Do the designers have a background in music? Was there ever a version of the game that did include music as an element of gameplay?
Sen: Yeah! I’m a classically trained pianist, violinist, and vocalist. I’ve sung in acapella groups at the Canadian National Exhibition and in choirs at McMaster University. I also had a career in my younger days as a club and radio DJ in Toronto – I even have tracks that I wrote pressed onto vinyl from back in the day! I used to have a Garfield poster in my room as a child that read “Music is my life”. I’d probably be in the music scene if I didn’t end up becoming a therapist, to be honest. I wonder why I didn’t think of going into music therapy… hmmm…
I really wanted to have a musical element in the game. I mean, it’s My Singing Monsters, right? In the end, the direction was to make a family-friendly strategy game and the musical element made it feel like a performative party game. We tried to put a non-mechanical singing part in the game, but then it felt redundant and took up valuable room in the rulebook, so it was cut from the final game.
If you could implement music into the board game, how much would it change the gameplay?
Jay: We had music in the game for awhile, but because this was a strategy game and not a party game, it never felt like it fit. We’d either have to add a judging element to it (which is very party game-ish), or find a way to do it with technology. We didn’t have enough time to figure out how to add QR codes – or something like that – to play music after you finished your card. That would have been cool, but it also would have increased the component cost a lot since you’d want to keep each of your music cards with all the tokens on them until then end so you could finally hear the full song!
Sen: I had some thoughts about how to require harmonies and different Monsters singing different parts like bass and soprano voices, but that really relied on players having some background knowledge in music. Not everyone has that, so it seemed like too much for a game that was meant to be a family game to handle.
What was your biggest challenge recreating a music game without any music?
Jay: It’s ensuring that fans of the app would not just enjoy playing this game, but feel like it represents the app well too. Music is such a big part of the app, so how can we ensure the game still REALLY feels like a My SInging Monsters game? We did this by leaning into all the other aspects of the game, from breeding (which can randomly make a Rare version appear), Wubbox that eats Monsters, Decorations, Treats, Diamonds and more. But even more important than putting THINGS from the app into the board game, we wanted to capture the energy or feeling that the app provides. The app is a very happy feeling game and we wanted to ensure that the board game also felt collaborative and happy, even though it’s still competitive. To do that we have many ‘feel good’ moments in the game – like when someone does something that activates my decoration, I feel good; or when I land on your token during scoring and get to jump ahead to the next empty space, I feel good; or when I play a bigger Monster down it means the next player has the option to breed with it. So it all feels great and collaborative, even though there will only be one winner!
Sen: For me, it was the fact that we had to wilfully decide to ignore that huge part of what makes My Singing Monsters cool. Like Jay said, we did our best to incorporate all sorts of interesting bits and bobs from the world of My Singing Monsters. They look cool, they’re fun to use, and they tie the whole game back to the source material. I kept wanting to try to incorporate music into the game, but at some point we had to move forward with making the game. That’s one thing about game design – some of the hardest decisions involve what you’re going to cut from the game. Adding things is relatively easy. When things don’t serve the main experience that the game is supposed to provide, they end up on the chopping block. We couldn’t find a way to make music be a part of this specific game in a way that made sense for the game’s mechanisms or the overall experience, so it was something that hit the cutting room floor. That said, if fans love the first game as much as we do and want singing in this game or another tabletop game that incorporates singing (perhaps a full-on party game with singing elements), let us or Big Blue Bubble know! It could happen!