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Ex-convict creates chess-based puzzle game to teach children to make better choices

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Nkosi Brown, president and founder of Cleverhouse Games and Toys LLC, spent his last years in prison building Chess King, a puzzle game based on the rules of chess that pushes players to make "better choices," reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Brown founded the Milwakee-based studio with his wife in 2011 with the goal of making games that entertain and teach children positive values. It's first game, Chess King, is a strategy game that requires players to quickly move chess pieces across a nine-square grid in a distilled version of the classic board game. Players also have the opportunity to maneuver their way out of game-ending scenarios and continue the puzzle. The name Chess King is an acronym for a more elaborate idea, according to Brown: "Challenges Help Empower Strategy; Seeking Knowledge Inspires New Growth."

"I'm trying to spark the idea into anyone else who comes from my circumstances that they can do anything they put their mind to," Brown said. "If you disguise learning with fun, a child will return for more."

Brown was arrested in 1999 after robbing two men of $110 and their driver's licenses, and began serving his 10-year sentence the following year. During that time he focused on playing chess to keep himself out of conflict with the guards and other inmates. While in solitary confinement, he and other prisoners would draw chess boards on the floor and call out moves between cells in order to play. Two years before he was released, Brown sent his mother detailed blueprints of what eventually would become Chess King.

According to math teacher and Cleverhouse's education advisor Mike Weidner, the game is a metaphor for thinking hard about life choices.

"You can think about different strategies, look ahead and plan out your moves," he said. "That's a whole metaphor for making choices in life."

Cleverhouse currently has 11 part-time employees, including Brown, his wife and his father. Chess King is currently available as a boardgame and on the iTunes App Store.