Picture a backyard on a hot summer day in New England. Picture a kiddie pool and six adults sitting around it, sipping adult beverages and talking about adult topics: mortgages, summer camps, aches, pains. In the distance there was a swing that would only swing when a breeze blew through. There was a deserted water table and neglected toys strewn about across the lawn. But, no kids. Despite near-perfect weather. I won’t lie, we enjoyed the silence, while it lasted.
Moments later, six kids came flying out of the house with a notebook and a half dozen pens and pencils. They had found a notebook and someone had written a message in it. The message was innocuous and – frankly – totally meaningless to anything. One by one, the gaggle of kids questioned the adults. First there was absolute confusion, but once we realized how much their creative minds were working, we played along and made up a whole story around who wrote in the notebook. As the day wore on, the adults had fun with it. We’d leave fingerprints on random notes and the kids loved it. Never had they been so engaged in one activity over such a long period.
It dawned on me: Kids love mysteries. And if they can’t find a mystery, they’ll make one up. I decided that day I’d create mysteries for them, and maybe they’d find them fun. It took a few months, but the first mystery we created was called “Santa Clues” and it involved solving a series of puzzles to help Santa Claus get to his sleigh. Most surprising, parents seemed to enjoy the game as much as the kids. Maybe we were onto something here. Below are a few of the inspirations behind Clever Kids that definitely influence the games we create for families.
Scooby Doo Mysteries. If we’re going chronologically, well, I guess we’re starting here. I loved this cartoon. Loved the mystery van, loved the characters (especially the bad guys) and loved the creepy locations. I should have known at this age I’d be better at writing mysteries than solving them because I’m not sure I ever correctly solved the mystery despite there being literally two suspects each time.
Hardy Boys Mysteries. This one’s the obvious one. It’s also the book series that got me into reading as a kid. The plots moved quickly and Frank Dixon always seemed to strike the right balance of danger and fun.
King’s Quest PC Games . When we purchased our first PC in the mid-nineties, our friend Gil came by and installed this for us. I had never seen anything like this. I could freely move across the environment? I could pick up objects? I could use those objects anywhere I wanted? Solving the puzzles in this one were really tough at times but I loved the challenge. I remember playing for hours and being stuck on one puzzle. However, it forced me to be patient and I’d like to think I grew more patient from playing this game.
Family board game night. Simply, what beats family game night? It’s something I try to organize today with our kids because it’s fun family bonding. It’s microwave popcorn, buying monopoly hotels, building mouse traps, incriminating Colonel Mustard, answering trivia questions and laying train tracks. I’m not sure the board game will ever get disrupted by technology. At least, I hope not.
Escape Rooms. Fast forward into adulthood. I had heard of escape rooms, and they seemed fun enough but I hadn’t experienced one until a forced-fun work outing. And boy did we have fun. Our team banded together, and smartly cruised through a challenging escape room in Boston. I was pretty obsessed after that. Our goal is definitely to rebuild that escape room experience right in the comfort of your home.
I’m sure there are others but these are the main ones, and their fingerprints are all over Clever Kids.