Sunday 21 January 2018

Pensioner at the origins of the Irish gaming industry takes things digital

Brian McCarthy (73) who created ‘The Power Game’ in 1975
Brian McCarthy (73) who created ‘The Power Game’ in 1975
Louise Kelly

Louise Kelly

The man responsible for sparking the influx of board games into Ireland almost 40 years ago has moved with the times, with an electronic version of his very first game.

Ireland's best selling board game designer Brian McCarthy (73) created ‘The Power Game’ in 1975, a simple but intellectually-challenging construction using wooden cogs.

Now the innovator intends to reach a younger generation with his popular two-player chess-like board game, which has sold over 10,000 units, by using the power of digital.

“I found the game in my aunt’s shed a few years ago and the simplicity of it still resonated with me. I started to think of how I could approach the game from a digital aspect.”

But therein lay McCarthy’s initial problem. “I’m not computer illiterate but I’m certainly no geek,” he joked.

McCarthy’s original invention was backed by leading manufacturer Smurfit, and the company was instrumental in providing the funding required to market the game to its target audience.

 “People were afraid of chess – so I looked for something a lot less complicated still involving the same challenge. I ended up inventing one with the cog – and not a dice – as the main playing piece.”

But the attraction of the basic board game soon lost its allure with the introduction of more hi-tech products from around the globe, until its current digital rebirth that is.

Yet the new edition of ‘The Power Game’ does not have the financial support the original had, and McCarthy – with a marketing background – understands that this is something he has to adapt to in this particular business segment.

“When I sold the game back in ‘75 I spent a lot of time getting the rules right. I did the same for the digital edition but nobody reads them,” he said.

“Four months later we did a tutorial and now it’s working. It’s very much a case of trial and error in this business.”

The game itself require two players who control two rows of opposing cogs, moving their cogs around the board in an effort to turn their opponents “master gear” clockwise.

Featuring three game modes, including an online multiplayer mode where players can gain experience and increase their rank to become a Power Game Master, it also includes an in-depth tutorial to help new players get to grips with the game.

While the paid app (costing €1.99) gives a user full access to the entire game, it also allows the option to earn or purchase additional backgrounds, cogs and master gears to personalise their playing experience.

However, The Power Game is one of the first apps to feature a “shock-proof” microtransactions model, allowing players to buy a one-off purchase to disable additional purchases, sure to please parents as they avoid bill-shock situations.

Once a guest of the US Today Show, 'tricked' into singing Danny Boy for a live audience, McCarthy has got more than one or two stories to tell – not least, his latest enthusiasm for reviving his old board game for the digital generation.

Nonetheless, the sprightly gentleman remains modest. “I’m a jack of all trades – and a master of none,” he insists.

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