Meet Fossil Sweep Game Designer, Joyce Johnson!

Meet Fossil Sweep Game Designer, Joyce Johnson!

Aren't fossils fascinating? Fossils come in various forms, from hardened animal bones to intricate plant imprints. But fossils don’t exist forever. Many things, including weather and time, can often destroy them.

Our NEW fossil game, Fossil Sweep, combines strategy with fascinating fossil fun facts as players play the fossil cards in their hand to see how many fossils they can discover before they become lost!

To celebrate the exciting release of Fossil Sweep next month, we sat down with the game inventor, which in its original form was known as Blueberry Blast. There are no bones about it; you'll want to keep reading if you love tabletop game design and learning about the process from Joyce Johnson, one of the most sought-after board game designers worldwide. 


Meet Fossil Sweep Game Designer, Joyce Johnson!

Joyce Johnson games by SimplyFun

Joyce Johnson is a big kid at heart who loves to invent card games and board games. She has enjoyed many careers - drummer, real estate developer, greeting card designer, and, best of inventor!  With 56 games published, Joyce loves to collaborate with fellow inventors, and collaborating with her husband, Tim, on Fossil Sweep was a total blast! Joyce and Tim live in Santa Barbara, CA, with their two cat-tastic felines, Winston and Tanner-Bear.


How many games have you published worldwide?  



How many games have you worked on with SimplyFun?  

Four published games, although throughout any given year, SimplyFun and I are in contact regarding their game wish/needs list, and we discuss any games I have that might fit.


Do you remember the first game you did with SimplyFun? 

Joyce Johnson Games by SimplyFun

Spell Trek. When the game was submitted to SimplyFun, it was called Spelling Safari. I developed this game with my creative collaborator at the time, Colleen McCarthy-Evans. We were beyond thrilled to get our game published by SimplyFun because SimplyFun has awesome games!  


How did you get started in board game design? 

I had my own greeting card company and wore many hats, including artist, salesperson, and marketer. Although it was a rewarding creative venture, I just knew I wanted to do something in the toy industry. I started by inventing a toy and getting a patent for it. 

I learned a lot in that process. Then, to my great surprise, a class called Game Design for Fun and Profit was offered through Santa Barbara Adult Education. It was a one-day class followed several months later by a six-week class. I attended both, and my life changed forever! I knew immediately I wanted to pursue a career as a game inventor. I created my first game during that six-week class; the rest is history! 


What is the most challenging part of creating or designing a new game?

My challenge with creating and designing a game happens after the game is completed on my end. Typically, I pitch games to interested companies in person (at trade shows), through their online company portal, or use a video conference platform to show the game. When a prototype is requested to play test, I’m very excited and happily send it to them. However, it can take months for a company to make its final decision. When they finally give a decision, of course, I hope it’s a yes, that they want to publish it. But it can also be a no that they are passing. When that happens, I just want feedback or a valuable critique or reason. Receiving no feedback is challenging for me. SimplyFun gives incredible feedback and that makes working with them so rewarding! 


What is your game design process?

After getting an initial idea for a game, I look online at various game sites to be sure (to the best of my knowledge) that a similar game hasn’t been published. If my search shows nothing close to it, I decide if I want to create a card game, board game, or something that requires a three-dimensional element. I use my intuition a lot at this point, trusting that the game will become what it is meant to be. Once I get this clarity, I usually start working at my computer, knowing I will draw something -card visuals, a board, etc. Sometimes, I use clipart to save time since companies generally hire their own illustrator for finished art. 

The initial game creation typically evolves over several days or weeks until I’ve created a rough, playable prototype. During the process, I think about the play pattern, the number of players, the age range, how long it will take to play, how to win, and whether it will be fun to play. By the time I have enough content created for this rough version, I usually play it with my husband first. He’s a great gamer and now a co-inventor with me. 

Next, I make any changes I want to make, and then I move toward a more solid prototype – something others can play and understand with basic rules. I set up play tests with kids or families I know, or we have a game night at our house. I love good critiques from play testers because they help the game to become its very best. I review and consider all feedback and then tweak the game even further based on that feedback – taking in what seems valid and correct to me. This is based on over 20 years of creating games so I have much to pull from. 


Who or what are some of your inspirations? 

I am inspired by life taking place around me. I might see something on a walk – a pattern or a color combination that leads to a game idea. Or I might hear something my husband or a friend say, and that becomes a game idea or a working title. I might watch kids playing and see something they are doing that leads to a gameplay mechanic. I might even have a dream that leads to a game idea. I consider my game inspiration to be VERY organic and not forced at all. 


What inspired the design of Fossil Sweep, Formerly known as Blueberry Blast?

What inspired the design of Fossil Sweep, Formerly known as Blueberry Blast?

(The original prototype from Joyce Johnson, Berry Blast)

It had been a while since I invented a card game, and my husband and I were feeling inspired to do so. I was also inspired to create a game about layering (matching) images as part of the play pattern. 


How long did it take you to design the original concept?

This game was created over weeks – from its original inspiration to a rough prototype. I knew I wanted to make a card game with a layering of images. That was my first inspiration. I picked fruit as the visual, but I knew it would most likely become another visual. 


Do you have a favorite game that SimplyFun has published?

Wow, this is a really tough question. Because I haven’t yet seen the final version of Fossil Sweep, I’m choosing that one as my favorite. But I have to say, SimplyFun has a large offering of incredible games for all ages. I am thrilled to be a part of the SimplyFun family. 


Anything else you’d like to tell us about Fossil Sweep?

Fossil Sweep Strategy Fossil Game Product Link

I love the name of the game Fossil Sweep, and the theme is absolutely brilliant!


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