Mary Flanagan & Max Seidman from Resonym

Today we are featuring Mary Flanagan and Max Seidman of Resonym, an indie publishing company. They will be joining us at Granite Game Summit in Designer Alley for the first time. Their game Visitor in Blackwood Grove won the audience choice award at the Boston Festival of Indie Games in 2017.

Mary has been playing board games since she was a child. Since then she has worked in the video game industry, digital and game-inspired art, and written academic books on games and game design.

Max was first introduced to euro board games via Catan and Puerto Rico when he was seven years old thanks to a German friend, and has loved modern games ever since. During the day, Max is a game researcher. During the evening, Max works on games for Resonym. During the night Max lives underground with his partner, Angie, and two cats, Mogget and Kerrigor.

Mary and Max have collaborated on a number of games for their indie publishing company, Resonym, including their newest game Mechanica (on Kickstarter until March 3rd), Visitor in Blackwood Grove, Monarch (the first one on Kickstarter), Awkward Moment, Awkward Moment at Work, and Buffalo: the name dropping game. Their games have been featured on National Public Radio and in The New York Times. Resonym is headquartered in Hanover, New Hampshire.

THREE RANDOM FACTS ABOUT MARY:

  • She worked in a factory and is very familiar with assembly lines.

  • Mary skipped at least two birthdays flying to Australia.

  • Mary’s also a writer and artist who made a giant joystick, among other works.

THREE RANDOM FACTS ABOUT MAX:

  • Max invented a pulley system to be able to turn on and off his lights from his bed. This idea was eventually pursued by two separate teams of product designers (but was never released).

  • He has never lost a game of Keyforge—across 2 tournaments and many just for fun games.

  • Max’s fingers can bend backwards by 120°. He can probably bend them back more if he doesn’t mind breaking them.

Questions by Kimberly Revia (KR) answers by Mary Flanagan (MF) and Max Seidman (MS).

THREE BOARD GAME RELATED QUESTIONS:

KR: How long have you been designing board games?

MF: I started with digital games before designing board games--I’ve been a game designer since the 1990s and started in board games once I moved to New Hampshire. Of course I’ve played my whole life-- board games and card games with my Wisconsin family. My grandmother was a bit of a card shark!

MS: I’ve been designing games for a decade in any serious capacity, but I do have (terrible) prototypes from when I was a child lying around somewhere. It actually all started when I took Mary’s game design class in college—the rest is history.

KR: What part of game design have you found to be the most challenging so far?

MF: Well, I teach game design, and in general I’d say coming up with new mechanics is an ongoing challenge. Personally, I’m not the best balancer on the planet -- but Max is most excellent at this, so he does most of the balancing grind! It’s great to collaborate with people who compliment your skill sets.

MS: I’m terrible at coming up with game worlds and content (like card names), but Mary is excellent at it so I don’t need to be challenged! That and writing rulebooks. It’s so hard to convey complex systems in linear text.

KR: Has designing games changed the way you enjoy other games that you play?

MF: Sure, but that’s true for anyone who makes -- filmmakers love films but also see the components: the shots, the editing choices, the style in the audio mix. You learn to deconstruct. It’s the same for board games. We see the decision points, the long game and short game strategies. But we don’t have the best vocabulary for this, compared to other media genres, and that’s because games are their own art form of decision making and each one is somewhat unique based on the base system and number of micro-choices you can make. I like seeing a good game’s structure, how things come together beautifully without unnecessary elements. I also love finding games that balance self interest and group interest-- that play with elements from game theory. Big “us vs them” war games are not my thing, in part because I think that the world’s complex problems require us to be thinking in terms of complex solutions. Games can foster this kind of thinking.

MS: It’s certainly made me a better player: whenever there’s a question about the rules of any game I’m playing (“Does the game work this way or that way?”) I can almost always tell what the right answer is going to be based on what makes sense for the game system. But playing also makes me a better designer: I love seeing wonderful new game elements in the games I play—from great physical components to something as simple as how clever iconography allows the players to see what their opponents are doing from across the table.

THREE QUESTIONS JUST FOR FUN:

KR: Is there any existing IP you would like to see a game based around?

MF: I really wanted to redo Dark Tower, but someone’s beat me to it!

MS: YES! I really want to see a game that does justice to Naomi Novik's Temeraire series. It's a book about aerial dragon combat in the Napoleonic wars, but is also kind of Pride, Prejudice, and Dragons. Combat is relatively easy to do, but to also capture regency interpersonal drama and politics? It would have to be a very well done game!

KR: What hobbies do you enjoy, outside of board games?

MF: I’m learning French, and I hope and to publish our games in France!

MS: I’m a big video gamer too. I’ve been playing Dota since the old Warcraft 3 days. My favorite computer game is Crypt of the Necrodancer.

KR: What does your ideal game night look like?

MF: Lots of great food and passionate arguments.

MS: My ideal game night requires no logistics—some friends just drop by for a couple of games of Scythe or Spirit Island, and then we end with some fun Switch games like the worker placement game Sumer.

You can find out more about Resonym, Mary or Max by clicking the links below:

Mary’s Website: https://maryflanagan.com/

Mechanica: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/maryflanagan/mechanica?ref=744102&token=fec6c4ef

Resonym Website: https://resonym.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/theresonym/