Jeff Johnston

Today’s featured designer is Jeff Johnston, designer of Flashlights and Fireflies, MoonQuake Escape, and Toasted or Roasted. Jeff is retired from the US Air Force and is a game design hobbyist with a day job as a defense contractor.  A family man, he is recently recovering from three children in college during the same year.  He enjoys creating family friendly games, strong in theme that bring everyone to the table for playful interaction.  Available at stores near you, try Toasted or Roasted and Flashlights & Fireflies at your next family game night.  MoonQuake Escape, his latest project, should be available later this summer.  He’ll also be attending our Summit in May.


Three Random Facts about Jeff:

  • He will always play Green if given the choice.
  • He fondly remembers his first car, a white AMC Pacer, known as the "Egg".
  • In the 6th grade, he threw the self-destruct switch for a USAF Minuteman missile, perhaps saving the world as we know it.


Questions by Kimberly Bullock (KB), answers by Jeff Johnston (JJ).



Three game design related questions:


KB: What part of the design process is the most challenging?

JJ: The easy answer would be writing rulebooks, since apparently "me sometime right not very goodly".  But for me, it's finding the right game mechanics to fit a theme. I almost always start a game with its theme--"Wouldn't it be fun to play a game about ...."--and then find myself for months (or years) noodling a fun way to play that.


KB: When you play a game, for fun, do you find yourself thinking about what does and does not work within the design?

JJ: No, not really.  I spend a lot of time with colleagues in the Game Makers Guild testing out new game prototypes, and in that environment we're sharing thoughts back and forth on how to improve the game. But, when a game's done, let's play and enjoy it!


KB: If you could sit down with any other designer, and just bounce ideas off of each other, who would you like that to be?

JJ: I really enjoy working with new designers in the Game Makers Guild.  I have just enough "been there, done that" experiences to help many work their way towards their first successful game.  And that's enjoyable to see.



Three questions that are just for fun:


KB: If you could use any existing movie IP and turn it into a game, what would it be?

JJ: As a kid without the computer games of today, tabletop games were one of the few ways you got to be "in" your favorite movie, book or TV show. I spent a lot of time playing SPI's War of the Ring to be in JRR Tolkien's world. Although there's more than enough great games using that IP, I wouldn't mind adding one more. Maybe a family friendly "Gollum's Answer My Riddle or I'll Eat You" game....


KB: What are some of your favorite things about the board-gaming community?  

JJ: I have met some amazing people. One young lady at SALTCON in Utah used gaming as part of her physical therapy--manipulating the game components helped her exercise her hand coordination. She wanted to play MoonQuake Escape and take all of the physical actions herself. It was great being a part of that.


KB: Do you have a favorite New England city or town?

JJ:  No, but my wife and I recently decided to drive MA Route 62 from our home to its starting point and we were charmed by the towns, parks and reservoirs along the way.