What if the goal of a board game wasn’t entertainment? What if, instead, it was about making the people around you entertaining?

That is the mission Exploding Kittens Inc. has been on since it was founded in 2015.

Elan Lee is leading the charge. The co-founder and CEO of the game maker is an experienced game designer who spent time at Microsoft and Xbox before founding a few of his own companies.

Exploding Kittens, his most recent venture, began as a record-breaking Kickstarter campaign. It has now sold more than 25 million games globally. 
“We don’t work so hard to make our games entertaining. We make sure they are toolsets so that you are entertained by your family,” Lee told BNN Bloomberg in an interview last week.

Exploding Kittens is best known for its game of the same name. According to the game’s Kickstarter page, which has since closed, the game is a “highly strategic kitty-powered version of Russian Roulette. The game’s combination of graphics and buzzwords are meant to appeal to players’ sense of humour. 


Lee’s journey in the board game business was inspired by his own childhood experiences. He recalled sitting around a table with his siblings, laughing, cheating and forging secret alliances as they would play board games.

Those positive childhood memories weren’t special because of the specific games Lee and his family were playing, but about the interactions they shared, he explained. That feeling was one of the driving forces behind Exploding Kittens.

Lee was on the original Xbox team in the late 1990s. He became chief design officer at Xbox Entertainment Studios in 2013 before he had a realization. 

“I think I’m part of the problem,” said Lee. “I am putting screens in front of kids for a living, all day, every day.”

That was when he made the jump from digital to board games.


In the early days of Exploding Kittens, Lee said he and co-founder Matthew Inman raised US$9 million through crowdfunding in just 30 days.

These days, the company is still creating new games. This summer it released a new line of “Kitten Games” created for children aged four and up. 

The game design process was particularly interesting for Lee, who stumbled upon a new collaborator: his then-four-year-old daughter, Avalon. 

Lee said Avalon saw his frustration about games that overlook kids’ abilities, and she said they should fix it. 

“That was a world-changing moment for me,” said Lee. 

The duo created 12 games over the next 18 months and four went to market: “Hurry Up Chicken Butt,” “I Want My Teeth Back,” “My Parents Might Be Martians” and “The Best Worst Ice Cream.”

Lee said he and his daughter ended up with games that satisfied both players.

“I didn’t have to cheat to lose, I didn’t have to let her win,” said Lee. “Instead we’re both playing, we’re both having fun.”

That goes back to Lee’s mission to play games that put the spotlight on people.

“We are the greatest source of entertainment,” he said. “These games can just be toolsets to enable that every day that we invite them into our homes.”