Local Innovators Developing Board Game to Teach Empathy and Understanding

From left to right: James Perreault, Grace Pesch, and Jay Franson. Photo courtesy of Grace Pesch.

From left to right: James Perreault, Grace Pesch, and Jay Franson. Photo courtesy of Grace Pesch.

A trio of strangers spent a single weekend this October innovating and stepping outside of their comfort zones. Now, entrepreneurs Grace Pesch, Jay Franson, and James Perreault are seeking ways to further develop their board game to teach empathy and understanding.

Their product, called ‘What Were You Thinking?’, breaks down the nine Enneagram personality types to better inform players’ professional and personal relationships. The Enneagram is, an arguably, complicated model of the human psyche conveying basic fears, desires, and motivations.

At the surface, the ‘What Were You Thinking?’ game is simple. It’s composed of character cards and scenario cards. Each character card describes a person with one of the nine Enneagram personality types. The scenario cards describe a real-life situation, the funnier the better, plus reactions to that scenario. Each participant plays a character card they think best describes the reaction to the scenario. Whoever convinces the judge that their character card matches the scenario behavior the best, wins. 

On one level it’s just a matching game. But on a deeper note, the game involves rationalizing why your character, with the indicated personality type and tendencies, would react to a situation in a certain manner.  

“It causes the person that drew the card to really think outside of themselves and relate more to the card in hand, to the persona that’s on that card,” Franson explained. “The goal is to bring more awareness to the Enneagram as well as give language to different people’s personality types.”

The team believes this card game could be a unique way to teach empathy, improve relationships, and enhance team building. 

Pesch, Franson, and Perreault developed a prototype for the game during Techstars’ Startup Weekend Rochester. This fifty-four-hour event, held over Halloween weekend, helped participants explore their entrepreneurial tendencies, ideate, perform customer validation, and develop simple prototypes all in a single weekend. 

“I like to do things I’ve never done before. I like to try and expand my horizons and push myself,” Pesch explained. “I knew I was kind of scared and uncomfortable with the idea of doing Startup Weekend and I said, well I have to do it!” 

While Franson entered the weekend with the original idea for the game, Pesch and Perreault quickly joined on to further develop and test the concept.

By the end of Startup Weekend, the team developed a prototype with a minimal set of cards, built a website, and had pre-orders of the product. They also identified a potential game creation company to construct the product, set a price point, and researched drop shipping for product distribution.

All complete strangers at the beginning of the weekend, the team believes their flexibility, open mindedness, and unique skill sets helped them to succeed.  

“I think that personality is more important than actual knowledge. You don’t need an expert as much as you need someone that you can communicate with,” Franson said.

This was the first time that both Franson and Pesch ever participated in a Startup Weekend. Pesch, a person who prefers pacing herself and working well in advance on large projects, appreciated being forced to change her workstyle to deliver in such a limited time span. 

“I think I was most inspired by the lack of instruction [at Startup Weekend] because that’s real life. Really for the most part you go and figure it out. You can find a mentor or take a class, but it’s still up to you,” Franson said. “I thought that was immensely valuable because you learned so much more by doing it yourself.”

Now, the team is looking for help from the community to write more cards to complete their game. You can learn more and follow their progress by visiting their website https://wwyt.squarespace.com