If you want to learn something new, the best way to do it is to make a game out of it. The more fun everyone has while paying the game, the more information they will retain.

It is that same basic idea that has made You’ve Been Sentenced! such a big hit. The game, which was created by Donald McNeill, allows the players to create fun sentences using special cards that are included. Each player earns points for the words used. Much like Trivial Pursuit, you can buy extra card decks to help you expand your game play at home. In the ever changing world of word-play, You’ve Been Sentenced! is a game that will live on for a long time. This fun-for-all ages game can also help adults and kids alike learn the basic skills of piecing a good (or funny) sentence together.

I recently interviewed Donald about his business, McNeill Designs for Brighter Minds, and the two games they currently produce.

Tell us a little about your company, McNeill Designs for Brighter Minds.

On Dec. 29th 2004 I had an idea for language as a game where you would actually have to make sentences from words on cards. That was the beginning of what would grow into an educational game company that now has 9 products and even a Space Act Agreement with NASA as we are launching our new NASA Space Terminology Add-on-Deck to the game of You’ve been Sentenced! that is filled with the names of astronauts, missions and terms illustrating NASA’s rich history.

What inspired you to get into the educational game business?

It was sort of a fluke! In order to make You’ve been Sentenced! I had to figure out the mathematics and geometry of how to make language playable – I know that sounds nuts! But honestly 6 weeks into the concept I was ready to quit when I came up with what worked. For the first two years we focused on marketing the game to the toy and game market and did well but it was teachers who kept writing me thank you letters – some than even choke me up until this day that made us start to focus on the education market as well. The game has been in B&N and Borders for 5 years now and I am very proud of that.

How many games do you currently offer? Can you tell us a little about each one and how they work?

You’ve been Sentenced! is the flagship product and it now has 6 Add-on-Decks to it as well. I have attached the catalog so you can read about them too. Our actual second product is a game called Twisted Fish which is a great memory game and takes the old game of Go Fish and makes it so much more challenging.

What separates your games from the others available on the market?

You’ve been Sentenced! is truly the first game in history to turn making sentences into seriously hilarious fun! It has now won 10 national awards and 3 great mentions.

Do you have any plans for new ones in the near future?

We are really focused on developing all of the capabilities of You’ve been Sentenced! right now but we do have many games in the pipeline and we receive requests to submit ideas all of the time. Ideas are a dime a dozen in the games business…but very few ever stay alive for more than a year or two.

What do you enjoy the most about inventing games?

Today it is really more about writing more Add-on-Decks to You’ve been Sentenced! and that is a lot of fun to pick and choose who will appear in the deck.

What are some lessons your business has taught you?

If you want to make a small fortune in the games business…start with a large one. Just kidding. I have learned so much from my mistakes and try never to repeat the same one twice.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Thank you for the opportunity and if people are curious to learn more you can publish my email address [email protected] I do get busy but I always find time to respond to thoughtfully written questions.

Any advice you’d like to offer fellow entrepreneurs that are just getting started?

Passion is the only single drive that can make you succeed – If you are not passionate about what you do… don’t do it. When you thinks of a great idea, don’t blow it off, right it down and ask those close to you if they think it is a good idea. If they do GO FOR IT!