Tell us about your games:
Our first game, Pucket, is based on the traditional French game Table à l'élastique. I discovered it when I was a student in Aix-en-Provence. I heard two old men swearing at each other, went to see what the fuss was about, and they were playing a frantic game involving bits of elastic and wooden discs you had to fire through a hole. I made one for my brother that Christmas, we became obsessed and we noticed no one was marketing the game in England. My brother wanted to release it under the name Elasti-Hole. We settled on Pucket, because the wooden discs look like ice hockey pucks.
Since then we’ve added Bridget and Rollet to the family. Bridget is a 3d bridge building strategy game, and Rollet is a four player ricochet dexterity game, frantic like Pucket but with some strategic depth too.
What’s the philosophy behind Et Games?
The starting point is that fun games deserve to be played. Society is too atomised, we spend hours every day staring at personal computer screens. Low tech dexterity games are one way of connecting convivially, face to face. Beyond that, we try to be imaginative about running the business ethically. So far, that has meant being very restrained with our advertising – on the basis that spam and spin are bad for the soul – and trying to do good with our supply chain. Pucket and Rollet are made by a fair trade producer in India called Asha Handicrafts, and Bridget is made in two British prisons, in partnership with a prisoner rehabilitation charity called Blue Sky.
Why do you have games made in prison?
Well, from my limited research, it’s obvious to me that short term prisons sentences don’t work. Prison costs more than Eton, and it’s very hard to get a job when you leave. But you do get a lot of excellent criminal contacts. No wonder re-offending rates are so high. Blue Sky provides meaningful paid work inside prison, and they bring prisoners straight into a proper job once they leave. That’s been shown to dramatically reduce re-offending. What’s more, the prisoners are super enthusiastic and do a very good job at making our games.
Where do you find your inspiration and ideas for games?
That depends which game we’re talking about. For our most recent game, Rollet, I’d been thinking about how to make a pinball type game for multiple players for quite a while. I like the keepy-uppy frantic-ness of pinball, but it’s boring to play alone. The classic 90s game Cross-fire was another source – as it features a goal ball that you must move by firing smaller balls. Blend those two ideas together, replace all the plastic with metal, tweak the dimensions, and (more or less) you have Rollet.
What’s next for Et Games?
I have some more game ideas brewing but that’s all top secret. We’re working on a project to improve the dust extraction at our Indian supplier’s workshop. On my wish list: US distribution, and a bigger office.