Today we are featuring Ben Mitchell from DoubleWatt games. Ben lives in Newtown Square, PA, which is a small suburb about 20 minutes from downtown Philadelphia ("Go EAGLES!"). He is a software developer by day, currently specializing in machine learning data analysis in the healthcare field. Married to his best friend and co-conspirator Kristen, Ben can't spell to save his life so if he wrote it and it's spelled correctly, Kristen reviewed it. This is not Ben’s first time joining us at Granite Game Summit. It is his first time joining us as a designer in Designer Alley though!
THREE RANDOM FACTS ABOUT BEN:
He played the bagpipes from elementary school until college.
Ben got a tattoo as part of his bachelor party because it was the one thing his wife forbade.
He builds sets for local theater groups.
Questions by Kimberly Revia (KR), answers by Ben Mitchell (BM).
THREE BOARD GAME RELATED QUESTIONS:
KR: When did you first start designing games?
BM: In middle school I made a board game for a book report and in high school there was a mini RPG fighting system that was about fencing and dueling. However, aside from a bunch one-offs I would say I got serious about producing a finished, polished product in 2015. Planet Money ran an episode called "Curse of the Black Lotus" which was about market bubbles and they used the Beanie Babies as the example. I started thinking about a push your luck game where the player tried to make it big collecting something before the bubble pops. Which, after about year and half of redesigns, became "Wasted Youth," my first game.
KR: Which designs have inspired you and what aspect of the game lead to the inspiration?
BM: I dream of making a game that is as simple and as fun as Love Letter. Deduction with just the right amount of missing information and with a smidgen of luck thrown in. There is a quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupery (had to look up the author - didn't have that part memorized): "Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away." More mechanics is not a bad thing but when you hit that simple one with open-ended possibilities it's awesome.
KR: How much time do you spend in a week focusing on game design?
BM: Usually I can eek out 3 hours 2 nights on a good week, plus like every third Saturday I can wake up and devote a 6 hour block of time. I try never to miss my monthly unpub group run by @OneDayWestGames. I feel like I am always thinking about it but all that brainstorming gets lost if you don't get to sit down and craft before you forget or move on.
THREE QUESTIONS JUST FOR FUN:
KR: Are there any themes in board games that automatically grab your attention?
BM: Mechanics like spell/counter-spell as in the Red Dragon Inn might be my favorite, but any game where the mechanics makes me feel the theme more will make me love the game. I love CyberPunk 2077 because the combat system makes you feel fragile and damage always has consequences. Spyfall makes you feel like you're going to get caught. Give me an experience and I will always come back.
KR:Who is one of your favorite characters? (book, movie, comic book etc.)
BM: If I am saying who I want to be like picking a super power: Jad the Milenarian from Neal Stephenson's "Anathem". I can't tell you about it without spoiling the end of the book but what he can do is awesome. However from an entertainment perspective Jet Black from Cowboy Bebop. I like my heroes reluctant, tragic, and most importantly flawed. He is a character who starts out believing in absolutes, black and white, and it leads him to ruin so he's putting his world and world view back together.
KR: If you were forced to play one game 100 times in 30 days, what game would you choose?
BM: I had to think about it this and then it hit me. There is a game that I play almost every day often multiple times a day: Chess. It's a beautiful game that constantly reinvents itself over and over again. You can be a casual player, or you can follow the trends and superstars. I was playing the "London" system a lot last year because of a few articles about Magnus Carlsen using that opening. It didn't work as well for me. There are big money prize fights and blitz hustlers in the park. I am wrait2010 (https://www.chess.com/member/wraith2010) on chess.com and I play anyone who wants to play me. I usually set my board up for a little while during Granite Gaming Summit as well.
You can find Ben and what he is currently up to by clicking the links below!