Why We Made CircleTales
It all started two years ago, in 2018, when as parents of a tween daughter with a love of reading, we were searching for a fun old-school board game alternative to overly competitive, resource hoarding or strategic games that she disliked. We wanted to find a game that was well designed and premised on empowering creative play, not gendered character roles, or preconceived narratives. We wanted something we could play together as a family, but we found few options. We realised that if it didn’t already exist we’d have to create it ourselves!
A place to start for us was our love for the good old traditions of storytelling, of tales told around a campfire, entertaining and thrilling yet full of wisdom and meaning. Horrific stories like Baba Yaga’s can make one's hair stand on end, yet there is something deeper speaks to our core. Arriving in Devon was an awakening, a place with a rich storytelling tradition. In these lands storytelling is alive, a beautiful art, and in the work of masters like Martin Shaw, it can be a healing art. We asked ourselves, why can’t we create a game, a storytelling game that brings a thrilling experience that touches our hearts, awaken us to something new perhaps? Or is that an oxymoron in the age of Cards Against Humanity?
And thinking of our daughter, what if the results of this endeavour could create beautiful stories that could perhaps also empower girls? We thought that would be fantastic. Lilly who's a young feminist was particularly keen to see something that did not play the usual female stereotypes, but wanted to see something more personal and boundless. So we asked ourselves whether gaming could show us a way to manifest this concept. We will elaborate later in our blog the research process, but to make our long story short, by employing our backgrounds in art & design, and education, along with a flash of insight, dozens of prototypes, lots of sticky notes on the wall, and two years of game testing and development—and a few tears—CircleTales the Adventure Storytelling Game was borne!
We truly wanted something completely different from everything else out there, so we took a leap of faith, knowing that this would be very special. CircleTales may not be your typical game at Essen Spiel, but definitely something that would look and feel beautiful and play at a different tune from anything else out there. And ultimately, from our feedback, we realised that empowering girls and well as boys, every player in fact, was more fun. We did this following a method of natural intuitive principles that in essence are feminine and grounded on earth’s elements. We felt we were done when the game took a life of its own, so to speak, and it became a truly personal experience for whomever played it.
We worked together as a family to develop CircleTales here in Devon, using an uncommon blend of research-based methodology, intuition, and a strong emphasis on sustainability to create a not-your-ordinary-plastic-parts board game. This was particularly difficult considering we had to, sadly outsource abroad for logistical reasons, while at the same time ensuring we worked with manufacturing partners of the highest environmental and ethical standards. To do this we had to work outside the board game industry usual manufacturing sources, which was extremely hard but not impossible. It took a lot of patience testing various manufacturing methods—hence the tears. But we got there and learned a lot in the process. We hope to manufacture locally in the future if all goes well.
With a board made of bamboo, recycled markers and the entire game printed with soy inks, CircleTales is an easy to play collaborative game with artistic flair that celebrates the imagination of every player, while encouraging social connection, empathy, divergent thinking, and active listening--skills most needed in today’s challenging times.
We recognised that collaborative storytelling is a powerful tool for forging connection and strengthening bonds within families, friend groups, and broader communities, the result of many hours of labour, trial plays with parents, educators, creative writers, wellbeing professionals, and above all, children, who always said how much they loved it!
We shall publish a blog later on outlining the literature that most influenced our research, for those of you who are . however the initial inspiration for creating this undertaking came from Kickstarter’s amazing project Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls, inspired by the life of extraordinary women, which showed the world that crowdfunding can bring people together around a special project and represent the voice of a community. Two years later, after conceiving the idea for CircleTales, and with the help of outstanding early adopters, we fully funded our Kickstarter campaign. We are very excited to see that CircleTales is now a reality and it is slowly but surely making its way into the hearts and homes of families around the world.