More About Jackson
It all started when...
While playing strategic card games during the summer after fourth grade, Jackson Lefler got an idea for a different card game where players could put cards together to build something – a structure maybe.
Lefler, then 10, began to play other card and board games which gave him more ideas. He slowly began to put the ideas together and ended up designing/inventing his own game: BLDR.
“I like strategy in a lot of games. And luck,” Lefler said. “I don’t like games where you’re just spinning, relying on all luck. So I wanted to come up with a game that had both those things – strategy plus a little luck.”
BLDR began like many games children invent – drawn out on sheets of loose leaf paper in his kitchen / bedroom. But Lefler carefully cut the paper out and drew designs on the front and the back of cards as he pulled the ideas from his head. He made a full deck and wrote out his initial rules.
He designed cards featuring a robber, wrecking ball and a police officer. He added money cards and a max 8-cards-in a hand rule so players could not stockpile. At the beginning he created four color coded cards which later became his structures or buildings. Then came rules to speed up play and other changes like adding a zero dollar card to add an element of deceit and surprise.
He took his hand-drawn deck of cards and set of rules and played with his little brother and sister. He pulled in his mom and dad, too.
Mary and Tal Lefler were impressed the first time they played their son’s game. They thought it could be tweaked a bit and turned into a legitimate game. So, they issued a challenge to Jackson: come up with a finished product.
“I just wanted him to see an idea through from conception to completion,” Mary said, adding that she thought it would be a good lesson for her oldest son, who would soon be going into junior high.
They enlisted the help of a parent they knew from a preschool classmate. She was a graphic designer. They recreated the cards on index cards and worked with the designer to bring in colors. Once Jackson developed the game a bit more, he took it to school and played with friends. He brought in neighborhood children to beta test the game (though he didn’t call it that – they were just playing). And he continued to add and develop the idea.
The Leflers asked a family friend who works in the toy business to look at the game. He liked it and offered encouraging feedback to Jackson like changing the name from Skystrux, its original name, to BLDR. He also advised Jackson to choose colors that really pop, to help with marketing and to draw people to the game. To figure out the best colors, he suggested a trip to the Target game aisle and instructed Jackson once there to close his eyes and then open them. He said he then wanted Jackson to make note of what jumped out at him.
“Neon colors jumped out at me, and none better than the colors that stand out to protect construction workers and BLDRs” Jackson said, adding that the family visited other local toy stores and studied boxes, packaging and placement.
Two years later, Lefler has a finished product, now designed by a second graphic artist. He will launch a Kickstarter campaign in September to fund the first round of production of the game. He’ll have 30 days to make his goal amount; to see if he can turn the game into a product ready to sell.
“I really wanted to see this as a finished product, not an unfinished dream,” Tal said. “I wanted to see people playing and enjoying Jackson's game.”
If the campaign is successful, young Mr. Lefler will put his BLDR game into production and sell it directly to customers on Amazon.
Already wise beyond his years in terms of game designing, Lefler now is becoming a true entrepreneur. He has ideas for customizing the game to different states or college teams. And, of course, he’d love to go into the Target game aisle to see his game on the shelves he once studied for ideas.
“Every time you play you have a (post mortem) of strategy,” Lefler said. “You say, ‘I should have done this or that.’ That’s what I really like about the game.”