Andrew is a blogger and gamer I met at our weekly #BoardGameHour chats. He was willing to come on the show, so here is our podcast! We talk about his interview series at Andhegames.com, our love for Matt Leacock’s games, and the pros of Kickstarter. You can find him at the aforementioned web address, or on Twitter at @andhegames.
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[Intro music to The Geeky Gimp Presents]
ERIN: Hi, everyone. Welcome to another podcast for the Geeky Gimp. And today, I have ANDREW:…and can you tell us about yourself?
ANDREW: Uh yeah, well, I run Andhegames dot com. Among other things. I go by Andhedrew online because ANDREW: Miller, both ANDREW: and Miller are pretty common names. So, it’s just a branding decision. Uh, Andhedrew. And I right now I am building some game prototypes, some print and play stuff just to kind of teach myself how to design board games and card games. I’m also interviewing as many game designers as I can get a hold of.
ERIN: Nice. So you have a blog?
ERIN: So what does your blog…you interview game designers and stuff?
ANDREW: Yeah, its mostly interviews right now because I feel like I’m kind of in a learning stage where I don’t have a bunch to…that I don’t feel like I can write authoritatively about…game design. Um, but as I start to kind of get my head around game design and…and the process and everything, I definitely want to start writing more blog posts and kind of sharing with people. Yeah.
ERIN: So who were some of the designers that you interviewed?
ANDREW: Well uh, so far I’ve got uh Matt Leacock who designed Pandemic –
ERIN: Oh, Pandemic, yeah.
ANDREW: Yeah, yeah.
ERIN: That’s nice.
ANDREW: Um, yeah the Flying Sheep or Chip — ooh, I’m Boo-boo-v…his last name is… [Beauvais] the pronunciation eludes me so it’s Boovay, boovo, I dunno. But he’s a really cool guy who’s off and on uh board game hour. Then, uh, Gil Hova. I just posted his interview. And I’ve got quite a line up of people who are filling out interviews for me or um yeah. So Jamey Stegmaier just sent his interview back to me, so I’ll be um posting that pretty soon which is exciting.
ERIN: Awesome, yeah. How do you find people?
ANDREW: Well [laughs] I basically any way that I can. Usually they’ll have e-mail addresses or contact e-mail address on their website. Um… sometimes I do have to contact them through Twitter, which I don’t really like to do because it’s kind of informal, but um I have had to do that occasionally because they just don’t have an e-mail address posted.
ERIN: Yeah, I find more and more, I find less e-mails. It’s hard to find e-mails. It’s like –
ANDREW: Yeah, well, it’s really smart that people are tending to post them less because I think generally, you can get end up getting a whole lot of SPAM. Added to a lot of bad lists, so. Contacting through social media tends to be more filtered, a little more secure than actually posting your e-mail address.
ERIN: Yeah, it does.
ANDREW: So I think people are figuring that out.
ERIN: Right, so do you read other blogs too?
ANDREW: Oh yeah.
ERIN: What are some of your favorites?
ANDREW: Well, uh, definitely Jamey Stegmaier’s blog has been something I’ve been, uh, kind of binging on to understand the ins of that and outs of Kickstarting. Stuff like that. I’ve been reading uh Brett Spiel really amazing…I’m really just kind of getting into it. Uh, Keith Bergen is one writer that I really enjoy his stuff. I find a lot of the information out there is…tends to be more on the publishing end. Which is interesting, but I’m kind of trying to learn game design more right now.
ERIN: Are you designing something right now?
ANDREW: Yeah, I’m working on a couple of projects, trying to get my head around them cause it is such a hard thing to kind of, at least for me, it’s really difficult to kind of think about game mechanics and how all the systems work together. I tend to think or, you know, theme and art, aesthetics first like I think most people do. So it’s, it’s been a learning process I’ve abandoned a lot of designs pretty quickly, but um, I feel like I’m getting better over time.
ERIN: Where do you get your inspiration from?
ANDREW: Oh, probably, well, a variety of places, I guess. I think…some games…some games that I play, you know, play a game that you really like, kind of try to dissect it and understand why it’s a good game and why it’s so incredibly enjoyable. Um I also, I try to read a wide variety of kind of books and subjects and I think that tends to…I also listen to a lot of podcasts. Um, some on topics of business but also on history, technology, different stuff like that. And I think that gives me kind of a wide range of things to draw from. So my ideas tend to be combinations of different…I guess the simplest answer is I don’t know, I just try to expose myself to as many kind of games and concepts and stories as I can and draw from that.
ERIN: I have like, all these ideas, but I have no idea where to start, you know? Cause it’s so, like, oh my god, it’s just a lot of areas to focus on and it’s just difficult. Y’know.
ANDREW: Oh yeah, it’s a really kind of steep curve from buy this great idea, wouldn’t that be great to, you know, execution. Like how do I actually make this a great thing and not just a, you know, and I think it starts off like many kind of um any kind of art. You just start making terrible things and you learn what’s bad. [laughs]
ERIN: [laugh] yeah.
