When Ryan Tubridy asked Greg Dooley how he picks famous Irish names for his board game, he was asking for a friend. And in case he wasn't, the founder of the Irish version of 30 Seconds reassured Ryan he’d made the cut: "Well, you’re obviously in. So you can send me a brown envelope later"
Of course, Ryan wasn’t angling to find out if he was famous enough, he was just looking for the inside story on how Greg Dooley came to develop the Irish version of the super-popular South African board game.
After working as a teacher at home and in Africa, Greg came back to Ireland and worked as a financial advisor to small businesses. Just before the global economy crashed in 2007, Greg got a phone call from an old friend based in South Africa, Liam Ryan, who had an idea he wanted to run by Greg:
"There’s a board game here in South Africa called 30 Seconds’, and he said like, ‘Every second household has it, you know, they play it on radio, it’s on media; everyone’s talking about it.’ So he was sort of saying, ‘would you be interested in researching it and maybe having a look at the market?’"
30 Seconds is a fast-paced team game, where players holding name cards have to come up with snappy descriptions to help their teammates guess the 5 names on each card in only 30 seconds, hence the need for a high recognition factor. Greg says he didn’t see the potential immediately:
"Initially I kinda just said, Jesus Liam, you know, board games – do people still play them?"
It turns out Liam knew what he was doing when he approached his old friend. Greg road-tested the South African version of the game across Ireland and it went down a treat, even though many of the names were unknown to Irish players. That’s where the Irish version comes in.
Greg saw a gap in the Irish board games market and went for it: "Early on it struck a chord with me that there was nothing really like it on the market. This was the opportunity to put popular Irish culture into a game."
There are now 2,400 names in the game, tailored to an Irish audience and they are updated regularly, Greg says:
"What actually happens is I collect new names all year long. I just talk them into my phone and collect them because you can never remember them if you don’t make a note of them."
Every Spring, Greg ditches some names from the game that are no longer relevant and adds in around 200 up-to-date ones:
"Like for example, into this year’s game now the likes of Dermot Kennedy’s on a card, Normal People went on a card, Greg O’Shea, you know that sort of thing. Technology as well, things like FaceTime, Revolut, House Party, you know what I mean. Just to keep it fresh and up to date."
Texts and calls came in throughout the show from people who have enjoyed playing the Irish version of 30 Seconds. In his parting shot, Gregagreed with Ryan that board game sessions, particularly with family, sometimes need a health warning:
"Skin and hair can fly alright!"
Hear more about how Covid-19 has affected sales of 30 Seconds, funny and poignant testimonials from users of the game and Greg’s willingness to talk to people developing their own board games in Ryan’s full chat with Greg Dooley here.
And 30 Seconds’ is available on 30seconds.ie or in stores nationwide at Smyths, Easons, ToyMaster and many more.