Make Your Own Game

An Interview With G. Tommy


If you have ever thought to make your own game and market it, chances are good that--like most of us--you never quite got around to it. Ideas are cheap, and taking action is all too uncommon. But G. Tommy wasn't content to just dream about making a game. He actually did it. Brain Swaggle (tm), which is something of a cross between chess and scrabble, will be available soon as an online game as well as a board game. I asked Tommy about the process of developing and marketing his creation.

Prior to this current project you had some experience running a fitness center and you made exercise videos for parents of newborns. Can you tell us briefly about that?

Total Fitness was located in N.E.Ohio and was well known as the “fun place” to work out. As owner/operator, I knew that levity would be an important piece of the equation. Getting a deconditioned individual to work out “even for free” has always been somewhat of a challenge. Now, imagine the effort needed to get them to sign a 12 month agreement to pay you every month…hence the value placed on levity! However, we knew that that alone wouldn’t be enough, so we moved into a building with over 5,000 sqare feet and added massage therapy, tanning, martial arts, and step aerobics…At the time I was a single father of a 1 year old boy and had to work long hours 6-7 days per week, and surely didn’t want someone else raising my son. That, accompanied with the encouragement of many of the lady members, we added a playroom for kids. Without question, the playroom helped us tap into the mom’s with small children market.

It didn’t take too long before it was obvious that the bigger percentage of mothers with children still could not join us, they either had 3+ children which was a workout in itself to pack them up and go anywhere, a new born child or they were a one-car family.

As Plato said “Necessity…is the mother of Invention” So, I knew that it was time to focus my energy on tapping in to the creative part of my brain. Fortunately, Steve, I too believe wholeheartedly in the ability to train our mind to tap into the “alpha” brain frequency, at will. That’s when the idea to create a video for that niche arrived and the ABC”C of Exercise was born. After Baby Comes…Exercise, was developed/designed with 14 exercises that actually utilized the newborn child as “the weights” or resistance. Each exercise focused on the mommy or caregiver holding the child securely, in most cases heartbeat to heartbeat strengthening the bond while nurturing a loving relationship. At the risk of sounding pompous, It was actually very cool and well received. We sold quite a few of them, and were able to appear live on several television stations throughout N.E. Ohio.

With the success that we experienced locally, it was my goal to share the idea with an exercise guru in hopes of a partnership. Silly, young naïve me, I quickly learned the importance of completely covering ones ass and protecting a project to the fullest extent before trusting even a celebrity. It wasn’t more than 10 weeks after I sent the video out to California and hadn’t heard back yet that one morning while eating breakfast out in town that lo-and-behold, there it was on television, suddenly my appetite was gone! Of course the name had been changed and I couldn’t do a thing about it because you cannot protect a concept. So, a hard lesson was learned here I assure you, and as they say… NEXT!

What made you decide to make your own game and market it?

Quite honestly…with my love of playing games and the popularity of games in general, I thought, it would be pretty cool to create a game that people liked and wanted to play.

I notice that you have a neurosurgeon who endorses Brain Swaggle. How did you get that endorsement?

The game is quite intricate and specific, after I had the rules and instructions copyrighted, I was able to relax knowing that there was no way that it could be copied “again” without it being a copyright infringement. Next, it was time to talk to a select few friends of mine that are physicians, with the goal of getting their opinion and then asking them to think of anybody that they knew in the neurological field. An introduction was made, and I met with Dr. Rickson to play and discuss the merits of Brain Swaggle and the rest is history or history in the making!

I understand that you already have several school systems interested in using the game as an educational tool. How did you generate that interest, and will marketing to schools be a big part of your sales plan?

I felt very strongly about the potential for this to be utilized as an educational tool in the school systems. So, I began to research what other games were being utilized within the schools. I was amazed at just how many schools were using scrabble and chess as additional learning resources. Some 20,000 plus schools and over 1 million students were benefiting from these two. It made sense to me that by combining the strengths of these two games into one game, it just might have a shot! Test marketing would be paramount and has played a crucial role in the decision making. I needed to get in touch with key administrators such as superintendents, directors of instruction and teachers of local school systems to arrange meetings. I learned early on the importance of asking people for their professional opinion. In general it makes people feel good to be asked that question; I can honestly say that I have never said no to that request.

I believe that the school systems will be a key piece of the overall marketing strategy. There are more than 132,000 school systems in the U.S. alone. When I look at our current success with the schools that I have spoken to, I feel confident that we will be introduced and accepted into 18%-22% of them. Next, factor in friends and families of the students/faculty and the potential is significant.

