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Amy Kraft and Sharon Bilman of Monkey Collective

What is Monkey Bar Collective?

Amy: Monkey Bar Collective is our game design and production company. We’ve spent years working with the best people in the business, and we know who to pull together for each project that we do. We do work-for-hire game design and writing for companies like Scholastic, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and Spin Master.

Sharon: Monkey Bar Collective also created our first independent app, Monkey Spot Scavenger Hunts. Our mission is to use technology to prompt kids to “look up” and explore their world. Our app updates traditional scavengers hunts and lets kids to make discoveries, ask questions, perform tasks, and be creative.

What was your favorite toy or game as a child?

Sharon: I would spend hours setting up cities with Fisher Price Little People. The castle went next to the hospital in case the king got sick. The airport was far away because it was noisy. And the school went next to the house where the kids lived. I was a little urban planner.

Amy: I loved my Fashion Plates. My creative outlet was putting together some pretty sweet 70’s fashions. The vests! The scarves! The wide-legged pants!

What does your typical day look like?

Amy: I usually start my day with a cup of coffee with Sharon in our virtual office (on Skype). One of the coolest things about what we do is every week has different types of tasks and priorities. We’ll get our creative juices flowing and then divvy up the work for the day.

Sharon: Ditto! Our daily “what are we going to do today” calls cover everything. Some days we’re brainstorming new game concepts, reviewing art and animation, writing a script, and editing a new Monkey Spot Scavenger Hunt. And that’s all before we get out of pajamas.

What inspires you?

Sharon: Playing with my family is a constant source of inspiration. My kids are the most creative game designers I know. My youngest will add power ups to everything. My oldest loves to makes up complicated rules. The games take longer to explain than to play.

Amy: I’m also inspired by the creative work that kids do. I love watching my daughter make beautiful vector art characters in Scratch, and my son make game levels in Super Mario Maker. I just read about a 12-year-old girl that created an app to help Alzheimer’s patients. That just floors me. It’s why I’m excited to judge the Young Tech Challenge at ChiTAG!

What’s the first thing you usually notice about people?

Amy: I look at how people have put their look together. Maybe this is the Fashion Plates talking, but I love when people wear unusual patterns or colors, or put accessories together in interesting ways.

Sharon: Smiles. People light up when they smile. I’m always trying to make games that amuse, surprise, and make you smile.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Sharon: Happy! Same thing I want to be everyday.

Amy: I’m doing it! Being a game designer is the best job in the world. I wish I had a time machine to go tell my kid self that this is a thing that not only is possible, but possible for me.

What’s next?

Amy: We’re going to keep growing and adding to Monkey Spot – we’re adding new scavenger hunts and partnershi

ps all the time.

Sharon: And we’ve got a continually growing list of ideas for our next game. Stay tuned.

When is the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?

Amy: Just now, answering these interview questions with Sharon. We laugh a lot.

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