Graham Fraser-Bell of Accentuate Games Ltd.
My name is Dr Graham Fraser-Bell, I was born in Virral, have lived in Newcastle Apone Mystery, Oxford, Virral, Johannesburg and Oregon USA. I’m married to Daphne from the Bahamas. She was incredibly determined to come and live with me in Britain. I like traveling, good food, good wines, and I like to have money to buy beer and taste champagne.
What brings you to board games?
In 2012 I gave up my professional life and organized a dinner for my family and friends at home. Thinking with accents and quotes, I asked my sister Fiona to repeat the quote with her best French accent. But all his accents are Gallo-Indian hybrids with strange results. It’s this revelation that reminded me of the accent game, did somebody do it? Could you make it entertaining? And how do you turn an idea into a practical game reality? And so began the journey. Since then, the learning curve has been very interesting.
You have a PhD in the field of asymmetric synthetic organic chemistry and a Master of Business Administration (MBA). I think the experience in chemistry has certainly influenced FReNeTiC and an MBA degree has certainly helped the company. How else have your backgrounds affected your games and Accentuate Games Ltd.
You really investigated me! I used to be Vice President and co-owner of a supplier of high-tech battery materials. Fortunately, after the sale of my part of the stock to insure my litter, I was able to enjoy an early retirement. It was so useful that it allowed me to independently finance the intellectual property to design and produce our first game – Accentuate. Without them, I don’t know how people convey their ideas about the game. I have great respect for these successful independent publishers.
After a long journey around the world I got to know different languages, dialects and accents. There, these life experiences were combined with the focus on dinner, which catalyzed my play. My international business experience and MBA have certainly helped me draw up the business plan. It has raised other issues and problems and helped to create a systematic way to market Accentuate products.
If you’re not Cards Against Humanity, you can’t build a sustainable gaming business based on a game. I knew we needed a second game. But our second game had to be carefully designed. I read the experiments of Alfred Mosher Butts, the inventor of Scrabble, and was then inspired by the intention to create a verbal game. But how can an inferior scientist create a verbal game? Then I remembered a proverb that says that high school life will be remembered for a lifetime. Which aspects of my training can serve as a basis for a wordplay? Physics? Math? Chemistry?
And the periodic table, 118 elementary characters, how many words can you make? After some research I realized that it was possible to create more than 25,000 words, but as always with dictionary search games, where the new counting system can be used, the atomic number of the used element symbol was right in front of me, so Ba + Na + Na = banana = 78 points. So yes, Accentuating is the result of my travels and experiences, and FReNeTiC is the result of my previous studies.
What is the desire to go beyond the occasional interest in this hobby and become a creator of the game?
Accentuate Games Ltd was set up in October 2013 to market Accentuate. Before that, I knew nothing at all about the gaming industry, and at the age of 50, the idea of starting over in an unrelated industry that had just retired filled me with disgust. But I also realized how fun, exciting and entertaining this trip can be. Instead of working with corporate gorillas worth 36 billion dollars, I wanted to make fun, entertaining and entertaining products to sell, especially to the British public. That didn’t sound so bad. We all have what I call chills. You just know that something is good, that it’s going to work, and you will do everything you can to bring that idea, that product, that innovation, etc. to the top, and that’s what I felt with Accentuate.
Nothing can replace the passion, energy and team spirit needed to create the resilience needed to achieve this tingling. I lived in Africa, got my PhD in Oxford for 3 years, worked in industry in Liverpool and went to the US as a young vice president. Is it hard to start a game? So I tried.
I did not play Accentuate, but I have played FReNeTiC several times. It is amazing that game children and others can perform well without strong spells / vocabulary. Short words can still score high. What inspired you to make this game, besides your chemistry background? Is it a coincidence that people with different skill levels can still compete without a clear imbalance?
That’s right. From the beginning, I was very conscious that I wanted it to be a game that would attract the general public, not just science fans. I wanted the whole family to be able to play, so the children could play with their grandchildren. The timer was introduced to level the playing field between scrub experts and beginners, as it introduces an element of stress: The idea is to write as many short words as possible in 45 seconds. Whoever thinks of forming a long smart word always takes leave and wins nothing. It’s a great leveller, and it’s also about emotion. I like to see emotions on children’s faces when we show them the game, when they suddenly realise that they can form words from the elements and bring them back to their parents.