ANDREW: Yeah, So, I think I’m definitely slogging through my bad beginners stage, but it’s you know, you learn every time you turn over, you learn a little more. I think the key is to just kind of do things and learn as you go. Yeah.
ERIN: So are you gonna…if you actually, um, design something, are you gonna do Kickstarter or something else?
ANDREW: Um, I certainly…I think Kickstarter is a great way to uh, to publish a game. Sub publish a game. I’m really more interested in kind of creating whatever size game I can make by myself, publish by myself. Um I’m kind of more interested in that model right now, than trying to go find a publisher.
ANDREW: Um and that’s an incredible amount of work, but I also have always loved business and building my own little online micro businesses and stuff and so you know, taking the idea that…you know that won’t be starting with a giant, you know, big box game that is really logistically crazy. Because I’m doing this by myself. And but, but that’s ultimately…what…kind of what I want my set up to be.
ERIN: Yeah. So what do you think about…there’s a lot of controversy about Kickstarter and different companies using it as a way to um…Game Salute uses it as a way to just…they already have…they know they’re gonna publish a game, but they use Kickstarter as a way to get preorders? I guess?
ANDREW: Oh yeah. Mmmhmm. As a preorder engine. Not kind of a, “I need your help to actually make this project a reality.” Yeah.
ERIN: So what do you think about that?
ANDREW: Well, I think I think it’s really kind of a perfectly viable way to kind of get your audience involved in something that’s kind of fun and hopefully… I think it would be smart for businesses to give people, you know, some sort of discount, perks, different things like that for supporting the kickstarter, I think that’s smart but I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing that companies do that…
ANDREW: Or people do that, because, it really is, I think, I see Kickstarter as more of being kind of a group project. You know, at its best, we can all kind of work together as Kickstarters and backers to make something really cool.
ERIN: Right. Right.
ANDREW: And so, I don’t think that needs to be restricted just to people who need a certain amount of money.
ANDREW: To continue the project and so….
ERIN: Right. It doesn’t really bother me. I’m just kind of… It doesn’t bother me. I don’t think it’s… It’s not hurting anybody. So I’m just kind of like, yeah…
ANDREW: Yeah, I think, I think, probably people are sort of just…they have this idea of the spirit of Kickstarter being…
ANDREW: You know, we’re helping start something, create something, that wouldn’t have been there otherwise.
ANDREW: And so it can seem a little skeevy if a company says, ‘Well, this is going to happen anyway, but because we want a lot of preorders, you know here it is on Kickstarter.
ANDREW: But, you know, that doesn’t necessarily have to be their attitude…
ANDREW: …and I would imagine it probably, it usually isn’t.
ERIN: Right, true.
ANDREW: These are passionate, cool people trying to make something that’s of worth and Kickstarter happens to be a fantastic way right now to connect with your fans and find new people, and I think that’s totally valid.
ERIN: Yeah. Right. Yeah.
ANDREW: I mean, clearly there are people who have used Kickstarter in poor ways, and there are a lot of kind of widely publicized examples of where people got in too deep and didn’t actually know how to complete the game or the product or whatever, and that’s always kind of sad to see because it hurts Kickstarter as a platform, for everyone.
ERIN: Yeah it does.
ANDREW: But I think it’s still a remarkable tool even if some people accidentally or on purpose misuse it sometimes.
ERIN: Yeah. So in my blog, I focus on disability, and accessibility, in games. When you design a game, do you think about accessibility, or…?
ANDREW: Well, I really, I wouldn’t say I’m necessarily that far yet.
ANDREW: Um…I’m kind of barely dipping my toes into a lot of different aspects of game design I feel like.
ERIN: Right. Yeah.
ANDREW: I think quite a bit about kind of making things color-blind friendly, because that’s something that I think way too many um both physical game designers and video game designers don’t think about. And I think it’s a pretty important thing to…and I also just …but that’s mostly the extent that I’ve thought about it up until now. But no, I really want to get into reading more of your blog and understanding more of the kind of issues and considerations when designing games.
ERIN: What would help you learn more about that? Just reading different blogs and stuff?
ANDREW: Yeah. Yeah. Consuming lots of information. I mean I would love to see, just kind of, I’m a very, you know, visual sort of learner and I really like examples, so maybe examples of games that have done some aspects of accessibility poorly or you know, games with… shining examples of games that have done things right, would really help me just kind of internalize what that means.
ANDREW: As a game designer.
ERIN: So what do you say are your favorite games? Like what are you into right now?
ANDREW: Right now.
ANDREW: Well, I’m really a fan–Pandemic is one of my favorite games. I really love Pandemic.
ERIN: Yeah, me too.
ANDREW: It’s fantastic and it goes so well with kind of introducing people to board games…
ERIN: Yes it does.
ANDREW: And I have a lot of people around in my family who have maybe played kind of traditional–you know, Scrabble, Monopoly, those types of board games, but not necessarily anything beyond that. And so I have been playing Pandemic with a lot of people I know, and actually have, you know, I think four or five people have bought it because I’ve introduced it to them. Yeah, so it’s kind of fun introducing people to the amazing hobby with this amazing game.
