Creativity in the face of COVID-19

Owyn J. Ferguson had his life post-college mapped out – graduate the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University, Minnesota, in May, work at an investment fund at home this summer and then offer himself for a year-long volunteer program in Israel. But COVID-19 upended everything. His summer job fell through, and his volunteer program was put on hold. Rather than fold under the pressure of it all, Ferguson’s reaction to what he described as “austere times” has been to “embrace ambiguity and utilize entrepreneurial skills” he has gained during his undergraduate years.

Ferguson knew he had to make a 360-degree turn, and take another door. He “opened” the door, and the result of that is the production of an adult party game which would become “Doghouse”.

Ferguson, who earned a Bachelor’s degree in economics, and three members of his class of 2020 – Margaret Kosir, Hanna Degen and Zach Kennedy – are in the midst of launching an adult party game they’ve named “Doghouse”, and which they said is the party game you can’t wait to lose because it makes failure fun.

The game is composed of six decks of cards and one die. With over 400 cards, Ferguson said, playtime is unlimited. There is no winner, but at least one loser per round. And the losers are sent to the doghouse.

In the game’s premise, players take turns rolling the die and picking from one of six decks of cards. Each deck of cards is a satirical spinoff of a traditional party game – never have I ever, truth or dare, etc. – and each game has a different way of getting players sent to the doghouse.

The decks include games like “throw a bone” in which you find out what your friends really think about you; “dog fight”, which allows you to debate with friends and family about topics not pertaining to religion, politics or who urinated on the toilet seat; “doghouse or dare” – either you do the dare or go to the doghouse; “bark or bite”, a game in which being a goody two-shoes won’t get you anywhere; “breeds”, in which you have to list off items in a featured category, with the person messing up or repeating another player, or being slow to answer, sent to the doghouse; and “teacher’s pet”, which will show how well you know your fellow players.

“Two things that differentiate this game from any other is that within itself, it incorporates six different games – satirical spinoffs of traditional party games, and it makes failure fun,” said Ferguson.

While COVID-19 has been disruptive to his life, by the same token, he said, COVID-19 has been a good thing for him.

“It’s forced me to be creative,” said Ferguson. “It’s forced me to use skills that I learnt in school and put them to use right away. I wouldn’t even have pursued this had COVID not been a thing.”

During his undergrad years, Ferguson participated in an entrepreneurship program that provided students with the tools to be able to start and run a business, and which encouraged students to at least attempt to start a business venture by the end of the program.

Ferguson’s first project did not work out. “Doghouse”, his second project which he originally started along with Kosir, came into being in the fall of 2019.

The idea for the game was like an epiphany for the duo, who came up with it a day before they were due to submit an idea to the program.

“We were honestly just kind of partying, and people were playing drinking games and we just thought it would be fun to do something like this – have a game as a venture,” said the 21-year-old.

“Sometimes competition is good, but particularly for party games it can sometimes ruin the mood, so we wanted to eliminate the competition. So, ‘Doghouse’ offers unlimited playtime and there are no winners, but at least one loser per round, and the loser is the one that goes to the doghouse.”

With unlimited playtime, he said, they didn’t want the game to be monotonous either.

Ferguson and his cohorts even won a pitch competition in Phoenix in March for the game but he said at the time they didn’t see themselves developing it into a business venture because they had their post-college lives lined up.

After he lost out on his summer job, and Kosir lost out on her volunteer program, as did many other people from their program, they reached out to two other people and ended up with the group of four to make “Doghouse” happen as a business, which they’ve registered as the White Board Group, specializing in game design and gamification. “Doghouse” is their main product.

The game comes with die; six decks of cards, with 70 cards in each deck; and a rule sheet. It’s a mature game targeted towards ages 18-plus due to its mature, suggestive content, that Ferguson said is still tasteful.

He also confessed to having played his game a lot in quarantine in Minnesota.

“It’s really fun, since the bars and clubs aren’t a good option right now. This is a good alternative.”

Ferguson’s Whiteboard Group has a Kickstarter campaign going to raise $16,000 to cover the startup costs associated with manufacturing their first order (1,500 units) of games and costs associated with shipment, tariffs and fulfilment to their backers. With 19 days left in the 30-day crowdfunding, they have pledges of $9,150 so far.

The newly minted college graduates opted to crowdfund as opposed to trying to obtain a loan or lining up investors and having to give up equity in their foundling company.

For their pledges on Kickstarter, donors will receive guaranteed gifts – games and “Doghouse” merchandise.

“If we make the goal, we get the money and we’re good to go. We would have our startup costs covered. If we don’t meet the goal, everyone who backed our campaign and pledged money will get their money back.”

If the worst-case scenario happens, Ferguson said he’s not giving up on the idea.

“We’ll just have to go back to the drawing board and figure out our next best alternative to raise money.”

“Doghouse” is expected to launch fully in November.

“We have our website set up already, and once the Kickstarter ends, we will start accepting purchases through the website, and starting 2021 we will start fulfilling [orders] through Amazon.”

Ferguson said promoting the game remotely due to COVID-19 has come with challenges, but he said they are getting the job done.

Bahamian residents can order the “Doghouse” game with a United States shipping address.

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Shavaughn Moss

Shavaughn Moss joined The Nassau Guardian as a sports reporter in 1989. She was later promoted to sports editor. Shavaughn covered every major athletic championship from the CARIFTA to Central American and Caribbean Championships through to World Championships and Olympics. Shavaughn was appointed as the Lifestyles Editor a few years later.

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