McKinney resident Teresa Abney, her former husband Tom, their five sons and their families have be working over the past year to bring good old-fashioned family fun back into the home with their tabletop game, Facing Off. The game, which gets its Kickstarter launch on Tuesday, is described as new twist on the "sketch-n-guess" and charades genres of games because it's not a guessing game, or card game, or like anything else on the market, a release states. The high-energy game relies on sketching using dry-erase boards but doesn’t require any artistic talent.
Abney, who moved to McKinney from Dallas in 2018 to be closer to her son Charlie, is a Realtor who also renovates homes but admits she’s spent more time over the last 16 months in game development to spend much time with a sledgehammer.
Abney and the game start-up company 5A Productions are eager to introduce Facing Off to other families through their monthlong Kickstarter campaign starting Tuesday through facingoffgame.com.
What are the names of your sons and daughters in law (co-game developers)?
Steve and Lesa Abney
Robert and Christi Abney
Charlie and Alyssa Abney
Tommy and Lauren Abney
Johnny and Abbey Abney
There were several others who helped make the game possible, too , like Tom (the “wasband”/ husband), and I would have been completely lost without the help of Doug Abney , his wife Karen, daughter Christina, and my 93-year-old mother-in-law, Lavonne, and my brother Robert Smith and his wife Carol Smith of Houston and the list goes on. I better mention my best friend Patricia Weronick, and my sister Irene Smith, too!
Do you all get together to play games often?
My family has a love/hate relationship with the games! Especially the boys. They love playing and hate to lose! Every holiday and vacation we play as many games as possible, and it’s a big tribe, so it gets very noisy. Steve is known as the stickler for rules, Tommy is a rule breaker, Johnny and Robert bend them … then there’s Charlie, who could have been an attorney, delivering his closing arguments to sort it all out! None of them like to lose. Their wives usually sit as far from their husbands as possible when we play, because … well … let me just say the boys can be pretty intimidating.
Do they live around here too?
· Steve and Lesa are in Fort Worth
· Robert and Christi (and big Tom) live in Austin
· Charlie and Alyssa live in McKinney
· Tommy and Lauren just left Dallas/Austin for the yearlong road trip
· Johnny and Abby live in Austin
It sounds like Facing Off is truly a family affair. How did that come about?
The original concept for the game took its first breath one November morning, in 2018, when Crazy Nonnie (Teresa Abney) had a now familiar burst of inspiration. As she skipped and twirled in dramatic fashion into the room where her daughter-in-law, Alyssa, sat reading, Nonnie declared: “I’ve done it! I’ve hit our home run! It’s a Party Game called “Sketch Artist!”
The two immediately started taking fast and furious notes and wrote the first draft of the game. Eventually, her son Charlie joined in, and by evening the grandchildren. However, by bedtime the game had taken a dizzying journey to “crazy town,” and was deemed too convoluted to create. Like hundreds of other inspired ideas, the game was written off as just another one of Nonnie’s brilliant ideas that would never make it. She was sad, but relieved that she hadn’t spent the usual 6 months toiling away on something she would never bring to fruition.
However, this time something kept gnawing at her, nudging and poking. She’d lay awake at night wondering, “how could something so perfect have gotten so far off track?” Three weeks later, Nonnie emerged from her room and resolutely declared, “I will NOT let this idea die, and I won’t die before it’s done! So, let’s get back to work!”
Soon, she had also corralled her daughter-in-law Christi into the ring-of-fire and the game started taking good form and gaining ground. Within days, the name was changed to Facing Off, and one by one, the other girls had joined in. A few weeks later, their husbands were in the brawl, then brother and sisters-in-law … then Pappy and his 93-year-old mother. By the end, over 20 family members were on the collaboration team! After 15 months of editing and re-editing, play-testing and prototyping, we’re finally delighted (and relieved) to announce the debut of “Facing Off! Can you sketch what you can’t see?”
What made you want to bring Facing Off into other homes?
I custom packaged an early version of the game and took it to California on a vacation to see Tom’s mother, brother and extended family. One evening, I pulled out the game and acted like it was something off the store shelf, never saying a word about the project that was newly underway. The family had such so much fun playing it that they wanted to know where they could get one right away … and that’s when I really knew. But, there were many other signs that told me it needed to become a staple on every game shelf in every home!
Why was it important to use high-quality materials like the dry-erase boards?
As a preface, let me say we spent the majority of the last 16 months researching and testing out manufacturers.
Honestly, we had no idea how much we didn’t know about the game industry when we started. We knew we wanted top quality products but had no idea how much markup you needed on a product to survive all the expenses you’ll incur through to a sale. So, our first prototype was off the chain! Oh my goodness, the card-stand (alone) had the finish of a grand piano! No joke. But, it would have been so cost-prohibitive to bring that version to the market that we literally had to force ourselves to tone it down.
After several months of working with that manufacturer, we couldn’t find a product or price we could both live with, so we moved on. Several months later we had settled on our second manufacturer. We were very close to going all the way with them, but in our gut we knew we just couldn’t get the sketch paddle where we absolutely needed it. It had the girth we liked in our hand, but it felt like it wouldn’t last the ages. It also became apparent the paddle was going to “ghost” over time and become harder to fully erase.
So here, I’m going to interject – almost all games that incorporate dry-erase boards use cardboard. Well, there was no way we were going down that road, because eventually they all look dirty and well-worn. We also didn’t want the typical square or rectangular dry-erase board, (which really narrowed our choices for manufacturing.) We wanted something that would be as nice to use the 100th time you took it off the shelf as it was the first time, and we wanted something that would be fun to incorporate in social media! There’s something about holding up a paddle with the face you sketched on it, that just can’t be imitated with a small square piece of cardboard.
So … we literally went back to “the drawing board” and eventually found Gameland! It took even more months of samples and mold fees before we signed our life over, but we finally knew we had a long lasting product and a price we could live with, (and that goes for every component in the set.) I might be proven wrong later, but I will proudly admit we are proceeding with a markup that still falls below the industry guidelines, because we simply want to bring this product to the world! Hopefully it will become a classic and through volume sales we’ll be able to get our pricing in line with other game publishers. (Wow, it’s hard to type with your fingers crossed!)
What do you hope other families get from the game?
This is such a great question! We really want families to laugh together, connect with each other, and enjoy that time more! Facing Off is literally so much fun to play, that no one gets upset when they don’t win (even if they’re competitive players!) The reason why is pure genius: Under the pressure of time, the game forces you to discover a way to communicate with a new player every round, and when the game is done you’ve played every player at the table! (So you really get a chance to connect with everyone.) You’re never stuck with a frustrating partner, and every change in partners creates an entirely new and hysterical challenge. And then … the “reveal” after even the most extreme effort is soothed by the levity of robust laughter at the end of every round.
To play it is to love it!
Looking ahead, do you think this could lead you to develop more games?
Certainly! We already have several expansions for the game in mind, and one in development. And it seems every few weeks, our grandchildren are presenting us with “the next game” we have to make. And honestly, some of them are really good! So, here’s to hoping we have an extremely successful launch, because if we do, there’s going to be a lot more work and laughter to spread around!
In closing, I’d like to say this … I no longer look at anything on the store shelves the same way as I did before. My hat is off to all the visionaries who went for it. It’s tough. Really tough. It takes a lot a grit and sacrifice to get to the finish line. Today I woke up to a quote on my calendar that I had written to myself in advance, knowing the emotional state I would find myself in NOW (one week before launch). It has carried me today, and will carry me all week … “Courage is fear that has said its prayers.”