Dan Klitsner: A Tribute to My Dad, the Father of Play, and the Voice of Sling It Lore!

by Dan Klitsner | 20 Jun 2024

Industry Commentary, Op-Ed



This was the first Father's Day without my wonderfully fun, ever supportive, unconditionally loving, prototype testing, game-playing Dad, who passed a few months ago at the playful age of 97.  Playful was how he related to everyone - inviting you into his effortlessly positive world with a sparkle in his eye no matter if he just met you, if you were an old friend, (or especially if you were his lucky son). If he was in the room, it was always fun. As many of my friends in the toy industry know, my dad was also a huge influence on my love of games, sense of play and my insistence on writing cringy parody songs for their birthdays and special occasions. (My parent’s were both on Broadway in the 50’s and I grew up surrounded by theater and musicals - so singing at family gatherings was always required).


During the last few years, I had the honor of caring for my dad, so we spent a lot of time playing games. Our favorite was cribbage. We played at least twice a week, and his mind was still sharp - (a little too sharp as he still beat me most of the time!) He was also always my most trusted play tester for my new game concepts - patiently trying to understand my often convoluted, ever-changing rules or help me video the foam core mock-up that became Bop It.  I would often bring prototypes over and get his astute, honest opinions and always excellent suggestions. During that period at KID Group we started working on an idea for a quirky backyard game called “Sling It” which was kind of like “Corn Hole meets Axe Throwing”. 



It involved trying to sling unusually long bean bags in between vertical slots, where the sausage-shaped bags would wedge with a  “Thwack”!  What made the game play especially competitive was that at the end of each round, you only scored if you were the “top dog” in the slot. 


Since my father was 96 and needing a walker to even stand, I didn’t think it was a good candidate for his play-testing expertise,  but as I was growing up, we loved playing a lot of ping-pong and horse shoes and other games in the backyard so I brought a rough prototype. Lo and behold, supporting himself with his walker with one hand and slinging with the other, he nailed his first shot!



He grinned and said “ That is really satisfying!” And threw another. “Thwack”!  Another great shot, another big smile  - “Wow, I love the sound!” It was a great insight - what makes this genre of physical games so fun and sustainable is often the unique sounds!  So key to the satisfying feeling of hitting a ping pong ball or ringing a horseshoe is the sound it makes- much like the pickleball “Whack” has proven addictive for those that play - (if not always for those that hear it!)


After a few more slings we were also having a good laugh making “sausage jokes” and he asked “ Son, how did you come up with this idea again?” .  Well… sometimes it’s hard to say why a certain idea pops into one’s head, and though I could give a long story about all the trial and error iterations of the physical game itself, the question remained…why Sausages? 


Shortly after it was time for his nap, and while he was sleeping I thought that, in the spirit of my theatrical dad, perhaps what this game really needed was a more… “entertaining” back story! Now it just so happens that I was in Mallorca a few weeks earlier for a bike trip, and if you’ve been there you probably know that you can’t miss the ubiquitous, highly photogenic “Sobrasada” sausages.



While he was asleep, I spent a few hours doing some photoshop "research" to incorporate a bit of lore about sausage slinging festivals in medieval Mallorca.


Now it also just so happens that my dad was also a professional narrator and had done many radio ads as well - So I started to write a script for him to narrate that went even deeper into the explanation of what inspired this sausage slinging concept.  When he awoke I asked if he could read it. I hope you enjoy the result as much as he and I enjoyed recording it!  I decided to incorporate it into our Kickstarter as a tribute to my dad’s incredible voice talent, humor and most of all , the playfulness he so generously bestowed on his grateful, proud son.


Happy Father’s Day to my dear dad and life-long friend Stu - my father of play! 



More Thank Yous:


Thank you to my incredible partners Brian Clemens and Gary Levenberg for always supporting me and my time with my father.


A HUGE thank you to Mary for letting me share this story ! 


And a special Thank you Dougal Grimes for also lending your voice to make this project twice as special and even more fun!  I couldn’t imagine having another actor become the “Voice of Sling It” after my dad  passed -  but then…you’re not really an actor…you’re a superstar! (See the KS video below to hear Dougal!)


And Thanks to all of you who have been so supportive on backing this passion project Kickstarter! Thanks for continuing to spread the word -  here’s the link for those who would like to back it -  only a week left ! )




fathers day sling it lore

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