Disney couple uses entertainment experience to create card game

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The Rank Game, an interactive game set to debut on store shelves in January, prompts players to put away their phones and get to know each other. Courtesy Sydney Brown

(As seen on WZZM TV 13) A Holland couple is using their Disney experience to promote inclusiveness through games.

Dana and Chip Brown formerly worked as a lead designer for Walt Disney Imagineer and a producer for Disney Studios, respectively. Five years ago, they used the experience they gained to launch Storyastic, a company that creates interactive party games.

The games are designed to bring people together and have a shared experience without their mobile devices. The first game the company created was The Rank Game, which will be in stores starting in January.

The Rank Game is a card game that features a variety of categories such as seasons, sports, culture and faith.

Dana Brown said each category will have four items. The ranker will secretly write down their preferred order for each category, and the guessers will write down on their scorecard what they believe the ranker’s order will be. The ranker will then reveal their order and for each item the guessers get correct, they will receive a point.

Chip Brown said The Rank Game allows players to tell a story about the things they care about, and it reveals what they know or don’t know about each other.

The game is one of five interactive card and board games the couple will put on the market over the course of the next two years.

“It is a muscle memory that we always grab our phones,” Chip Brown said. “When we are with people, we tend to be addicted to our phones. The phone was originally invented as something to connect people. It definitely brings people together, but the side effect is when people are physically together, it pulls them apart with everyone preconditioned to check their phones. So, we wanted to create something that was fun and a real-world experience for people, and that is truly just a game that is in the Disney tradition of entertainment, but the magic trick about this game is that people come out of it feeling better about interacting with each other, and it helps to overcome shyness.”

Along with the games, the couple also will be publishing books that focus on the entertainment economy and how to create and sustain a brand. The books will be released under the Storyastic brand.

As a lead designer at Disney, Dana Brown worked on designing retail stores and restaurants in the theme parks in California and Tokyo, Japan. After moving to Holland, she opened a small design firm, continuing some of the same theme design work for the interior of homes, specifically in kitchens and bathrooms.

“The level of excellence working at Disney inspired us,” she said. “They just have such a great level of excellence that we worked toward every day in designing the theme parks and the shows that they put on and the guests and the consumer service interactions.

“In our department, architecture and interior design, we worked very closely with the guest experience and how to manage that story because sometimes the parks have their own storyline. I worked on Tokyo DisneySea, which was a brand-new concept theme park in Tokyo, and my land was the Mediterranean Harbor. Everything was designed around that (theme). I had to keep the storyline fresh as you walk into the retail stores, go on the rides and go in restaurants. We wanted to immerse the guest in that storyline and keep the real world out. That was really important to us.”

As a Disney Studios producer, Chip Brown worked on feature animation for movies such as “The Lion King” and “Beauty and the Beast.” After leaving Disney, he got into the publishing business, which brought him and his family to Grand Rapids where he worked at Zondervan, HarperCollins Christian Publishing.

“At Disney, they don’t have consumers, they have guests,” he said. “The reason they are called guests is because (Disney) truly believes they are not selling them something. The people who work for the company aren’t employees — they are cast members — so everything comes down to story and experience. When we were creating the game, our entire purpose was to create an experience for people who will play it, not a product that we get people to buy.”

Between Dana and Chip Brown’s knowledge of providing an experience, designing, storytelling and publishing, they used their collective resources to launch Storyastic.

“It’s really providing an experience that people would want more of,” Chip Brown said.

The Rank Game was available for pre-order on Kickstarter. It received its full funding of $10,000 within 48 hours. As of earlier this month, the couple had 194 backers who pledged $16,174. The funding for the project ended two weeks ago.

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