DIARY OF AN INVENTOR: Tim Short and Trivia Tower

Tim Short explains how he developed his idea to combine Jenga and Trivial Pursuit.
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One Sunday morning in 2003 I woke up with an idea in my head – wouldn’t it be a good idea to combine Jenga and Trivial Pursuit.

I sat and thought about it for a while, getting more and more excited about the prospects, then got up and started typing the instructions and a few sample questions into my computer. I christened the game 'Brain Blox', and started mentally spending my huge earnings.

My idea was to have coloured and numbered blocks, and for the questions to have colours or numbers as answers – the answer would therefore indicate what piece had to be moved.

I borrowed my then girlfriend’s copy of Jenga and stuck coloured stickers onto the blocks. I also set about writing the 200 questions I calculated I would need to provide an equal number of answers.

After a few months I invited myself round a friend’s house with a bottle of wine and a Chinese take-away and played Brain Blox for about three hours non-stop. This convinced me that my idea was worth pursuing.

I spent a day painting the bricks to ensure the game looked as good as possible, and then started approaching games companies.

I quickly discovered that the major companies don’t accept submissions from any Tom, Dick or Harry, and so I had to find a middle man.

In 2007 I found Games Play UK in Bristol, and they took my rough prototype and developed it into a professional looking game that looked different from Jenga, while retaining the playability of my original.

Their plan was to licence the game to the major companies. Unfortunately, this was just as the big recession started and very few companies were looking for new products outside their own development team.

There was one company who was planning to incorporate the game into their major brand. Unfortunately there were a few issues to do with money, and so it went no further. I have a picture of how the game would have looked if it had been launched as part of the brand, and it is definitely filed in the 'What if..'category.

In 2010, frustrated with the lack of progress, Games Play decided to fulfil a long held plan, and decided to launch Trivia Tower, as it was now called, into retail themselves.

They altered the game based on feedback they had received over the years from various companies, and I was invited down to their offices in January 2012 for the official launch party. Walking into a meeting room and seeing a six foot high pyramid made of Trivia Tower boxes is a memory that will stay with me forever.

It was at this point that two significant changes were made to the game – firstly there is a version of Trivia Tower that can be played without the trivia questions, making it ideal for younger children or mixed groups.

Secondly they made the question cards part of the tower building process – these are the bases the cups sit on. This is part of the games selling point, and was an integral part of the patent I co-own with Games Play.

Trivia Tower was placed on various websites, eBay, Play and then Amazon, where it achieved slow but steady sales. The sales figure on Amazon makes addictive, if normally depressing, reading.

In 2013, Trivia Tower won the commended prize in the Board Game category of the inaugural ‘Dads Choice’ awards, which meant a lot to me as a father of two boys. I’ve recently used Trivia Tower to help my two and a half year old with his colours.

Everyone who has played Trivia Tower likes it, and I know it’s just a question of getting it in front of the right person at the right time for it to be purchased by a store chain.

I regularly browse the ToyNews website for ideas, and it’s proved useful.

After it was featured in an article about Small Business Saturday, I contacted WigWam Toys in Brighton, and they invited me to come and demonstrate the game for the day. I played the game fifteen times during the day, and they still stock Trivia Tower now.

I also found out about Board Games Club through ToyNews, and have attended several sessions. To have industry professionals and general games fans play the game and give me very positive feedback was a great feeling.

I know that Trivia Tower is a hugely enjoyable game, which is easy to learn and accessible for players of all ages. Word is slowly starting to spread about the game, and I have the belief that it will soon be picked up by a large retailer.

If you are a toy inventor or designer and you'd like to share your story, email us at Billy.Langsworthy@intentmedia.co.uk.

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