In what other ways will you market the game?

Bob Dylan said it best “The Times, They Are A-Changin” The traditional methods of marketing, cold-calling, advertising through print, television, and the likes, "outbound marketing" is no longer well received. Consumer’s now-a-days are much more savoy and do NOT want to experience the “in-your-face” approach. However, I believe that there is still merit in that approach, if you know where, when and how to do it effectively. A good example is when dealing with senior citizens, for the most part they are set in their ways and will fight off change to the end!

Here’s an example of what I mean. We have just started contacting the senior citizens at independent living centers, retirement communities and senior apartments. We will be offering the residents the opportunity to “beat the creators of Brain Swaggle at their own game” the response has been very promising and lots of fun!

The new marketing strategy and quite frankly soon to be “the only” marketing approach is “inbound marketing” which is blogging, tweeting and all social networking sites. To have any hope of being successful you must first earn the trust of a consumer. That is done by sharing your experience, education, and useful knowledge that will benefit and or help the consumer. Whether that helps people better their career, improve their personal life, increase their brain power or help educate them on other areas of interest. Then of course once you earn their trust, you have a much better chance of earning their business.

Lastly, we have some fun and creative incentives to get our worldwide audience interested in our on-line game, however that is “Top Secret” ha ha! We will be sharing that and much more at our website as soon as our software is completed and ready for everyone to play for FREE -- should be ready around September 12, 2011.

Do you have plans to license your game--to let some large company handle all the details--or will you manage the manufacturing, marketing and distribution on your own?

At this point Steve, I have little interest in expending any energy trying to get the “Big Boys” interested. Once we create a buzz in the industry, I may feel differently. My projections and belief system tell me that I may not have to go that route. To be quite honest with you, I would rather have independent “mom and pop” stores on board with me, we will most likely approach those located near and around the school systems that we are in. I’d really like to see these independent stores get in on this and then reap the benefits associated with referrals from schools. Plus, that also makes more sense when it comes to distribution.

I imagine you have had a fairly large investment in this project so far. Is this something you've borrowed for, done from savings, or have you had investors?

I am glad that you asked this question…I will be sharing my knowledge with any and all people interested in learning how I did this “and all my other projects” while using little or none of my own money. It really isn’t that difficult and anybody can do it…my blogs will be explaining all of this in great detail. Sorry, I got side tracked plugging my site, I hope you don’t mind.

At first, I called a few game manufacturers to get some pricing on having a couple prototypes made, and when they told me what they charge for 2 or 3 games, I actually laughed! I was quoted $700-$1,000 and that did NOT include the graphic design work. I checked around and the graphic design work was going to cost anywhere from $2,500 -$3,000 or more. Now, we were looking at spending a minimum of $3,200 up to $4,000 with the potential for increased costs due to any unseen difficulties. Well, that to me seemed a touch ludicrous, so I contacted an Art Institute in Ohio and made some arrangements to have a student work with me on this. I was able to get 4 games completed and all the graphic design work done for $765.00.

The web site, which is not a finished site yet, but a fantastic start…$300.00

Now, in order for Brain Swaggle to be played on-line, a software program will need to be designed and developed to my exact specifications. Through my research, and talking to computer programmers and or I.T. professionals, this would cost between $25,000 - $35,000 or more! As I mentioned earlier the software isn’t quite ready to play, but it looks like it will cost me around $1,750 to complete (one thousand seven hundred and fifty dollars)
While sharing all of this along with the marketing strategies to some friends and associates, I was able to acquire $30,000 in seed money. Sadly, I may be forced to pay standard rates for the actual manufacturing of the game, at least for now! I will order the minimum, 1,000 games on the first run and that will cost approx. $11,000

When will the game be available for purchase to the general public?

Well, we are shooting for a Mid-Oct launch of the board game; it has been delayed due to a few unforeseen delays.

What has been the toughest part of the process so far?

I’m not sure; there have been hurdles every step of the way. I guess if I had to choose one it would be negotiating the software development.

Do you have other games in the works, and how soon do you hope to have those on the market?

We do, there are 3 additional games currently in the developmental stage. We feel good about having the support of law enforcement agencies on these. But, we still have quite a bit to do on this first game after we launch it. In the not too distant future (by year end) Brain Swaggle will allow people to play against each other worldwide!

Thank You G.

G. Tommy expects to have videos that demonstrate the game on YouTube and on his website by September 12, 2011. To learn more, visit the website:

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