Article ByFeb 22, 2018 | Photos by Sarah Conroy
John Coveyou had always been fascinated by hobby board games. Growing up, he spent much of his free time playing Dungeons & Dragons, Monopoly, Sorry!, The Game of Life and the like – anything that he could get his hands on. What started as an early enthusiasm morphed into a real passion. As he got older, he grew into games like The Settlers of Catan, Stone Age and Citadels.
“I thought, ‘Why don’t I make some games about these science concepts to see if they can pick up the information they’re so intimidated by,’” he says. “That’s really how [Genius Games] came about.”
Coveyou began making games for his students in 2011 and started to read more information on design blogs about what makes a great game. To actually publish his first game in early 2014, a DNA card game called Linkage, he turned to crowdfunding website Kickstarter.
“We needed $3,800,” he says. “When we raised $12,055 for that first game, I realized this might be viable.”
Linkage’s follow-up game, a protein-building game called Peptide, did even better than the first game on Kickstarter. At the time, Coveyou, his wife and their 2-month-old daughter were living in St. Charles. After some deliberation, they decided to take a risk and sell their house and cars to move into a two-bedroom apartment in St. Louis. Taking the plunge turned out to be worth it, though, since each new game has garnered more attention and enthusiasm from the gaming and science community.
“To date, we’ve published six games, five of which are still in print,” he says.
Genius Games has also published six science-based children’s books, including a set about women in science and other books on various chemistry-related topics like electrons and atoms.
Genius Games’ latest production, Subatomic: An Atom Building Game, launched on Kickstarter on Feb. 6, meeting its goal within hours; however, funding will remain open for 30 days. Coveyou says it’s a deck-building game that’s themed around the intersection of particle-building and chemistry. Additionally in 2018, he hopes to put out a game on plant biology, where players will go through the process of photosynthesis.
These games are important to kids’ learning because of the pressure society has put on science, technology, engineering and math, today’s ubiquitous “STEM.”
“We’ve been using the same methods to teach classes for decades,” Coveyou says. “We’re failing to really allow children to see the big picture of why studying a cell matters. In these games, we’re allowing both kids and adults to learn through interacting with each other and the motivation of competition. It removes a lot of that intimidation that’s there.”
Genius Games’ games and books can be purchased on the Genius Games website and Amazon, and are available in select area game shops like Fantasy Shop, Apotheosis Comics and NewCastle Comics & Games. They range in price from $19.99 to $49.99.