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Highland teacher starts new game design career

Friday, Nov. 28 | By Hannah Dellinger
A former Highland School math teacher walked away from a career at a wealthy private school to invent toys and games.

After years of toiling with various ideas and pitching them to many toy and game companies, David Fox recently signed a contract with R&R Games to license and produce “Get A Life,” a card game that he and co-creator Cherie Howell came up with three years ago.

“I was pretty floored when I got the deal, because I had been at it for a long time,” said Fox in his workspace, a spacious walk-in closet with a desk and shelving in his Warrenton home. “Maybe just pitching to the right person at the right time who had a need for a particular for this particular kind of game.

“Get a Life” challenges players to use cards in five different categories to create either the best life for themselves or the worst life for the other players. When the game starts each player chooses a secret goal, then draws a hand of cards.

At the end of the game, one player claims victory after gleefully sabotaging opponents, and playing the most advantageous cards for themselves.

Fox said that when he pitched the idea to R&R Games, he told the executives that this kind of game is important during a time of economic uncertainty and disillusionment.

“I think now is a time that people are really reflecting on what matters to them,” he said. “The economy was even worse when I sold it three years ago and people were really evaluating their lives. It’s also a way for people to get out of their current experience and learn more about their family and what really matters to them.”

A New York toy-maker convention in 1997 inspired Fox to try his hand at professional game design, but he's tinkered with games and toys for most of his life. His father, a retired engineer, created toys for Fox as a child. Fox and his mother still play “Boggle” when they get together.

Now, he's ready to turn his passion into a livelihood.

Fox worked as a math teacher at the Highland School for five years. He decided not to come back to teach this school year, so that he could spend more time with his family and so that he could have more time to tinker with his inventions.

His workspace abounds with works in progress: toddler toys, an adult game that based on phone auto-correct mistakes, trivia games, and more.

Get a Life is available at G Whillikers in Warrenton. The store’s owner, Elna McMann, said that she was excited when her long-time customer, Fox, said that he had a product to sell.

“It’s a fun group game and it’s very imaginative,” she said. “You get to put cards together to create a story or persona and you have a chance to be factual or outlandish.”

Fox tested the game on as many people as he could. He brought the game over to a fellow inventor’s home and was happy to see that it engaged her entire family.
Celia Kelly, a friend of Fox’s, said that her family loves playing the game.

“We just couldn't stop laughing,” she said in an email. “It's a great game to play with people you know well because all kinds of inside jokes come up as you're trying to convince people that you've put together the best or worst life for them.”

While board games have more competition for children’s attention than they used to, Fox believes that board games will stick around for a while.

The game inventor admitted that his two elementary school-aged children often play video games like “Minecraft,” but he regularly enforces “no screen time” and engages them in board games that involve face-to-face human interaction.

“It brings joy to my heart to see something that I created bringing families and friends together,” Fox said.

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