13 Jun 2023

Kiwi card game takes off

From Nights, 10:45 pm on 13 June 2023

Have you ever felt the need to get off the beaten track and get lost once in a while? So did Cat MacNaughtan, so much in fact that she made a game out of it.

McNaughtan’s game, Getting Lost, has now sold over 100,000 copies around the world.

Cat MacNaughtan

Cat MacNaughtan Photo: Supplied

The game’s premise is simple, says MacNaughtan.

“It's pretty easy actually, you just grab a pack and you follow the directions. So, we started out with some pretty simple directions; turn left, turn right, head in the direction the wind’s blowing, follow a blue car and, and that became our very first game.”

They have created another 30 games including walking the dog, girls’ road trips, parents with a new baby and one for campervanners.

It’s reminiscent of a less structured world, McNaughtan told Nights.  

“When you were young, you flipped the coin yelled out, left, right at an intersection or you just got on your bike and you drove off with your mates and you explored.

“Life's really different, most of the exploring happens in a search bar.”

Getting Lost is an antidote to highly curated lives, she says.  

“The selection of choices that we're getting is so much narrower, people are kind of feeling a bit hemmed in by that.

“You’ve seen the Instagram places, these beautiful Instagram pictures, and then you flip the camera around. And there's 40 people lining up to take the shot.

“We've kind of just lost the art of exploring for the sake of exploring and genuinely finding things that are unexpected or surprising.”

The game introduces randomness to play, she says.    

“We find when these kids are in the car, when they're playing it, they get off their phones, because it's actual physical cards. So, they're looking out the window, they're looking for the next right turn or the next marker that they want to find and the photos that we get back from people, they're just so joyful.”

She played the game recently with her 13-year-old daughter.

“One Sunday afternoon we ended up in Arkles Bay, it was beautiful, just as the sun was setting, sitting on the beach, and this pod of dolphins came through.

“If I had said to my 13-year-old, 'let’s just go on a drive, not spend any money and just go and sit somewhere', she would have gone, 'that’s really boring'. But we had this amazing afternoon.”

Another customer, a Northland grandma, has adventures with her grandchildren using the game, she says.

“She takes her four grandkids, sometimes she picks up another two on the way, she must have a gigantic car, and she takes them all around Northland and they have no idea where they're going to go.”

The game has taken off overseas.

“Australia's our biggest market now, which is insane. So, we're heading over to Melbourne in August to go to the Gift Fair to try and get a bit of a retail presence over the year.

“At the moment we’re in 12 shops over there and we're selling a huge amount of games direct to customer through our website over there.”

They also experienced a spike in growth when a Facebook post introduced then to the US market.

“It went really huge, really quickly. So, we kind of were selling them all around America, which was a bit scary, not knowing the market particularly well.”

They have eased off on the growth while the business catches its breath, she says.

“We had to pump the brakes and go let's take a breath, calm down and figure out a sensible way to grow that doesn't put our business in jeopardy.

“Because we want this to be a business that continues to grow.

“We make all of our games in New Zealand, we employ New Zealand staff, we want to be able to continue to do that. And I think that requires a mindful approach.”

They will learn from the Australian market how to scale up and yet remain true to their business principles, she says.