Sure, you celebrate Passover. You think you know the story. But do you really? Chesley (Akiva) Coughlin wanted to help people know it better, so he and his wife Laura created TorahLine, a card game for families to study the Biblical story of the Exodus.
Coughlin, a senior software development manager at Amazon who has a history of making games, was drawn to technology when he was young. Knowing how hard it is to get a game production company to pick up a new game, let alone to make money off of it, the Coughlins decided to take a stab at it themselves by crowdsourcing funds and talent.
They reached out to the local Jewish community for help. “My wife, who served as the art director for this project, suggested we use artwork from local children for the cards and that we run an art contest,” Coughlin says. “Having kids from our community create the art encouraged their families to invest in our crowdfunding campaign, which helped make this a reality.” Hiring a PR firm, as well as Coughlin’s own experience at Amazon for the past 12 years, were instrumental to getting the game from concept to market. At Amazon, he says, “we iterate on a product and fine-tune it, and often a minor tweak is the key to making it awesome.”
Born and raised Catholic, Coughlin once rejected religion and considered himself agnostic. However, after getting acquainted with Judaism through his wife and her parents, he learned that he had Jewish roots through his mother. “My wife and I talked about it,” he says, “and felt we wanted our kids to have a strong Jewish identity.” After enrolling their three kids in the Stroum JCC, the entire family embarked on a quest that included Coughlin embracing the religion under the guidance of Rabbi Farkash at Chabad of the Central Cascades. They now live in Seward Park.
TorahLine has been well received by students and families. Players pull cards that contain verses from the Exodus story and arrange them in the correct order according to the Biblical story. The player with the most correct cards in a line wins. Coughlin is now working on the next game, which will continue the story with the revelation at Mount Sinai. “This time we are going more after stores instead of focusing mostly on online marketing,” he says. “This includes more cards in a bigger box designed to draw attention in a physical store.” Coughlin would like to integrate TorahLine with Amazon Echo, the voice-activated personal assistant.
The Coughlins created a website for their products: 613games.com. “Six-thirteen comes from the number of mitzvahs,” he says. “Perhaps one day, we will have published 613 games.”