The Contender” is a new card game by Golden Bell Studios that focuses on a controversial topic—politics. Yet the game enables people from all views to play peacefully by casting them in the role of a presidential candidate who must use actual quotes (delivered via the cards) from politicians to make themselves seem like the best choice for the office. Even if you know nothing about politics or the assorted issues in the news, you can use the quotes on the cards to attack your opponents, rally your adoring public, and talk a good game on the podium.

“The Contender” is essentially a performance game that can easily be enjoyed by various groups of people who might have opposing political beliefs. Just combine multiple cards and then proceed to read the bold red text out loud in order to convince the player in the “moderator” role in voting for you.

The open-endedness of the game made it appealing to Golden Bell Studios who published it in 2018. “The Contender” is the brainchild of two game designers: a writer and podcaster named Justin Robert Young and John Teasdale, a veteran game designer with a taste for political satire.

Recently both Justin Robert Young and John Teasdale discussed the creation of “The Contender” and their plans for the future.

Quotes, designing and creating

Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you get into designing Games and why is politics such a draw for you?

John: I’ve liked designing games as long as I can remember. I love how they give people a chance to try out different skills in a safe environment. I didn’t actually get into politics until I worked on The Contender with Justin.

Justin: Yeah, I am a huge politics junkie. In today’s climate though I really enjoy the challenge of bringing people together on such a divisive yet omnipresent topic.

MM: When did you meet each other and how did you decide to create a game together?

Justin: John and I worked at a company designing and running scavenger hunts.

John had just run a Kickstarter for a game, and we had the initial idea for The Contender. Since we had so much time with each other on the road developing the game became a bad way to kill time. John also has such a great mind for some of the balancing and game theory I’m not really good at.

MM: What inspired “The Contender” and how long did it take to gather up all those quotes?

John: Too. Long. Between us, we have watched every televised debate and read every published transcript that exists in US politics.

MM: How did you find Golden Bell Studios and how long did it take for the game to b released under their umbrella?

Justin: They reached out to John via Kickstarter then we ran into them at PAX Unplugged.

It was a pretty instant connection. We share a lot of the same thoughts about the game industry, and they’re such hustlers.

MM: What is your favorite quote in the game and why?

John: “I've waffled before. I'll waffle again.” - Howard Dean. It has rhythm, repetition, and can be said with brash confidence. It’s also incredibly dumb.

Justin: “(Audible sigh)” - Al Gore. So fun to play and a rare wordless quote that everyone remembers.

Games, fan feedback, and rewards

MM: What other cool games have you created?

John: Justin and I just finished shipping Action News, our second Kickstarted game together. It builds on “conversational deconstruction skills” we learned while making The Contender, but you’re scripting a television news show instead of a political debate.

Before I met Justin, I made a game called Stranger Danger that you play in a public place and get points for doing challenges with people you don’t know.

MM: What sort of fan feedback have you gotten regarding “The Contender”?

Justin: It always warms my heart when people tell us they’ve played the game with members of their family that couldn’t disagree more about politics.

MM: What’s most rewarding about being a game designer and what kinds of games are you working on in 2019?

John: I love it when the game resonates with people so much that they buy it on the spot. That’s how you know they mean it.

Justin: As for what’s next? We’re always working on stuff, before Action News we created probably like five or six demos that we totally abandoned. But I’d bet the next came we release will be another party game that brings people together.