Design, Guest Authors

Connexio

Beloved Chronicle Books author and artist Lea Redmond is the creator of Connexio, a family friendly game that asks you to ponder questions like, “How do you think a compass is related to fried eggs?” and “What does a roller skate have to do with a ballerina?” Get 35% off + free ground shipping on all of our Art & Design publishing! Use code ARTDESIGN at checkout.

What is Connexio all about?

Connexio encourages imaginative thinking that reveals seemingly hidden connections between two or more things. As you play, you can be silly or serious, deep or light-hearted, academic or obvious. Most of all, Connexio is an infinitely social game that serves up an endless supply of creative conversation.

Connexio combines elements of reality, memory, and imagination into an adventurous experience with friends and family. The play is designed to be open-ended and each game is unique in that it reflects the personalities and passions of each particular group of players.

Connexio is also a wonderful conversation starter! Often someone will reveal something—a memory, a poetic insight, a wild idea—that sparks a wider conversation that is so fun and interesting that everyone forgets about the game for a few minutes!

How do you play?

There are actually two ways to play Connexio. The first is the non-competitive method called “Anything Goes.” Each player draws eight object disks out of the bag. Then players take turns placing a disk from their hand onto the board. With each play, you share a creative association out loud. For example, you might place the watering can in an open spot that connects to a peppermint via the dashed line and say something like, “together, these objects remind me of my grandmother’s herb garden where she had a huge unruly mint plant.”

Or, you might connect the bell to the wheel and explain that you recently bought a new bell for your bicycle. The criteria for association are entirely up to you!

The second way to play Connexio is more competitive and is called “Prized Possessions.” It is very similar to the first approach, except that you write down your ideas, vote on the best ones, and then win objects along the way to add to your collection. In this version, the player with the most objects at the end wins.

What’s your favorite thing about Connexio?

One charming aspect of Connexio is that you can add your own game pieces over time, which means that the game evolves with you! I encourage players to keep an eye out for small objects—from the mundane to the marvelous—and to add them to the bag: a paperclip, a twist tie, or a wedding ring, for example. For the purpose of this game, all objects are presumed to be equally interesting but you might find that some objects are better than others for inspiring dry wit or juicy gossip among your friends! You can mix your found objects in with the disks in the bag and play with the entire collection.

Another thing I love about Connexio is that it makes it easy to exercise our associative thinking muscles. This activity helps us see everyday phenomena in richer, more complicated, and connected ways. Relational thinking is known to lead to radically creative ideas; a fascinating story or poetic moment from a round of Connexio may be a warm up for a breakthrough insight at work, a new perspective on a personal challenge, or maybe just a wonderful sense of the way everything is connected.

Are you a collector?

Am I ever! I love to poke around antique stores and haunt the infamous Alameda Point Antiques Faire, where small treasures always seem to find their way into my pocket. I’m also a regular on eBay where I sift through a vast sea of objects by entering carefully crafted keyword strings to see what’s available in specific colors or themes. I recently collected some vintage planispheres, which are rotating star maps you can use to learn the constellations.

The original prototype version of Connexio is handmade and very tactile. I sewed the game board out of wool and slowly accumulated hundreds of tiny objects. I keep everything in a vintage film reel shipping case and continue to add game pieces whenever I stumble upon something that sparks my curiosity.

Do you have a few more examples of what people might say during their turns?

Sure thing! I might place a whistle down next to a plug and offer that you blow a whistle and can also blow a fuse.

Things get extra interesting when there are multiple connections happening at once. Let’s say I place the vintage car game piece on the board in an open spot that’s connected to both a dinosaur and a watermelon. I then explain that the car is connected to the dinosaur because cars are powered by fossil fuels which are buried deep in the earth like dinosaur bones. I then continue and say that I have an old photograph of my great-grandparents sharing a watermelon on their farm in Oklahoma from the 30s, the era when that vintage car might have been manufactured.

Lastly, you could connect a match to an airplane because they both leave a trail of smoke behind them.

Who would enjoy playing Connexio?

I’m the first to admit that I’m absolutely horrible at complex strategy and trivia-based games. So I devised a game that I actually love to play. I truly think Connexio is for everyone. If you love poetry and storytelling, you’re bound to enjoy playing Connexio. If you hate poetry, but love thinking in complex ways about how the world works, I think you’ll love it too. Whether you’re five years old or one hundred and five, you can play Connexio. Kids’ associations tend to be more simple and based on attributes like shape or color, but they can also be wildly surprising and unexpected. Connexio makes room for lots of different perspectives and experiences in the same session, and you end up learning a lot about your friends and family as you play.

Is there anything else cool about Connexio that we didn’t cover?

I haven’t really experimented with the idea yet, but I think the game holds a lot of potential as a creative writing prompt. I could imagine jotting down the creative associations people share and using them as springboards for poems or stories. I think the ideas would lend themselves to other forms of art too, like visual works or song lyrics, etc.

How did you get the idea for Connexio?

I simply love small objects. I’m always keeping an eye out for the poetry hiding inside of things. I’m fascinated by the way small things can hold remarkably rich meaning if we look at them from the right angle. Small objects feature in many of my projects, such as the Curio Search Service and The World’s Smallest Post Service.

The original idea for Connexio grew from some bubble diagrams I had been playing with for a while. I drew a series of connected circles to represent associative relationships, trying to connect seemingly disparate objects via meanings and metaphors that are kept hidden by our usual ways of thinking about things. The diagrams soon became the basis for a simple creative activity meant to spur the imagination. That activity was more like a puzzle than a game. As I watched my friends try to do the puzzle, I saw them solve it in ways I didn’t anticipate and I realized that the most interesting part of the activity was the unique way each person approached the task. The more complicated game-play that eventually became Connexio emerged out of my desire to encourage the fascinating diversity of approaches I witnessed. It turns out that when people relate a peppermint to a watering can—or a ballerina to a typewriter key—they’re revealing quite a bit about themselves too!

Purchase Connexio: A Game of Infinite Associations and Imagination.

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