What are your most proud achievements with regard to the projects you have created or worked on?
For someone who was miserably educated and failed at the age of 11, my proudest moment was probably my doctorate in organic chemistry at Oxford. I then moved from that high level to a low level of human resources management at the Liverpool plant, which was one of my least proud moments as a grossly inexperienced manager and leader. But we learn more from our failures than from our successes, and that helped me win three Queen’s Awards for International Business in the years that followed. The most proud moment after retirement was the appearance of Accentuate on the shelves of John Lewis & Partners and the presentation of the game to the customers, but also the real joy and pleasure of playing.
Was there a low point as a creator, and what did you learn from this experience?
Never underestimate the resilience needed to succeed in this or any other area. But especially if you create your own game brand. There have been so many movements and failures, but I have learned from each of them. If the game has been rejected by a customer, dealer, licensee, etc., find out why. Understand and objectify. Eliminate your emotions and learn from them. Change something to increase the chance of success in the future. When someone writes a 1* rating, it is much more important for refining and improving gambling than a 5* rating.
I’ve always tried to understand the loss of a dealer or a defeat on the street, not as a rejection of the game, but as a game suitable for their offer. Twenty-five years of international activity and bitter failures in chemical research provide a powerful training base for developing resistance to failure and rejection.
You have a new player, which game did you decide to introduce him to?
We find it a useful starting point for communicating with people during our demo days, perhaps by asking them what they bought last Christmas, what kind of games they like, by communicating with them to understand their preferences, whether it’s a fun game for a party, whether they like games with words – that’s FReNeTiC and if they tend to play strategic games – that’s Rats to Rich. That way, we don’t take someone who tries to show a game to an amateur player at a party.
You go to a friend’s house and can only take three games with you. What is it and why?
The risk, as it is my childhood in gambling, is definitely a pack of cards, as there is no other pack that includes a wide variety of games and where I was out of respect for Peter Seeger, my first mentor in this industry.
What are you working on right now to find those readers? This can be weeks or even months/years.
There are game inventors and companies that work according to the principle of time intervals if they have to run a certain number of games at a certain time. And then there are people like me who mediate at events. I won’t make or play any other game unless it really gives me the shivers. We have seen that playing another game, just for the numbers, has a diluting effect. I’m glad we’re now covering the three main genres of the games.
With Rats to the Rich we also won our first gold medal. In fact, we are working on new extensions for Accentuate, add-ons for FReNeTiC such as the Sound Timer and add-ons for Rats to Riches. But no new games in 2020. We still have a lot of work to do in terms of domestic expansion and, more importantly, international expansion of the three races we now have.
Which of your favorite creators should we interview?
Ephraim Herzano, inventor of rummicuba. Take a look at man’s experiences in the 1940s when he created this successful game.
I think we all have a game, a book, a product, etc., but so few of us sit down, throw ourselves into that idea and produce something that goes beyond that creative boundary that is a viable solution. There is no point in turning an idea or concept into a product that you are proud of and that people want to buy on the shelf of a retailer and then tell you how they like it.
No, no, it’s a bit of a cliché and a well-used slogan, but do it, Nike tells me a lot.
Last words about Graeme
I’m sure there’s deep wisdom in Graham’s words today. Except for the obvious climb! The message I’m really hearing is more subtle. Whatever your background and current profession, you can apply them to something completely new. It’s a message that expresses your inner criticism. I dare say that when Graham was in chemistry school, he never thought he’d… It’s going to be a fascinating board game!
However, to quote Graham’s last speech to Nike, I would like to give you a quote from Nolan Bushnell, the founder of Atari. Anyone who’s ever showered has an idea. It’s the person who comes out of the shower, dries up and does something important. I can’t find the exact source of this quote on the Internet. But David Goldsmith uses a quote from Pay for reflection.
Until next time, I’m going to search for the ghost of Ephraim Herzano… ha!
Here we go:
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