When we shelved the Nexus board game project, we starting spawning ideas for smaller bootstrap games. Ideas like Alien Autopsy, Barbarian Heist, and Sneaky Peas. (Sneaky Peas??) Nothing really grabbed us. Then, last November, a coworker (we’ll call him Marc) told me about an unsettling experience he’d recently had with a children’s book.
Many of us remember The Little Engine that Could. I loved it myself as a child. I think I can. I think I can. I think I can. It’s about a circus train. And, on every cover and in every illustration of every edition, there is a large clown riding on top of the engine. Marc loved this book as a child and wanted to buy a copy to read to his 4-year-old-son Miles, to share that memory from father to son.
Unfortunately, Marc hates clowns. I mean, he really hates clowns. Clowns, real or illustrated, trigger a flight reaction: rapid heartbeat, panic, sweating, chills, and difficulty breathing. When he discovered a clown riding The Little Engine that Could, he knew he could never buy a copy. Even if he forced himself to buy it, he knew that he’d never be able to read it to Miles.
Marc has Coulrophobia or a Fear of Clowns. He doesn’t know why. He doesn’t remember when clowns became monsters. He obviously didn’t have a problem with clowns as a kid or he wouldn’t have remembered The Little Engine that Could so fondly. That struck me as a curious thing.
All of us have things that annoy us, make us uncomfortable, or creep us out to one degree or another. My daughter couldn’t stand the site of blood when she was a kid but is now a certified paramedic. Obviously, she doesn’t have an issue with blood anymore. We’re not entirely sure where these fears and anxieties come from or where they go.
After Marc’s revelation, one of our other coworkers asked if there was a fear of phobias. Yes, said Grandmother Google: Phobophobia is the fear of phobias. A phobia of phobias. The fear of fear itself. A klaxon went off in my head.
Would it make a good card game? Attack with phobia cards. Defend with treatment cards. Make it a party game. Aim for 15-30 minute play for 2-6 players. Look for a nice balance of luck and strategy. Go for humor that works for adults without going full Cards Against Humanity. Maybe do a NSFW expansion pack. The more I thought about it, the more I liked it.
We had started out looking for a small lower risk project idea for us to use to learn the Kickstarter ropes but ended up with a game that we are every bit as passionate about as that big board game project that we shelved.
The base deck will not have any clowns in it. I really want Marc to be able to enjoy playing Phobophobia. Don’t worry dude. We’ve got your back.