In a vocabulary frenzy a couple of years ago, Diana Carlston read the dictionary three times, from "a" to "zymosan."
The result is Huggermugger, a board game that Carlston hopes will be the next Pictionary or Trivial Pursuit - in other words, the game that at least 8 million households will rush out to buy this year.Carlston, a 1980 BYU graduate, was in Salt Lake City recently as part of a 12-city promotional tour for Huggermugger. Unlike Pictionary and Trivial Pursuit, which were first sold in limited markets, Carlston is launching Huggermugger on a national basis.
"I wanted to make an impact fast before someone else knocked the idea off," she explains.
The game business is fraught with such hazards. And the first hazard is getting your idea noticed.
"Most people think you just invent a game, take it to one of the big game companies and they fall over in gratitude," says Carlston, who knows better.
Instead of knocking on the doors of the big game companies - who develop only "one in a million" of the ideas brought to them, she says - Carlston decided to develop and market Huggermugger herself.
She was able to do this because she first cleverly raised half a million dollars. It helps, she admits, to have a father who is a vice president of Sears and who therefore has lots of contacts.
Carlston, who currently lives in Pittsburgh, graduated from BYU in communications. She started her broadcasting career in New York with ABC-TV, then moved back to Utah, where she co-hosted a nightly PBS news magazine.
After deciding to postpone her career to stay home with her three children, Carlston began looking around for a creative outlet and decided to expand on her long-time interest in games.
She spent 15 months coming up with Huggermugger. It was during one of her three forays through the dictionary looking for Huggermugger questions that she discovered the title for the game. Huggermugger means "in secret," and Carlston felt it would be a catchy name.
The game industry consultants she met with while refining the game politely suggested she think of a different name, but Carlston persisted. That's the kind of thing you can do if you own the company.
Carlston describes her game as a cross between Hangman, Dictionary and an old-fashioned spelling bee. She admits that "if you don't like word games then Huggermugger probably won't be your favorite."
She expects, though, that enough people do like word games to make Huggermugger a success. Already, she says, Playthings Magazine has voted it one of 1989's "hot new entries," and in Washington, D.C., one store sold out all 50 of its games in a few days without any advertising.
Already, says Carlston, the game has caught the interest of a television game show syndicator, and she is also talking with a computer software company about taking Huggermugger electronic.
Carlston is also coming out with a junior edition next year and is working out licensing agreements with several foreign countries.
And just in case all that is not enough, Carlston is also starting her own clothing line with the Huggermugger logo - a frog pedaling an old-fashioned bicycle.
Huggermugger, the game, is currently available at Deseret Book, Nordstrom and ZCMI.