Election season has come and gone, but its impact will unfold over the next four years. It’s no question that many of us desperately need a silver lining — and that’s where Silver Linings Games comes in.
Founded by Margaret Marshall and Rachael Kauffung, the company’s focus is on games that spread positivity and don’t invoke humor at the expense of its players.
With their card game Sway: A Game of Debate and Silver Linings, players choose topics at random and debate, but here’s the catch: each player has to maintain the pro stance, even if the card they chose seems like it can only be negative. Challenge cards put a further spin on things — you could be challenged to speak in a Southern accent while explaining the pros of having gum stuck in your hair.
Their team is all about creating a positive impact — through February, $1 from every Sway card game purchase will be donated to the Be Positive Foundation, which provides support for families with children battling cancer.
Margaret recently took the time to speak with The Sirens Rise and gave me some insight on what she and her team have learned from running a small business, the challenges involved in creating Sway, and the most important advice she has for female entrepreneurs in today’s political climate.
TSR: How did Silver Linings Games come together?
Margaret Marshall: Rachael and I, at the time, both worked at Amazon. We were a part of creating and implementing a diversity conference, called Amaze Con. At that conference in 2015, we brought in Brené Brown; she’s a sociologist based out of Houston, and she does amazing work on vulnerability. She shared some personal anecdotes that really lit a fire in both of us, and made us realize that we’d wanted to do something different, something outside of our day jobs.
We’d always played games together and I had, ever since I was probably college age, thought [it would be] cool if we invented a board game. We went to brunch and I handed her my list of game ideas; none of those were Sway. It took us awhile to actually get to Sway.
The thing that really drove our company values and mission — creating joy through positivity — is we noticed a trend in the gaming industry, in particular. [With] games that were popular at the time, a lot of the humor and intelligence was coming from the game concept rather than the players. A lot of the laughter was being generated at the expense of others, with an underlying negative tone. We felt that you can have a game that’s really funny that doesn’t make fun of other people.
TSR: What challenges did you encounter while creating Sway?
MM: There were parts of it that were easier than we expected them to be, and parts that were a lot harder. One of the things that was easier was actually getting to an early playable version of the game. Part of that was because the idea that we settled on was something that, in terms of the physical components of the game, [allowed us to] create a playable prototype in a really quick manner.
What became more challenging was figuring out how we needed to augment and change the game to really be something that would have that long-lasting impact, and would fully engage all of the players. It’s a party game, right? It needs to be fun and engaging to everybody, even the people whose turn it is not at that very moment. That’s when we started adding things like the Challenge cards. That really added a lot of humor for those playing and those watching.
TSR: Either on a personal or creative level, what has this entire process taught you?
MM: A lot of what I have learned has been about running my own business. We’re trying to make sure that we’re keeping our fixed costs down as much as possible because we need to. That’s the only way we can really make this what we want it to be. So, we’re having to do a lot of services that other business, even small businesses, outsource. Like, the accounting — I didn’t know at all how to do it, and I’ve taught myself.
There are, when running a small business, things that you learn about yourself and how to interact with people to make sure that we are collectively moving forward as a super-tight unit. When you have different personalities, different strengths, and you’re encountering some really big challenges — both from the company and in trying to create a product — I think I’ve learned that what makes any business successful are the same things that make a friendship or relationship successful. It’s being respectful of the people around you, listening to them and really hearing their perspective, and making sure that you’re listening before you’re talking.
TSR: What advice do you have for female entrepreneurs, especially given the political climate now?
MM: One is to watch a Brené Brown TED Talk. This comes directly from her: vulnerability is a strength, and don’t let anybody tell you differently. It’s easy to feel the pressure in our society to want to hide that like it’s a weakness, but it’s absolutely not. That pressure can feel, at least for me, even greater in the environment that we’re operating in today and [that we] will be for the short-term (hopefully) future. If we succumb to those pressures, then we’re only tamping down our strengths, and now is the time to capitalize on that vulnerability and use it to shine when the world around us is not shining.
TSR: What are your favorite games to play in your free time?
MM: One of my favorite games that a friend of mine introduced me to, is called Castles of Burgundy. It’s a resource-collecting game, I guess, but not in the same way that Settlers of Catan is. It’s really fun to play, whether it’s two people or four.
There’s a word-based game called Dabble, similar to Scrabble, but every player plays at once. You get 20 tiles. You have to make a 2-letter, 3-letter, 4-letter, 5-letter, and 6-letter word. You’re forced into those very specific constraints, and it gets your mind turning.
For more about Sway, visit the official website.
Sway is available now for purchase at Amazon.