Kim Vandenbroucke, aka Brainy Chick, designs, plays and reviews board games. Her newest game is with Winning Moves, Scattergories Categories, but she has had product with Hasbro, Mattel and others. She used to work at Meyer/Glass, a professional toy/game design company that sprung from the (in)famous Marvin Glass Company and now freelances design and started a game review site that has really taken off – The Game Aisle.
I worked with Kim to find a media outlet for her game reviews. There should be game reviews next to movie, music, book and theater reviews – all entertainment and all creative products. If anyone has ideas and can help, let us know.
Kim, what was it like working for a professional design studio and why start a game review site?
"I feel so lucky that I started at Meyer/Glass Design; the experience really gave me a solid foundation to build upon. My education started the first day I walked into the studio when I was pointed to a room filled from floor to ceiling with old manufacturer catalogs from the early 1900s on and told to review ALL of them. The following days I buried myself in the books. It was such a learning experience to see huge brands built from one strong concept. It really opened my eyes to this whole unsung inventor community that I didn’t know existed before my first interview two months prior. It also meant that I had enormous shoes to fill being a part of a new generation of designers. I had to compete with the classics invented by industry legends, but also work within the changing landscape of the toy/game industry. Still at times it’s kind of daunting, but I like challenges.
Starting a game review website was a natural transition for me. I have to keep up with new products and I’m happy to dole out game suggestions to anyone who asks. One experience that jumpstarted the site’s development was a chance interaction at Target. I was surveying the game aisle and a woman was shopping with her son who badly wanted this card game. Mulling it over, she said "but I don’t know if it’s going to be any fun." I told her it was a great game and after looking at me like I had four heads, she tossed it in her cart, thanked me and walked away.
Unlike books, movies and even video games, which are regularly reviewed, people are left to judge games by their boxes. Consumers often stick with brands they’re loyal to – which isn’t always a bad thing — but there are so many great games to choose from! Yet, I completely understood the woman’s hesitation. Games are played over and over, thus it makes sense to know that you’re buying something you’re going to enjoy. So I started The Game Aisle.
On the site I only review games I like. (Who wants to read a bad review?) People want to know which games to buy and I try to provide a mix of mass market and specialty titles. I aim for games that can be played in less than 30 minutes and appeal to the general public, not necessarily die-hard gamers. I also think it’s important to talk about the inventor community, not only because I’m one of them but because I think people don’t realize that the odds their favorite game was invented in someone’s basement and not in the conference room of some manufacturer’s corporate office are pretty high. Telling the stories behind the games really humanizes the product – and the industry. And I hope it encourages a couple people to try something new. So as you say Mary, ARTFAB."