Designing games for children is challenging, says Santhosh Kumar Subramanian. The Chennai-based game designer has been making board games for 12 years now. “Every day is a lesson. Children are the most genuine critics. They don’t mince words if it is bad. If they find the game boring, they will stop playing,” laughs Subramanian, admitting that he has often had to tweak the game mechanics.
Subramanian started Bambaram Toys and Games in 2010 as a toy lending library. He was always fascinated by trading games and when he wanted to start something on his own, it was designing games for kids. His latest launch Belly Battle—a trading game where players buy restaurants—has kids coming up with names for restaurants such as “Murakami Sushi, Chole Bhavan, Burgerer, Osteria, to list a few.”
The players are restaurateurs buying restaurants, upgrading them, generating income from them—building an empire at St Cheeseburg. The player who generates maximum wealth is the winner. The game has lots of surprising elements like haunted restaurants and celebrity-frequented restaurants. The game features its own currency —Brupees (Burp + Rupees) and 24 restaurants covering six different cuisines (Chettinad, Punjabi, Italian, Japanese, American, Mexican). It covers basic financial literacy where kids understand assets and liquid cash. They understand that they cannot blindly keep buying restaurants,” explains
the game designer.
Published by Funskool in India in December 2021, the board game is thoughtfully designed to teach finance basics without sounding boring in the pretext of a theme anyone can understand—food and restaurants. Trading games involve buying, selling and currencies. While this can teach essential financial skills to children, Subramanian wanted to focus on social skills like negotiation, sharing and the like. He shares, “Parents loved the game and its quirkiness. They appreciated the thoughtful design and the fact that it teaches financial literacy skills (needs vs wants) in a fun way.”
Philip Royappan, group product head at Funskool, says, “The game helps children in understanding financial transactions, and how business is dealt with—all in a fun way. I think the concept of using restaurant and food, which is universally appealing to children, would help them understand money.”
Grace Lyn bought Belly Battle for her son in January 2022 and she has had great experience playing with the toddler. “This has been one of those games that have helped my child learn more about the business world. A realistic game that touches upon the various aspects of the business, including buying, selling, rent, insurance, fines, taxes, and the world of marketing—celebrity endorsements, star ratings etc. It sure appeals to the foodies in us, as we learn more about cuisines and culture, too,” says Lyn.
Subramanian also works with corporates like ICICI, IFMR Lead (Krea), Sadhaan, etc. Recently, he created a physical game for women in Rajasthan to explain OTP security. “We believe play shouldn’t be restricted to children,” he adds. What’s in the pipeline? He is making a series of games that revolve around leadership skills. There is one on food, cricket and a pure educational game coming in this year.