Check our interview with Kristen Mott, first-time designer of the new Kickstarter game Dinosaur Exhibit, and what she’s learned in running a Kickstarter campaign.
Kristen, thanks again for agreeing to do this interview! Both of us do a lot in the game-schooling space and I’m so glad we get to talk about your new game about museums and dinosaurs. Could you start off by telling us a little bit about the game and how it is played?
KM: Dinosaur Exhibit is a family roll and write, tile placement game. Players take on the role of museum curators trying to create the best dinosaur exhibit to win a newly discovered Spinosaurus skeleton for display. It’s a one to six player game from ages six and up and plays in under 25 minutes. Dinosaur Exhibit is played over several rounds depending on player count. All players are involved in every turn, shading in squares on their exhibit maps to prepare space to display dinosaur fossils tiles. There are a few ways to win the game and the coveted Spinosaurus fossil: by placing other fossils in their exhibits, matching classifications on display, strategic storage areas, and for unused tokens.
Can you tell us who your target audience is for this game and what modes and gameplay variants you catered for?
KM: This was designed as a family game but of course accessible to gamers and non-gamers alike. I had in mind families with children. I also wanted to include a solo mode so that it could be something children could try independently once they understand the concept of the game.
What is the story behind how Dinosaur Exhibit came to be? How did you make sure your context was accurate for this game?
KM: The idea was born after watching the Ben Stiller movie Night at the Museum. The concept didn’t really work, so I decided to focus on a single exhibit instead. Since my kids are passionate about dinosaurs, it seemed like a fitting theme.
The original concept was initially collected a card game where players sets of cards to purchase specific items to create many different museum exhibits. But around that time I also played Lantern Dice for the first time, and I instantly fell in love with the Roll and Write mechanism. It combines roll and write with tile placement and I thought it would work perfectly for my “fossil game.” So, I created a homemade prototype and tried it with my children. These are two of my favorite game mechanisms, and two that my kids particularly enjoy. They like “coloring” the spaces of their maps and the tactile satisfaction of placing a tile over that space.
The game seemed to work, so I just went from there, playingtesting with other families and really developing the concept. I did a lot of research into the world of dinosaurs, especially with the more recent discovery of a full Spinosaurus tail in Morocco. Of course, I made sure to have a dinosaur expert review all of the text in the rule book to make sure it was correct.
I thought it was interesting that the game features a bunch of other stuff around the museum. I definitely got the Night At The Museum vibe! Can you tell us about how you selected the little design details in that?
KM: The game revolves around preparing each curator’s dinosaur exhibit within their museum. Curators need to roll for the tools they need to prepare their spaces for fossil displays. These tools include a display case, hammer and nails, frames, maps, paint brushes, plaster, and a toolbox that acts as a wild. There are also pillar tokens players can use to expand their prepared space.
There’s so much work that goes behind a successful Kickstarter campaign. As someone who had success at first go, what was the most interesting thing you learned in this process?
KM: I definitely learned a lot during the process of creating this game! It has given me such a respect for all of the work and development that goes into each game that makes it to our game table. I got to work with Jerry Padilla, the artist for Dinosaur Exhibit, and learned about digital art and files. There are so many little decisions that need to be made for each component and piece of art. I am still learning about production costs and the business side of the game industry. And of course, I’ve learned a lot about dinosaurs! I thought I knew a lot before, having three dinosaur-crazy kids, but there is just so much information out there. The 2018 discovery of the nearly complete Spinosaurus tail in Morocco really changed scientists’ assumptions about the dinosaur, like how the Spinosaurus is considered the first true swimming dinosaur, using its wide tail like a propeller through the water.
From one game schooler to another, what does Dinosaur Exhibit offer homeschooling, unschooling and game-schooling families or even teachers in the classroom?
KM: Dinosaur Exhibit offers an imaginative experience as a museum curator. In the rulebook there is an informational overview of each dinosaur classification used in the game and the latest Spinosaurus fossil discovery. It’s not an overwhelming amount of information, just enough to spark some interest. I believe that there is something to be learned from every game, not just those deemed “educational.” Sportsmanship, strategy, patience, planning, spatial reasoning, the list is endless.
Kristen, thank you so much for talking with Meeple Mountain. It’s been an absolute pleasure!
KM: Dinosaur Exhibit is available on Kickstarter now, and the campaign will be live until March 1 at 9am Eastern Standard Time.