Kitten Games Interview: Exploding Kittens Make Young Family Games!


15 May 2024
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How do you get children playing games, without being restricted to the classics? The new range from Exploding Kittens – aptly named Kitten Games – has just the games you need, and creator Elan Lee tells us more

Exploding Kittens is a huge success story of our industry. An incredible Kickstarter that took the world by storm has led to its presence on many a gamers shelf, as well as the shelves of supermarkets, book stores, and now app stores too. Elan Lee, the CEO and co-creator of Exploding Kittens, was once a video game developer for Xbox, but “realised how many screens I was helping put in front of kids”. Several games later, and with his daughter Avalon turning four, the time came to design games specifically for them.

Related Article: A Studio Profile of Exploding Kittens

Games for Four Year Olds

“When my daughter turned four, she was finally old enough to play games and I was so excited.” Lee explained of his daughter Avalon. “We bought a bunch of games, but everything for her age group sucked – they are all based on chance and didn’t teach her anything.” Lee didn’t give examples of the games he was referring to, but we’ve all been there – roll and moves, usually with a franchise to attract the children, and no real learning opportunity outside of sportsmanship and number or colour recognition (if we’re being generous).

“If I had to spin a spinner and move a cartoon character around a board one more time, I was going to lose it.” Lee admits. “My daughter quickly picked up on my frustration and we decided to take matters into our own hands.”

“Using papers, markers, and stickers, we created Kitten Games, an entirely new line of four tabletop games for kids ages 4-7 that are just as entertaining for grown-ups as they are for kids. As our first foray into the preschool demographic, the launch marks a major category expansion for Exploding Kittens. And for the first time, I look forward to playing games with my daughter as much as she does.”

The story conjures memories of CoraQuest  – a beautiful collaboration project between Dad and young Cora, which stole the hearts of many and is now an opportunity for families to play together a game that isn’t simply Connect 4.

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Kitten Games

Kitten Games was born, with what would become four games tailored specifically to Lee’s daughters age group, with the input of Lee’s proven game design knowledge. Lee added in his own touches, whereby on each of the game boxes is a little nod to what you might learn within the game itself. There’s something satisfying about knowing that not only can you have fun with the kids in your lives with a great game, but also that you might be secretly teaching them something. But which came first – the game, or the lessons?

“A little bit of both.” Lee says. “As we were creating Kitten Games, I developed my own criteria that our games should include. First, games need to be vehicles for entertainment otherwise they might as well be staring at a screen. Second, the game has to teach a kid something. It can’t just be learning how to spin a spinner - it needs to have a skill they learn. With that, kids need to be able to get better at that thing every time they play the game.

"I also believe that adults shouldn’t have to let the kid win. The kid should be able to win and beat the parent. And finally, the game should be simple enough that my daughter should be able to teach her friends or grandparents how to play when I’m not around. It’s really empowering for kids to relay their mastery and speak from a sense of authority.”

“Kitten Games are just as entertaining for grown-ups as they are for kids. When Avalon and I would play test early iterations, I would know we were onto something great when both she and my wife wanted to play again. To capture the entire family’s attention, we made sure the gameplay integrated different rules for the kids and adults to suit their age and ability."

What are the Kitten Games?

Hurry Up Chicken Butt

A riff on classic game of hot potato, featuring a chicken-shaped shaker that clucks, doubles as a dice shaker, and even gives out physical tasks the players have to complete before they can pass it to the next player.

Buy Hurry Up Chicken Butt on Amazon

I Want My Teeth Back

A game with an amazing spinner (built for kids), an adorable deck of cards, and a bunch of teeth that players have to collect as quickly as they can. As kids interact with the spinner and the cards they secretly learn a bit about maths and statistics, but don’t let them know!

Buy I Want My Teeth Back on Amazon

My Parents Might Be Martians

A word guessing game where adults make kids guess a secret word using only one-syllable clues, and they end up sounding like they’re from another planet! The kids are always the guessers and the grown-ups are always the clue givers. This way, the kids earn points each round, always win the game, and the grown-ups are secretly competing for second place.

Buy My Parents Might be Martians on Amazon

The Best Worst Ice Cream

A guessing game featuring ice cream cards in whacky flavours like pizza and earthworm where you’ll actually watch your kids compute odds without even knowing it. There’s a little bit of luck and a ton of slowly unfolding strategy and wrapped up with the best and worst ice cream flavours you’ve ever seen.

Buy the Best Worst Ice Cream on Amazon

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