Laura Robinson loves playing games. Literally. The creator of family-favorite Balderdash, Laura has also invented Chicken Soup for the Soul: Count Your Blessings and Identity Crisis. We spoke to Laura about games, family Game Nights, and what she really wanted to name Balderdash.
Let’s talk a bit about your background. You’re originally an actress and singer.
I was always interested in music and theater. I did a lot of commercials and television. I was a regular on a CBS series called Night Heat. I played a homicide detective for three years. And I did a lot of guest appearances on shows like Frasier, Cheers, Wings, etc. I also did a series on Lifetime called Veronica Clare. It was a great 1940’s film noire-type show. I played a character who was a cross between Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart.
Oooh, I love it. Now, how did you become a game creator?
In my early 20’s I started inventing games. In my family, we loved playing parlor games like The Dictionary Game, which then turned into Balderdash. I invented the game with my then-boyfriend. Within one year, we had the game on the store shelves. It became super popular. It went to Hasbro and became a classic game. It’s a fun game. People tell me all the time how much they love it.
How did you come up with the name?
My mother came up with the name. She was a writer and wrote plays. She told us the name from the beginning, but we were bent on calling it Double Talk. Then we went through hundreds of names until we came back to Balderdash. It means “nonsensical writing or speech”. Originally it meant “a jumble of liquor” but ultimately it became known as bullshit. We said we would have called the game Bullshit but we couldn’t get away with it.
Yeah, not really. Can you imagine Bullshit next to Chutes & Ladders on the store shelves?
[laughs] Right! So we decided on Balderdash, and we really liked the name. It had a nice Old English ring to it, so we made the packaging look like an Old English cigar box.
Now in addition to Balderdash you created two more games, Chicken Soup for the Soul’s Count Your Blessings and Identity Crisis. Let’s talk about them.
Identity Crisis is doing well. We have a TV show in the works. Balderdash also became a TV game show on the PAX network. As for Count Your Blessings, it’s a real family game. You play your way to gratitude. It gives you scenarios to make you look at the positive side of things; it’s not a competitive game at all. People might think it’s going to be too nicey-nicey, but it’s a lot of fun. I hope it will be a traditional game that families play. After all, gratitude makes you feel good!
What do you do with your family for fun?
We go to the lake often; we have a cottage there. We also love to play board games. We like Taboo and, of course, Balderdash, but I can’t play because I know all the answers!
I like the fact that your games are thinking games.
I love thinking games, too. These are great games to get groups of people together and have fun. I’ll have a dinner party with people who don’t know each other. We’ll play a game and by the end of the night everyone is friends and slapping each other on the arm. You start to bond with people and laugh.
I’ve also heard that playing games is the en vogue thing to do among celebrities now, too. Games are affordable and portable. Today, everyone needs a laugh. In tough economic times, games help to bring families together and have fun. More and more families are having Game Nights now. And I feel very blessed because I feel like I’ve been selling laughter to friends and families for over 20 years.