Since inventing “The Game of 49,” Mark Corsey has had to quit saying, “Hey, don’t look at me, I didn’t make the rules!” In game playing and in general, he plays by the rules; he only dresses like an outlaw.
Three interesting facts about Mark:
- I’ve invented more flavors of homemade ice cream than board games.
- I can’t count to 3.
Questions by Michael Taylor (MT), answers by Mark Corsey (MC).
three questions about game design
MT: Where did the idea for Game of 49 come from?
MC: At a game night at a friend’s house back in 2008 I was introduced to an old-school game called “The Game of 99”—10-by-10 wooden pegboard, deck of number cards, 5-in-a-row objective. I won the game the first time I played it, but I also thought the game could be improved. (I marvel to recall that now because usually if I win a game the first time out I conclude the game must be perfect.) I wanted a game where a player didn’t get to claim a good space on the board just by drawing a lucky card. I settled on the auction mechanic to make players compete for every card and board space, and a 4-in-a-row objective to make for a faster-paced game. Giving the board an odd number of rows and columns—7-by-7, 49 squares—created a center space that could serve as a focal point for the action. Deciding what to name the game was, I admit, not all that hard.
MT: What inspired you to design your own games?
MC: Having published exactly one game, I hesitate to claim any deep insights about inspiration. Many of the ideas I’ve worked on or am working on come from one of two types of experience. Either I’m intrigued by some aspect of a game I play, but I think: “Yes, but what if? . . .”; or I experience something fun away from the game table and wonder how I could simulate that experience in a game—how can I translate this action from a playing field to a set of dice or a deck of cards, for example.
MT: Why did you choose to make an abstract game (instead of adding a theme)?
MC: I never thought about abstract vs. theme while working on Go49; I just thought about making the game work and making it fun. I’m a lot more interested in a game’s bones and joints—what holds it up and whether the parts work together smoothly—than in the eye color or the hairstyle. That’s how I’ve always chosen games as a player, so I guess it carries over to my design approach. That said, if Go49 does spectacularly well at Target and somebody wants to publish “The Game of 49 Minions” or “Real Housewives of The Game of 49,” I’ll sign those checks.
MT: bonus question - paper money?
MC: If I had a real paper money dollar for every time a gamer geek has looked at Go49 and started a conversation with: “I hate paper money,” I’d need to replace my wallet with a pillow case! Go49 has paper money because it’s fun, and it works. And it’s fun! If you’ve ever watched players slide their hands under the table to count (and recount) their money while agonizing over how much to bid, or seen someone try to sneak a peek at an opponent’s cash bundle, you know those are among the most entertaining moments in the gameplay. That’s exactly the experience I want players to have with Go49.
One of my fellow designers at G2S, Bobby Fowler, designed and produced his own Go49 card money to substitute for the paper money—and Bobby and I are still very much on speaking terms! I promise you, if a gamer geek wants to replace his or her paper money with cards or chips or bitcoin or anything else, I won’t get upset.
Three questions just for fun
MT: What game got you into the hobby?
MC: No single game. I subscribed for many years to Games magazine (now defunct) and loved poring over their annual “Games 100” feature. And in the days before the Internet and BGG I shopped regularly at Games People Play outside Harvard Square. So over time I became aware that new and different games were entering the market, and I gradually started buying and playing those games alongside the familiar, classic board and card games I’d always played.
MT: Is there a certain type of game mechanic that you really enjoy? What’s your favorite game that implements it?
MC: I like tile-laying games—perhaps a vestige of my childhood love of dominoes. Carcassonne and Qwirkle both are on my short list of favorite games.
MT: If you could travel to game in any state/country aside from NH, where would that be?
MC: If I travel, I want to spend my time seeing the place I’m visiting, not the four walls inside a game room! And gaming outdoors in a beautiful place—say, the Serengeti—surely works better in theory than in practice: mosquitoes biting, hyenas laughing, paper money blowing away, that sort of thing. The best games transport you to a new place without you ever leaving your chair. I think that’s pretty good. (OK—yes, I’d travel with an extra suitcase to fill with games to bring home.)
The Game of 49 goes on sale nationwide at Target on June 19th.