New ideas come at the weirdest times and in the oddest places. So it was with the initial idea for Snake Oil. Here’s the story:
The Breakthrough Saint Paul staff were all on a flight to the national Breakthrough Collaborative conference in November 2008. Looking to entertain ourselves, Ashley and I dug out the always humorous “Sky Mall” magazine from the seat pocket in front of us. After a few page turns, I started to recognize a pattern…a lot of the products were simply two random nouns put together.
After a few minutes of reading, I suggested that we try something new. Ashley and I each separately would think of random noun. Then we would each say our own word out loud at the same time. Whatever two nouns we used, we would then combine to make a silly product to sell in the Sky Mall magazine. While I don’t remember any of the products from that first game, I will say that we laughed incessantly for the next hour until we landed. Our colleagues behind us thought we had gone crazy, and they were probably right.
As we closed the magazine, we realized that the concept was even present in the magazine title itself. This fact only served to reinforce our belief that this actually may be the process the catalog goes through when designing new products.
About a month later at my family Christmas party, I introduce the game to a group of cousins. We had a blast playing it, and they suggested that we might actually want to develop a party game based around the concept. The six of us would become the first incubator for the idea that eventually would become….”Snake Oil.”