Interview with Mom’s Choice Award-Winners Whitney and Alex Kimerling

Mom’s Choice Awards is excited to announce another post in our interview series where we chat with the inventors, designers, publishers, and others behind some of our favorite family-friendly products.

Hello, Mom’s Choice readers! Today, in our series of interviews with MCA honorees, we have the great pleasure of talking to Whitney and Alex Kimerling, the chief creative officer and president (respectively) of Hootenanny Games. Their Mom’s Choice Award-winning games—Floats McGoats, SIXEM, and Snarkas—offer fast-paced, strategic fun for families. Perfect for game nights, parties, or family gatherings, these games are quick and easy to learn. Read on to see how and why the Kimerlings’ hugely popular games were developed—and why people are so enthusiastic about them!

MCA: Please tell us about the creation of your company. Whitney, why don’t we start with you?

WK: Alex previously worked with another board game company, bringing over 30 concepts to life over a five-year period. The industry was completely new for me, however. In my previous career, I was a lawyer, primarily handling product liability cases and representing manufacturers across the country. During the pandemic when we were both working from home, I watched Alex play test games over Zoom and thrive in this happy industry. My work was not quite as joyful, and it was a breakthrough moment for me. I thought—maybe I’ve gone terribly wrong with my career choice!

MCA: And Alex, we’d love to hear your input, as well.

AK: We have always wanted to work together, and we have both always been big fans of games. So in 2023, we started Hootenanny Games! We officially launched our inaugural line last October at New York Toy Fair. We were deliberate about the games for our first lineup with the goal of having a little something for everyone, so we came out of the gate with a dice game, card game, board game, and party game.

MCA: Clearly, the two of you came out of the starting gate with some real winners! Whitney, what needs were you trying to fill when you created the Hootenanny Games products?

We truly want games that can pull double duty in your game cabinet. Games that can be played with your kids and played with your friends for adult game nights are how we truly center our brand. We also want games that are easy to teach and easy to learn while still having substance. Every one of our games has a QR code you can scan—and watch fun how-to-play videos instead of reading the instructions. As a mom, that was really important to me because I know how frustrating it can be when you are trying to learn a new game with your kids constantly asking questions. I always end up re-reading the same paragraph of the rules and still not knowing how to play!

MCA: Tell us about the research that went behind the product’s unique features, and describe these features.

AK: Play testing, play testing, play testing. We put our games through the ringer to make sure that they were just as fun for 2, 3, or 4 players, that the rules were just right, that the game play was the perfect length, and that they truly had cross-generational appeal.

WK: And we had some fun with the design, too. Designing the stackable goats in Floats McGoats was a process. Some of the early goats were too small, and some were way too big. After several rounds, we finally found the Goldilocks goat that was just right! For Snarkas, we incorporated so many shiny foils on the bonus cards to make winning those special cards or scoring a Snarkas gem feel extra special. In the development of SIXEM, it had a familiar game play that also felt fresh, so we wanted to have packaging that had the same sort of vibe. Plus, who doesn’t love a game with a spinner?

MCA: Alex, would you explain the importance of these products?

We are parents to two elementary school kids. We know about the screen time struggle and the boredom battle. We also know how important it is to really come together around a table and spend time together. We have fond memories of playing games with our families and friends, especially growing up, and we want to be a part of that. Knowing that we are welcomed into your homes and are part of your quality time with family and friends is why we do what we do.

MCA: What age group(s) was it designed for?

Snarkas 8+

Floats McGoats 10+


What kind of feedback have you received about your game?

WK: Floats McGoats is always a conversation starter! Someone once told us that it’s the greatest title in all of board gaming, and that was such a fun compliment to receive. People love the little goats and that you can stack them, and the shark lurking in the waters is one of the crowd favorite actions you can roll on the die.

AK: Snarkas is one that people sometimes (jokingly) get mad about because they say they get addicted to it after one round! It’s definitely a game that after you play a hand or two, you completely get it and want to try to hone your strategy and get better. Plus, we’ve had more than one person tell us it’s been a great way to work in simple math practice for kids with the 1-10 addition included in the game play.

WK: SIXEM is one that surprises people with the strategy involved. It’s fast-paced and has some fun “gotcha” moments that can really turn up the heat in this game. It’s one that my friends always ask to play when they come over.

MCA: It’s fascinating how many terrific new products were developed by parents who saw a need that wasn’t being met. Tell me, what is next for you and your product(s)?

WK:  We are launching new games! We have a very exciting licensed game coming out this summer!  The game will make its debut at the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association conference beginning on June 3.  If you’re attending that conference, come see us, and if not, follow along on Instagram (@playhootenanny) to be first to see all our new product launches.  You’re not going to want to miss what’s coming next!

AK:  We are also thrilled with our retailer network we are building.  Our games are available through our Amazon storefront, but we also have fantastic retailer partners across the country.  We are excited to expand the stores that carry Hootenanny Games in your neighborhoods so that you can support your local businesses.  Make sure to check our list of retailers on our website to find your favorite stores.

MCA: Before we bring this interview to an end, I’d love to know the story behind the name, Hootenanny Games.

WK: Hootenanny is a term that we use regularly in our house. Whenever our kids pile in bed with us to watch cartoons on Saturday morning, we call that a hootenanny. Saturday night dance parties with all of us and the dog right in the middle—that’s a hootenanny, too. Some of our most fun times as a family invoke that word for us, and since our mission is to spark that type of joy for others, we thought Hootenanny Games fit the bill perfectly. Plus, it just makes you laugh when you say it.

MCA: Whitney and Alex, thanks so much for sharing the remarkable story of your product development with us. We look forward to hearing about the additions you’ll be bringing out this summer!

You can learn more about Whitney and Alex Kimerling and their award-winning games, Floats McGoats, SIXEM, and Snarkas, by visiting their MCA Shop pages.

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