You can’t help but love a couple of toy and game designers that take an anagram of their names and come up with “Les Fees Hilares” for their company name. It means “the hilarious effect” in French and they take laughing seriously. Steffanie is an American living in Paris and her co-founder, Marie, is a Parisian. They have incredible industry experience singularly and together they make an awesome team with many products on the market. I first met Steffanie when she first attended our Inventor Conferences and I love bumping into both of them at industry events in Chicago, Nuremberg and NY.
What does your name, “Les fées Hilares”, mean?
It reads as the laughing fairies, but you can hear ‘the hilarious effect’ also (l’effet hilare). We wanted to have a common identity so we looked at anagrams of our names. We take laughing quite seriously, you can’t dissociate it from play really. And it is a lot of fun for our clients when the front desk calls and tells them “the fairies have arrived”.
How did you fall down the toy & game rabbit hole?
Marie: I trained as a clinical psychologist, and had been working 8 years in a toy and games library when I had an opportunity to work for an editor, Spear’s Games that had just been bought by Mattel. After several years in product development I moved on to a marketing position at Mattel France, then with Goliath. I started my marketing consultancy in 2009 and the inventing activity has grown since the success of Barbecue Party.
Steffanie: I answered a product development ad that called for manual dexterity and said you needed to enjoy playing. My friends were a bit worried it was a dodgy ad, worded like that! I only got the job because I’m bilingual French/English, I think. It was a small company so my job description was long, and that was great because it taught me so much that my studies hadn’t. No surprise, since I had studied Latin and Greek. That company became part of Spear’s Games then Mattel. Later on, I worked for Creata on the McDonald’s and Kellogg’s accounts in France. Fantastic job where I got to meld my creative soul and tap-dancing (aka client presentation) skills with a bunch of brilliant people both client and agency-side.
What do the Fées Hilares do that you are proud of?
We try to keep true to our values in all our games. So for a skill and action game we will place more emphasis on really requiring an element of skill, less on random activation. Or our game will try to foster positive emotions, we will write the rules to avoid players ganging up on one player. We want to be ‘smilemakers'. We do a lot of testing and really aim to place kids / families /players at the heart of what we create.
We also worry a lot about the storytelling, that will make the whole item meaningful.
What about your families, are they proud of you?
Marie: Hard to tell, if you ask my teenage son what I do for a living he’ll tell you I “glue stickers with my buddy”.
What inspires you?
A story we need to tell. Our observation of children playing. A New York Times article on mind palaces. We like to riff off crazy ideas, use Yes And improv techniques and such. Certain clients make specific requests, and generally constraints are a good source for inspiration.
What is your latest project?
Steffanie: The ChiTag Young Inventor’s Challenge struck me as a very inspiring program. So I jumped on the opportunity, when my son’s middle school maths teacher asked if I was willing to facilitate a ‘invent a game’ workshop; as part of the games club he started. Over six 2-hour sessions we will invent a game, with a theme linked to sustainable development. We had our first workshop last week and it was crazy good, with 6th, 7th and even a couple 8th graders bursting with ideas. Ambitious timeline but after that first session I think we can hit it. Or else I’m hoping they’ll take the game with them over the summer to test!