A 13-year-old Spanish Fork inventor is hoping for Kickstarter gold with his unique lawn game.
Jeston Jacobson’s Knock’Em yard game requires players of all ages to combine athletic prowess with intelligent strategy. For Jeston, an eighth-grader who plays basketball and baseball and loves a tough chess opponent, it’s the perfect combination.
Knock’Em utilizes stackable colored towers in a simple cross setup. Four players start the game standing at the end of their colored row. On their turn, they roll or throw a small soft ball at an opponent’s tower, hoping to knock it down. They start their next turn wherever their ball stops. The game ends when one player is left with at least one tower standing, and all other players’ towers are down.
The strategy comes in as players move one of their own towers, within a specific distance of their ball, each time they finish a throw. Players can move a tower closer to their ball or another nearby tower for protection during the next round. The game is a mixture of throwing accuracy and protecting versus risk.
“The strategy is in throwing and placing the towers,” said Jeston’s father, Eric Jacobson, while demonstrating the game in their Spanish Fork backyard last week. “You have to think about where to throw versus where the other ball is.”
Jeston and his family already have come up with game play variations for two to eight players. Eric Jacobson believes that’s only the beginning.
“We think there are more games to play with these — games we haven’t even thought of yet,” he said.
Jeston invented the game when he was 11, but at that time it was a tabletop game played with dice. After trying it with his family, his dad suggested changing it into an outside game. Jeston and his dad cut up some large wood blocks to make the towers and tested it out in the yard. It worked well, but the game pieces required a large tote for transport.
“It was too heavy. I told them if they wanted to sell it, I couldn’t get behind that,” said Jeston’s mom, Rachel Jacobson. “Who’s going to pack that around?”
Jeston and his family worked through multiple prototypes before landing on a lightweight but sturdy, stackable and portable design for game pieces. The towers are based on rectangular plastic flower vases the family found at a dollar store.
Throughout the process, Jeston’s learned a lot from local mentors about manufacturing, mold-making and marketing. He set the goal of $15,000 for his crowdfunding campaign, because that is how much it will take to create the molds for the tower pieces and start manufacturing them for customers. His family believes in his creation and wants to help him through the process of bringing it to market.
“We’re confident it’s a good product. We just need to get the word out,” Rachel Jacobson said.
The Knock’Em Kickstarter campaign, found at https://kck.st/2NHGl9Y, only had about $3,700 in raised funds Tuesday, but Jeston said he won’t give up. If this round doesn’t work, he’ll rework things and either try a second crowdfunding campaign, or see if he can find some investors — even if they might just be mom and dad.
“He’s going to make it happen,” Rachel Jacobson said.
Jeston’s siblings and friends don’t mind if it takes him a while to get Knock’Em out to the masses — they are enjoying testing his product by playing regular rounds of Knock’Em.
Their next test? Trying Knock’Em in the snow.
“That would be fun,” Jeston said.