BEFORE MATTHEW INMAN entered the picture, this humble little card game was called “Bomb Squad.” And before Inman the oft-viral “Oatmeal” cartoonist drew the picture, there were no cats that go “boom!”
“Elan Lee and Shane Small created the game originally using a standard deck of playing cards,” Inman tells The Post’s Comic Riffs of his gaming-veteran collaborators (both of whom have drawn paychecks from Xbox). Inman was hooked not only on the Russian Roulette-like game, but also on its creative possibilities.
“I suggested that we change the name to ‘Exploding Kittens,’ and add cards like unicorn pigs and Sasquatches and weaponized back-hair and a bunch of other weird ‘Oatmeal’-inspired attack cards. From there, our little game was born.”
And from there, the three game-makers announced this afternoon that they were seeking $10,000 as part of their Kickstarter campaign. (Update: Within a half-hour, the campaign soared well past its target goal; by 8 p.m. ET, the effort passed the million-dollar mark.)
“So if you’re into card games or laser beams or weaponized enchiladas, please help us make this game a reality,” the collaborators write on their campaign site. “We think you’ll love it as much as we do.”
After a lunch of non-weaponized enchiladas and a striking dearth of “taco cats,” Comic Riffs caught up with Inman to talk about his high-powered, felines-and-fuses game:
MICHAEL CAVNA: Congrats on “Exploding Kittens” as a project, Matthew. It looks both very fun and very visually incendiary. Were any kitties real or rendered harmed in the making of this game? And come to think of it: Why felines? Would “Exploding Dolphins” just not be as inherently humorous?
MATTHEW INMAN: All joking aside, we actually sort of struggled with that. Originally the game was called “Bomb Squad,” and instead of an exploding kitten, you’d spend the entire game trying to avoid the bomb card. Players were constantly discussing, worrying and stressing about drawing the bomb. I thought it’d be funny if they were fearing a kitten instead, so we decided to call it “Exploding Kittens.” The problem is, no one wants to blow up kittens, because that’s mean, so we made the kitten cards blowing themselves up by running across keyboards and accidentally launching nuclear strikes.
MC: So, presuming you prototyped this game for long months of fun and back-hair sketches, what makes “Exploding Kittens” unique, and perhaps addictive?
MI: You take turns drawing cards until one of you draws a kitten, at which point that player explodes and is out of the game. It’s like Russian Roulette but with cats. The problem is that game in its purest form isn’t particularly fun, so we added a series of action cards that can defuse or avoid the kitten. It makes the game super-enjoyable because the longer you play, the greater your odds of exploding, and the more intense the game gets. Plus, the cards are really funny and it only takes a minute or two to learn.
MC: Whose brainchild was this, and how did you come to team up with Élan and Shane, these two veteran gaming pros?
MI: Elan Lee and Shane Small created the game originally using a standard deck of playing cards, and they’d been tentatively calling it “Bomb Squad.” I had a chance to play it with Elan last year, and [I] immediately asked to be on the team. I’ve wanted to make a card game for a long time, I just don’t know how to make one with great mechanics and replay value, and Elan and Shane created something really fantastic. I suggested that we change the name to “Exploding Kittens,” and add cards like unicorn pigs and Sasquatches and weaponized back-hair and a bunch of other weird Oatmeal-inspired attack cards. From there, our little game was born.
MC: “Taco cat” — your favorite palindrome, or just oh-so-apt for this?
MI: Both. It’s in the nexus of grammar and hilarity, so it’s currently my favorite card.
MC: So for folks who needed to be enticed to read the Kickstarter literature: Why should folks give to “Exploding Kittens”? What’s your most persuasive pitch?
MI: The game takes two minutes to learn, each round lasts 10 to 15 minutes, and it’s insanely fun. Also, there’s laser beams and magical goat wizards.
[THE ‘RIFFS INTERVIEW: 12 Secrets of Insanely Viral ‘OATMEAL’ creator Matthew Inman]