Founder: Ami Baio
Year launched: 2017
Game type: Party games
Flagship game: You Think You Know Me, a card-driven take on truth-or-dare, minus the dares and humiliation.
"Think of them as Cards for Humanity."
That's not exactly how Ami Baio describes the games she makes—icebreaking party games designed to forge connections between people rather than plumb the depths of their depravity—but it's the most obvious elevator pitch. It's not that she's against debauchery. But the uplifting approach, she says, is truer to her personality.
"I like to put out words and feelings and thoughts that are encouraging, so that when people get up from the game table, they've created positive memories," she says. "You're not going to need a shower for your brain."
A massage therapist and physical trainer by trade, Baio, 45, never thought of herself as a game designer, though she's long been surrounded by that kind of creativity. Her husband, Andy Baio, is the founder of XOXO, the popular internet culture festival. She's not even sure where the idea for her first game, You Think You Know Me, came from: It just hit her while she was making dinner one night.
But the concept falls in line with Baio's conversational nature. Players draw cards featuring various prompts, ranging from the personal ("I know ___ gives you anxiety") to the frivolous ("I know your most used emoji is ___"), and try to guess the next player's response. There's ultimately a winner, but "winning" isn't the point. It's about breaking past the superficial relationships of the social media age.
"There will never be enough posts, enough tweets, enough anything to know everything about someone," Baio says. "Everyone is endlessly interesting and has so many stories."
You Think You Know Me has sold 11,500 copies so far—a major success in the independent gaming world. Her latest project is similarly wholesome: Flatter Me, in which players try to out-compliment each other. Next month, she's launching a crowdfunding campaign for a Trivial Pursuit-style game focused on superstitions and folklore called Rabbit Rabbit. It's a departure thematically, but the driving force is the same as the previous Pink Tiger titles: human connection.
"Everyone for all of time has been looking for signs, omens—why are we here?" Baio says. "The research has made me feel really connected to everyone who's ever lived on this earth."
What game are you really into right now? "I don't really play games. Can you believe it? I play my own games, but I don't play a lot of other games. When I do, I like 5 Second Rule. It's super-fun because you have to think really fast."