How many 10-year-olds do you know who are thinking about creative ways to help the victims of natural disasters? That’s exactly what inspired Michigan’s Dora Ivkovich to create Race To Rescue, a board game that teaches players how to bring quick relief to people in crisis. Ivkovich, who was born in Illinois, says her favorite pastimes are reading, listening to music, traveling, and playing games. She is working on more game ideas as we speak, and hopes to one day use her passion for biology, math and science to do work related to STEM.
We talked to her about the journey of creating Race To Rescue, from coming up with the idea all the way to taking home the trophy at ChiTAG.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE BOARD GAMES AND TOYS?
I enjoy Pictionary because it makes you think fast. It is not about being the best artist. It is about how quickly players can communicate ideas. I also enjoy Zoomer because it is very interactive and life-like.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR GAME RACE TO RESCUE. HOW DOES IT WORK?
Players race from START to FINISH to deliver aid. Along the way, they have to make decisions about the paths they take and their strategies to deal with obstacles. The winner is not necessarily the player who reaches FINISH first, but the player who brings the most relief to FINISH in the fewest rolls of the dice. Think of a truck full of food. If you wish to be fast, you might throw much of the food off the truck. Your truck will be the fastest, but it will not bring much relief. On the other hand, if you minimize all risks, you will take a long time to reach FINISH. Your food will spoil and, once again, you will not bring much relief. So, you must rush a bit, but not too much. I designed the game so that it is not obvious how much risk to take.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO MAKE IT?
Unfortunately, disasters strike every day. Thousands of victims need help with food, water, shelter, medicine, and so on. People might think that, somehow, their donations reach the victims almost right away, without risks or losses. That is not true at all. It is actually very hard to deliver aid to the victims. The game models some of the troubles relief workers might experience.
WHAT DO YOU HOPE PEOPLE GET OUT OF PLAYING THE GAME?
I really hope that people will realize that delivering relief is hard! Human lives are at stake, resources are scarce, and there are serious risks. It would be great if the game could get people inspired to be more involved.
WHAT WAS THE INVENTION PROCESS LIKE FOR YOU?
Bumpy. I knew I wanted to develop a game that both educates and entertains. It took a while to get there. Also, I learned along the way about disasters and what makes relief so difficult.
HOW LONG DID IT TAKE YOU?
The idea first occurred to me several months before the 2013 Young Inventor Challenge. For a while, I was trying to gather facts and keep a sense of reality about what I wanted to do. The exact layout of the board took a few weeks. Making sure that the game was exciting and interesting was a process.
DID YOU FACE ANY CHALLENGES?
Probably the greatest challenge was to make the game "fair" so that players get to choose between different paths from start to finish, from longest (but safest) to shortest (but riskiest), yet no path would give a clear edge. Keeping the game close and making it harder toward the end required some trial runs. I got my family and friends involved. They loved the game, and they provided me with great feedback.
ZOOMER INVENTORS AND SPIN MASTER STAFF WITH 2013 YOUNG INVENTOR CHALLENGE WINNERS DORA IVKOVICH AND NATHAN SUN.
HOW DID IT FEEL TO PRESENT AN AWARD AT NEW YORK TOY FAIR?
I enjoyed it a great deal and I felt honored to be part of the event. It was a big event, with hundreds of people at the awards ceremony and thousands of people at the exhibition the following day. I thought it was wonderful that Nathan and I got to present the award for the most innovative toy of the year. I loved all the nominated toys but Zoomer was special to me, and I was happy that it won. During the reception, I spent time with the team that created Zoomer and they told me that their work is not work. It is play. I did not have a hard time believing that at all!
WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT BEING PART OF THE YOUNG INVENTOR CHALLENGE?
Seeing and enjoying the creativity that many participants brought with them to the Challenge. And, winning, of course!