Fellow Leaguer, Mike, and I have been indentured servants, I mean… parents… for about a year and a half now. And that entire time we’ve been told by friends, waiters, old ladies, creepers at the 7-11… how much she looks like both of us. It’s true, we share DNA.
I’m told she looks mostly like me when she’s pouting. …Thanks…?
Anyway, this got me thinking. We put so much time, talent, energy into a board game. It’s a lot like having a baby. I wonder, how much does my board game look like me? Different personalities and backgrounds, life circumstances and experiences are going to feed into our designs.
It’s interesting to look at games from the perspective of who created it. What does this game say about the creator? Furthermore, where do these designs come from? Our local group of gaming friends aren’t designers. And so every new game we put in front of them receives the question, “Where’d you come up with that?”
Our first-born, The Amberden Affair, was initially developed because we saw a Beta version of a wicked cool video game, Spy Party. In the 2P video game, one player is moving within a glass-walled room as a spy, blending in with the NPC guests of a party, trying to accomplish certain tasks. The second player is a sniper watching the party through the window, trying to figure out which person is the spy and shooting them. We wanted to see if we could create the same type of gaming experience within a board game.
So we did. And it sucked. Adding four more players to a 2P game just makes four people feel like NPCs. And, evidently, that’s not fun. So, a lot of work and revamps and playtests and diaper changes later, we have The Amberden Affair, which only vaguely calls back to its Spy Party roots.
So, that’s the sperm of the game. Ew. I mean, the seed – where it began – how we “came up with it.”
Does The Amberden Affair look like me? In a way, I guess. But just as I don’t see as much of me in my baby as other people see, I may be too close to psychoanalyze my game to say what it says about me. I’d much rather pick on other designers.
Maybe Alan R. Moon really likes cutting in line just to make people angry, and that’s why he created Ticket to Ride.
Maybe Bruce Glassco was locked in a closet in his grandmother’s haunted house as a child, and as part of his psycho-therapy created Betrayal at House on the Hill.
Maybe the designer of Smash Up, Paul Peterson, is just really indecisive. Maybe. Or not. Yeah that’s it. No… I dunno..
Maybe Jamey Stegmaier, creator of Viticulture, has been fooling us all. He wants us to think he’s cultured, knowing things about wine, traveling to cool places like Tuscany. But, in reality, he’s in his mom’s basement drinking Bud Select with his cat and other cat lovers. (We’ve seen the cat pictures, Jamey) In this scenario, his business partner, Alan Stone, is a custom meeple he talks to.
Or, maybe The League’s own Peter Vaughan is a terrible cook, and so to make light of this flaw he created What the Food?! Who else would come up with throwing Soggy St. Pat’s Corned Beef Dunked in Tzatziki Dip unless he once had a date throw this dinner in his face in disgust as she left him for one, Ronald McDonald?
(side note: in looking through the deck of cards for a gross combo to use as an example, I kept finding things that actually sounded good, and now I’m hungry. What the food?!)
I don’t actually know what inspired these designers, but I do enjoy wondering and making up my own stories.
Whatever their muse and however much it says about them, we are all glad that games keep being made by awesome creators. In reality, much like my daughter will grow into her own person, no matter how similar our noses, our games become something that is both a part of us, and apart from us.
Where have you gotten ideas for a game? What inspires you? Does your game look like you? I’d love to hear from you! But whatever you do, just enjoy making something new. Congratulations! It’s a game!
Illustrations by Christina Major
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2 Readers CommentedJoin discussion
Actually, my games look an awful lot like me. Rock and Roll, 1920’s gangsters, Fantasy/8th grade mash ups, miniatures as a card game… my games could easily be picked out in a line up to incriminate me…
I really enjoyed this whimsical look at a game’s DNA with a valid core premise of parenting a game design. I thought you might have a real challenge pigeonholing the games of Reiner Kinizia since he has gone down so many different paths.