Guest speaker a game changer for Middle School students

Playing board games is a lot of fun. Designing and producing a board game is fun, too, but it’s also a lot of work.

Middle School students are in the midst of designing board games as the final skill-building session of the Engineering and Design Challenge. They have been charged with developing games with SAC-inspired themes.

Who better to inspire them than the designer of a board game that’s hitting the market any week now? Darrin Henein ’04 is director of UX at Shopify by day, but in his downtime, he and a business partner are developing Muskoka: The Board Game, set to hit the market in the next few weeks.

Muskoka: The Board Game was born in early 2021 during the pandemic lockdown when a friend approached him with the concept. While Darrin acknowledged he prefers reading a book to playing a board game, he jumped at the chance to use his creativity and branch out in a new direction.

Darrin took to the stage in Ketchum Auditorium on Friday, Jan. 13 and told his rapt audience how he started the process of creating a board game with rough prototypes. The first version of his game was made using Bristol board, markers, and crayons. Nickels and dimes were the playing pieces, and friends and relatives, from children to grandparents, were solicited to provide feedback.

“Be willing to change your mind and evolve during the process,” Darrin told the boys, adding that they should be open to critique.

Darrin gave an overview of his design procedure, stating his aim was to create a handmade feel to the look of the game without actually drawing and painting every facet. He used a variety of online design tools and filters to get the look he wanted.

The next step was to find a company to make the family-friendly game that aligned with the Muskoka: The Board Game team’s ethics and sustainability practices.

He summed up his presentation with three pieces of advice for budding game designers:
  1. Go slow to go fast
  2. Fresh eyes (feedback is critical)
  3. Design is a practice (mastery comes from just doing a lot of work)
The boys peppered Darrin with more than a dozen questions before heading to their classrooms to brainstorm their own board game concepts.
This isn’t the only side project for Darrin. He also created, developed, and designed a highly successful video game, Lastronaut, and developed the Jetpack Hashtag Assistant app.

Story by Julie Caspersen
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