Playing the game: Bev Ross and Pam Locker on the international success of Otarie Show

Pam Locker

By Pam Locker

March 5th 2015 at 12:30PM
UPDATED March 9th 2015 at 4:31PM
Playing the game: Bev Ross and Pam Locker on the international success of Otarie Show

Bev and Pam embarked on their journey into the toy industry 14 years ago. The pair now find their Sea Lion-themed board game on the shelves of Toys R Us across France.

We are Bev Ross and Pam Locker and we recently travelled to Toys R Us in Paris to buy a copy of our first published game – ‘Otarie Show’.

The story of our journey to becoming games inventors has been long in the making and unconventional in nature.

We first met at school, spending all our spare time in the art room making clay models that we often sold to teachers. This was the first of our creative business ventures together and it was to lead to a friendship of nearly 40 years.

One afternoon in 2001, over tea and cakes, Bev described an idea she’d had for a children’s clay-modelling game - but she needed my help to build a convincing prototype. I was a practicing designer with experience in designing museum interactives for children. The game became known as ‘HeyPlasto’ and the Ross Locker Partnership was born.

Our big break came soon after, when we won a competition to appear on ‘What’s the Big Idea?’ on the Discovery Channel - a programme about new inventions.

To our amazement, we managed to successfully pitch our game idea ‘HeyPlasto’ to the CEO of Seven Towns, Mike Moody.

Our extraordinary and life changing prize was that our game would now be taken on by Seven Towns, who would endeavour to take it to market.

It was the start of a wonderful relationship and a steep learning curve about the realities of the games industry. ‘HeyPlasto’ was presented to many major manufacturers at international toy fairs, but although well received, it was difficult to place in the market.  Eventually, we sadly had to accept defeat.

But by now we had caught the bug. Bev’s quirky imagination complimented my 3D skills and attention to detail, creating several other game concepts that Seven Towns continued to take on - but success still remained elusive.

In the meantime Bev pursued her career as an Executive Researcher and I ran a degree course in Design for Exhibition and Museums at the University of Lincoln. For several years, Bev, Mike Moody and Gary Pyper (VP Design and Development, Seven Towns) supported a student games project at the university, generously acting as the judges and awarding a cash prize to the winning students.

In 2010 Bev had an idea for a new game when out walking her dog. Right from the start we both felt there was something different and special about this game. ‘Fetch’ was for 4 players, each taking turns to release their dog into the centre of a park using his elastic tail.

The ball shaped doggie flew over the trees, onto a hill and then rolled down the slope to retrieve his ball. Points were awarded for returning the ball but penalties for returning with rubbish.

‘Fetch’ was further developed by Gary Pyper to become ‘Diggin’ Dogs’ for the American market. We began to feel that our luck might be changing.

At the Nuremburg trade fair, ‘Diggin’ Dogs’ caught the attention of the French games publisher and distributor Asmodee. The launchers became sea lions (“les otaries”) and the dogs became balloons in a water show. The game was successfully published in the summer of 2014 as ‘Otarie Show’ and appeared on the shelves in France just before Christmas.

When we first started on this journey 14 years ago, we foolishly imagined that success would come quickly. We have learnt never to get too excited or over interpret small steps forward. Patience is essential as the process is a long and frustrating one.

Creativity cannot happen in a vacuum and our friendship has always been both encouraging and critical of each other’s ideas, helping us to retain a sense of perspective. It’s so easy for inventors to become so obsessed with an idea that they lose any sense of objectivity, which is essential if a game is to be successful.

On this journey, we have been fortunate in our association with Mike Moody and Gary Pyper from Seven Towns. Far more than a business relationship, they nurtured our enthusiasm, toughened us up and helped us to learn what our games needed to be successful.

Learning how to “play the game” has been an education, with all its twists and turns, but after losing so often it feels wonderful to finally win.