It all started with foam poster board, construction paper, and a sharpie to create a prototype. Now Tanisha “Queen It Shall Be” Hall is launching her first board game: Hillman the Game.
Board games are not just entertainment for her. She enjoys moving pieces, seeing characters, and interacting with them. One of her favorite board games is Clue because “You have to figure it out!” But something was missing from most board games she played: Black People and Culture. Her board game company In All Series-Ness is on a quest to change that by creating games based on Black TV shows, movies, and original content.
The name In All Series-Ness is a pun that shows her dedication and focus. She was accidentally brainstorming with relatives when she said, “I want people to take this seriously,” and a cousin replied, “In all seriousness.” It was a light bulb moment: “Oh, I want to do TV shows, series, all series-ness. It’s something to remind me to continue. It’s not one thing I want to put out there and stop. I have to keep going.”
One of her goals is to create games for folks to sit “face-to-face instead of screen-to-screen.” And I sat down with her recently at the Richland Library to discuss her journey and play the game. When she walks in the room, you take notice. She’s wearing wooden unicorn earrings, purple lipstick with beige ombre, and an ice blue wig. Originally from Brooklyn, NY, Hall has lived in Columbia for seventeen years. She is a poet, cook, wife, and mother of three. She hosts a monthly interactive poetry open mic called The Writer’s Block Poetry Show.
Hillman the Game is named after the fictional university in the 90’s sitcom A Different World. “I have many favorites when it comes to black television and cinema. One show that made me want to fulfill a dream of going to school is A Different World. I loved The Cosby Show, but A Different World represented the escape from parents at the cusp of being an adult. I was a kid, and seeing this made me say, ‘You mean I could be away from my parents with other black kids and learn?’ It was also my first introduction to HBCU’s.”
Little ole’ Black girl me making Black-as-hell board games
Building the game, however, was a time of discovering her power and self-worth. “There are not a whole lot of us (Black game makers) over there,” she says of the board game industry. She says there are mostly role-play games, with some novelty, trivia, and adventure. And then here comes “Little ole’ Black girl me making Black-as-hell board games.”
She pushed forward and enlisted help from Quinn McGowan, a comic illustrator from Memphis, Tennessee. The two of them met while “troll strolling” on social media. He created the board and character pieces and the illustrations on the currency. The character pieces feature characters from the A Different World including Dwayne Wayne, Whitley Gilbert, Kimberly Reese, Freddie Brooks, Jaleesa Vinson, Walter Oakes, Col. Taylor, and Ron Johnson. Meanwhile, the money features some of the professors and staff like Mr. Gaines, Professor Foster, Dean Hughes, Dean Winston, Dean Davenport, and Dean Barksdale. Denise Huxtable even makes a special appearance in the game.
Initially, she was hesitant about seeking outside help. “I was scared of who to talk to about it. We come from a state of fear…fear was there somewhere in your childhood. You don’t want nobody to steal your stuff. I had to really step out on faith. Nobody near me has the resources.” But reaching out to others was a game-changer for her.
“Creating this game has introduced me to a whole world of black game creators I had no clue existed. The community is love. Everybody wants to help everybody,” she said. Another individual who was important to her success was the creators of the Martin Trivia Card Game, Rick and Jason Gray, who are also the creators of www.hellozumble.com.
Jason gave her advice on doing research on trademarks, connecting her to other game makers, and answering all of her questions. With an illustrator in place and free consultations from someone who has created a game, she was able to push through her challenges. At this point she thought, “All of these doors are opening. I can’t stop, won’t stop. Stopping is stupid.”
She had her fair share of challenges, not only financial or facing fear, but believing in herself. “You get put face-to-face with what you don’t like about yourself and what you need to change. For me it was my people-pleasing side. This is my creation and I can’t please everyone. This put me face-to-face with how I see my self worth. Lots of times I felt bad saying I made a game. We’re taught to be humble and sit down, especially black women. I took a thought and put it into a thing and you can touch it now. It’s okay for me to talk about it. Working for my self has been the most challenging job I’ve ever had and the most work I’ve ever done! I’m proud to say I made this game.”
Experience the game:
Hillman the Game Launch Party was on Tuesday, February 19th.
See the Facebook event page for pictures and videos of the event.
Own the game:
Pre-Order Campaign on IndieGoGo
Begins on Tuesday, February 19with Special Prices plus shipping.
- Standard Version with game mat for $44
- Deluxe Version with game board for $60
- Alumni Version, includes standard game, deluxe board, 9 additional event/trivia cards, and signed artwork from Quinn McGowan, the artist who drew characters, $200 plus shipping
Stay up-to-date on Social Media:
@inallseriesness (FB, IG, Twitter)
@queenitshallbe (FB, IG, Twitter)