Today our featured designer is not one, but all three designers Meg, Dan, and Glenn of Games by Playdate. Games by Playdate design, produce and publish their own games and are based out of Manchester, NH. Games ranging from Slash: a party game where you ‘ship popular characters and create your own fan fic; Pack the Pack: an adventuring, tile laying game; and Hearts Blazing: a card driven story-game where you create an episode of melodramatic sci-fi series in under 2 hrs. currently on Kickstarter. You can check out Hearts Blazing and play some games with the GbPD crew at Granite Game Summit.
Three Random Facts about Meg:
- She wants to be a magician when she grows up.
- Her dreams have full musical numbers and rolling credits.
- She loves roller coasters but hates Ferris wheels.
Three Random Facts about Dan:
- He spends way too much time reading about infrastructure and space.
- He is an unapologetic Kanye West fan.
- He is a published author. My short story, “Going Home” will be featured in the anthology “Live Free or Ride” coming out this summer.
Three Random Facts about Glenn:
- On Valentine’s Day in 2001 he was detained by the Secret Service and had his apartment searched for publishing an editorial in his college newspaper. Look it up!
- Is that a scar or a third nipple? You decide.
- Pulled a stop sign out of an intersection while a teenager; subsequently got punched by his grandfather for being an idiot.
Questions by Kimberly Bullock (KB), answers by Meg (M), Dan (D), and Glenn (G)
Three board game design related questions:
KB: How did Games by playdate come to be?
M: I had a podcast about games. I would then put together single day game cons called "Play Dates". Being the internet personality I was (*sniff*), Glenn found me and came to one. We met up again at the next PaxEast and played some games together. He shamelessly stole the name Play Date and started using it himself. One day he called me up and said, "Hey, I think I'd like to make games. Do you want to do that too?" And it sounded like a cool idea so I said sure. I didn't really get that I had just agreed to form a company, but that's the way we do things (as I found out) in GbPD. I had never even met Dan at that point.
D: We were holding game days for teens at local libraries and one day we were like, "Instead of just playing the games, let's make the games!" and GbPD was born. Glenn and I (Dan) had a decade's worth of print design/manufacturing under our belts and Meg had experience getting new businesses up and running; it was kind of perfect because we could start designing games and building the business with the only overhead being our time and a small amount of funds.
G: We were all sick and tired of being told what to do with our creative output, and we are nerds. So we started a little group to teach kids how to play games and from there decided we could publish our own.
KB: Do you each have specific roles within the design process or is it all a shared experience?
M: I think my title should be Vice-Trouble-Maker. I think I equally act as the voice of reason and the voice of dissent. I'm also the most "embedded" in the normal world of the group. I also act as the reasonable PR face to counter Glenn's more avant garde methods (when needed).
D: I’ve opted to take a more editorial position in the company and problem solve media logistics, i.e., I make videos, write press releases, rewrite rulebooks, critique designs, and tell Glenn when he’s wrong. Good creative works are rarely conceived by lone makers, but by partnerships between editors and creators. Anyone who tells you different is probably either certified brilliant or isn't making money at this shit.
G: It depends on the project/title. Whoever is the lead on a specific title leans heavily on the other two to provide critique and feedback and to shore up whatever blind spots they may have design-wise.
KB: What are some of the things you focus on in order to make your games so inviting to all groups of gamers?
M: We focus on fun, not what a marketing department tells us we should sell to certain demographics. We make games we want to play. We create the experiences that others stop and watch because the people playing are having so much fun you just have to see what they are doing. We invite conversation and exploration into potentially difficult topics through gameplay. No two games are alike and it's awesome.
D: Feedback! Games are a collaborative process between the designer and the player and listening to the praise and concerns raised by players before production (and sometimes even after production) is important to ensuring that your game stays accessible to as many people as possible
G: This is an amazing hobby and industry but it has a problem with grognards, creepers and s***heads scattered throughout. Since it's fruitless to fight them one by one I try and make games that will drown the jerks out by overwhelming them with new, good players. We make sure that our designs explicitly call out and condemn regressive behavior and remind players what it takes to welcome strangers into play and to keep them coming back. There are times we have refused sales to antagonistic or hateful customers and that makes me very happy. There are plenty of games for crotchety cishet white dudes. I don't make games for them and I don't want their money; I want to get more diverse players involved because it creates a better space for all of us.
Three Questions just for fun:
KB: Which websites do you visit too often?
M: 1: Sigh. Facebook. 2: Trulia. I fantasize about moving and houses the way others might look at porn. 3: tattoolit.com -- literary tattoos are hawt.
D: Twitter dot com, BLDGBLOG, and the USGS’ recent earthquake map (I stare at that thing way too much). I also pore through Warren Ellis’ weekly newsletter, Orbital Operations, for brainfood and books more times than I should.
G: jinteki.net, any image archive full of short-haired cuties
KB: What are your favorite fanfic pieces?
M: The ones people have written for us. By far. There is magic in 'shipping characters from our deck together and reading the stories that have come to pass.
D: “My Immortal” by Tara Gilesbie. An oldie but a goodie. Stay goffik, my friends.
G: “My Immortal”, there really is nothing that comes close to it.
KB: If you could only have one cocktail to pair with gaming, what would it be?
M: A pitcher of my homemade sangria. I have a special recipe. I use whiskey instead of brandy. And instead of wine, I substitute a little bit of a sour mix. And I keep the fruit on the side. And by fruit, I mean chips and salsa.
D: Bulleit Rye Manhattan, rocks on the side.
G: Spring/Summer = Gin & Tonics or Martinis. Fall/Winter = straight Whiskey.