawn signs, t-shirts, bumper stickers, etc. We created the Bipartisan Button Pack as an absurdist promotional piece, featuring snarky slogans for the 2016 presidential contenders. The buttons and inserts are all hand-produced and printed in-house with our EZ-Risograph printer.
The Politically Incorrect Expansion Pack is our first add-on to the game and it is brimming with political filth. The challenge was to incorporate these cards seamlessly with the base deck, but make them distinct enough to easily be removed when kids or the faint of heart join the game.
We created the Topic Button Pack to add more flare to the game, with each button corresponding to a topic card in the base deck. Whenever a contender wins a round of debate, they are awarded the button that corresponds to the topic at hand. The topic buttons enhance gameplay by creating a more substantial award to compete for, and a visible trophy for winners to flaunt. Like the Bipartisan Button Pack, we produced and printed all buttons in-house on our EZ-Risograph printer.
With further expansions in the works, including a special commemorative 2016 Election Expansion with highlights from this year’s presidential contenders, we look forward to seeing where the political bandwagon will take us. Interested in playing? Buy a copy of the game, or try it first with our free print and play edition.
What people are saying about The Contender:
“The Contender is a political debate card game that combines the fun of Cards Against Humanity with the realism of fibs, bluster, pandering, grandstanding, bombast, and every logical fallacy you can think of.”boingboing
“Politics are all about antics, from blowhard rhetoric to orchestrated photo ops and theatrical debates. The Contender capitalizes on the latter.”FastCo Design
“Just as Cards Against Humanity revolutionized Apples to Apples, a new game is revolutionizing Cards Against Humanity by sprinkling in classic political tropes to build a world of hilarious debate possibilities.”The Daily Dot
“What happens when the heated debate of political rhetoric meets the family fun of games like Apples to Apples? Magic party fun!”GeekDad
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