Mikkel Bertelsen Inventor of Klask
Why and how did you get into the Toy and Game industry?
A little by accident to be honest. I have always been the restless type and wanted to be creative with my hands. So one day after work sitting at home tired after work I started playing around with some cardboard boxes and some magnets. I really just wanted to do something that me, my wife and my two kids could play together and share as a family.
The result was KLASK and after showing the games to some friends from work - I was working as a carpenter at the time, so we usually had a after hours drink and shared some laughs after work - I decided to contact Tuborg, one of Denmarks biggest breweries. They loved it, placed a big order - and suddenly I was standing at home in my own garage making the games, while my wife, parents and even parents-in-law was helping out packing them. It became a family project. We were sewing our own bags for the game pieces
What advice can you give to inventors who are presenting new toy or game ideas to you?
To have respect for your own product. KLASK is a game made out of wood components and I ended up designing and product developing on it for almost two years. In fact I continue to product develop on it even now that it is out in Target and sold to a dozen countries in Europe. It is always a fine balance between being aware of the target so the end consumer can afford it and providing great quality. I wanted to make a game that could become a family heirloom. I think that is always a good goal to have when making games.
Also I would say that networking at fairs like ChiTag is incredibly important. Showing up in person, showing your product, shows how much you believe in it. KLASK would never have made it so big in the USA if it hadn’t been for ChiTag and similar events that create game culture.
What does your typical day look like?
I must say I don’t have typical days. I try to spend as much time with my family and being a game designer makes that possible. I have a workshop in a small town close to where I live where I also sell electric bikes and work on new projects. And then I travel around - showing up in person to all the game fairs and driving around visiting bars and places where people gather and play games is a great way to meet people and see what they enjoy about my game and others.
Where were you born?
In the little kingdom of Denmark where everything is near and the population is just around 6 million people. We have a strong sense of community here and board games are becoming increasingly popular. I must admit I never played many games myself before starting as a game designer myself; usually only dice or cards with friends. That can also be an advantage - that I have fresh eyes on the games I make. I prefer looking at the situation - how to create as much life as possible in a social situation. Making two friends have a great time over a beer. A couple have a romantic moment with a little added competition. My children play with me and try to beat me. For me games should be fun, easy to learn and fast. So you get that feeling ‘just one more game’ …
What is one mistake you’ve made, and what did you learn from it?
Oh, I've done many, but maybe the biggest would be that I try to do everything myself. Denmark is a small country and even when a board game becomes a success there, it is almost impossible to make a living. Also - I am a game designer. As an entrepreneur I can’t be good at everything. So I was very lucky to strike a deal with Finnish company Marektoy - a passionate family owned business with over 40 years of experience from the toy industry. They discovered KLASK after it won Game of the Year in Denmark - and opened up the doors to not only the Nordic countries, but rest of Europe and the US, where we now work with another passionate company, Buffalo Games.
How do you jumpstart your creativity when you find yourself stalled on a project?
That's a difficult question. I would say I am always tempted to start working on a new project instead. New beginnings are always great, because the possibilities are endless. But the pitfall is that then you just leave a project every time there’s a little resistance. So the best thing to do is to take some time off. Play with your kids. Go for a long walk. Hopefully when you come back to the project, you will have new energy.
When is the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
Well, KLASK is a game that is perfect for throwing tournaments since a game only lasts between 5 and 10 minutes. So I decided to throw a tournament during Roskilde Festival, a big music festival here in Denmark held every summer. 120.000 people coming and staying for a week in a field in the middle of nowhere. I thought it would be fun to give them some entertainment during the day while they were recovering from last nights shenanigans and waiting for the next big concert. Of course it was a lot of chaos with over a 100 people showing up at the same time, and some of them hadn’t even showered for several days and wearing strange outfits. Seeing them playing games was a lot of fun. I even filmed a video of the finale that to my big surprise went viral and has been seen by over a million people!
Summer or Winter?
Denmark is the country with the short seasons, so I like the life in the spring, the short intense summers, the beautiful colors in the fall and the first snow of the winter. But winters are usually a bit too grey and long, so I would say summer.
What’s the furthest you’ve ever been from home?
This is actually recent, since I decided to go to Shanghai a couple of times to visit the factory that produces KLASK in person. Sometimes it just helps being at a place in person instead of taking care of everything by phone or mail. Board games are physical products. I need to touch them in my hands to make sure everything is okay.
Right now I have finalized a 4-player version of KLASK, since the original was so popular. It takes a lot of playtesting and polish to get it just right. Besides that I am also working on a luxury special edition of the original KLASK since a lot of customers have asked about it. I have tons of ideas for that one to make it really nice. In general I would like to build on the KLASK brand and make a serious of games that are based on the same qualities that made that game so popular.
Thank you for taking time to answer our questions thoughtfully and with a sense of play!