ERIN: Yeah. I actually, I brought Pandemic on vacation with us and I got my parents to play it, and then like, every day they’re like, “Can we play Pandemic again?” and I’m like, “Yeah, totally.”
ANDREW: It’s so great.
ERIN: Yeah, I know, it’s awesome.
ANDREW: And it doesn’t have, you know the kind of competitive thing that can kind of turn people off sometimes.
ANDREW: And it’s just, it’s so intense. Especially for people who are playing it for the first time.
ERIN: Have you tried the expansions?
ANDREW: Those are on my Christmas list.
ERIN: Oh, okay.
ANDREW: I definitely, the next thing I want to buy is the first expansion of Pandemic: On the Brink. Because, yeah, it’s…. So that’s probably one of my favorite games. I’ve also been playing, oh, I’ve been playing Love Letter which is a really cool microgame.
ERIN: Yeah I like it.
ANDREW: Yeah, just kind of a fun, light game.
ERIN: I found that with Love Letter I don’t like it as a two player game, but or players is much better, I think.
ANDREW: Yeah, I think the complexity, the theme with all the deductions and stuff you have to make increases.
ANDREW: Two player it’s pretty cut and dried even if it works well. And I just got a little while ago, like, the Carcassonne big box set, you know, with all the different expansions and stuff, and my wife really loves playing Carcassonne. So she’s been playing a lot of Carcassonne, you know, we’ll just drop in one of the expansions at a time and play a big game of Carcassonne. And I’m really kind of..starting to collect kind of the basics, you know, a lot of these are *the* games that people should have when they’re starting out in the hobbyist market, so it’s been a lot of fun. What are some of the games you’re playing right now?
ERIN: What am I playing? I’m playing 7 Wonders, I love. And I’m playing, what else am I playing? 7 Wonders, Forbidden Desert, it’s so much fun. Did you play Forbidden Island, too?
ANDREW: Yeah, I did play quite a few games of Forbidden Island a little while ago, and I actually forgot to mention that I have Forbidden Desert and actually play it quite frequently because it’s…awesome.
ERIN: Which one do you like better?
ANDREW: Um, I think Forbidden Desert has a little bit more meat to it. Forbidden Island feels like a good game to introduce kind of younger kids to this type of thing.
ERIN: Yeah I agree.
ANDREW: It does pretty quickly, I mean…it’s not nearly as complex, so it can be easy to grok, you know, fairly quickly. It’s still a really light, fun game to play. So for myself I would say I prefer Forbidden Desert.
ERIN: I get really stressed out when I play Forbidden Desert. It’s like, “Oh my God, we’re gonna die.”
ANDREW: Yeah. Well, Matt Leacock’s games are the most kind of tense, you know, uh stress-oriented games I’ve ever played. [laughing] And it’s so much fun. Cause when you’re all…the first time I–couple of times I played Pandemic, you know, I remember this moment during every game where we were, suddenly realized that oh, we are losing, we are going to lose. And we’re all suddenly standing up at the table while we take–and shouting about what we were going to do. And I love those moments. [laughing]
ERIN: Yeah, me too.
ANDREW: Cause then you sit down afterwards after you’ve been whupped by the game and you’re just like, “Oh man, I was just so engaged.”
ERIN: Yeah. I find that like I actually get really exhausted. Like I have to take a nap after I play.
ANDREW: It’s emotionally draining.
ANDREW: Yeah, it is, it’s intense. Yeah, 7 Wonders I’ve played a couple of times. It’s, I don’t think I quite understood the strategy of it quite yet because I hadn’t gotten into any sort of drafting games at the time. This was kind of early on. So I didn’t really understand what was going on so much. I have been playing an iOS game called Star Realms…
ERIN: Oh I have that too.
ANDREW: Yeah, we should play, ‘cause…
ERIN: Yeah, we should.
ANDREW: I’m totally hooked on it, and drafting as a mechanic has really caught my eye because it has kind of a hidden complexity. That first you go, oh, well, this is totally random, I’m just picking cards, but then you realize that, wow, I can actually improve over time and get really good, somehow. It still seems like magic to me. It’s really, yeah, I’m hooked on it. Yeah, challenge me. Andhegames.
ERIN: Okay. I will, yeah. So how can people get in touch with you? What’s your twitter handle?
ERIN: And the website is?
ERIN: Okay, cool.
ANDREW: Spelled just like it sounds, so.
ERIN: Well thank you for being on my podcast.
ANDREW: Oh, yeah. It’s been fun.
ERIN: It *has* been fun.
ANDREW: And I really look forward to seeing you and everyone at board game hour, every Monday.
ERIN: Yeah, me too.
ANDREW: That’s always a great time.
ERIN: Yeah, it is. Okay, well, take care.
ANDREW: Yeah, you too. Have a good evening.
ERIN: Thank you for listening to another podcast by The Geeky Gimp. If you have any comments, questions, concerns, reach me on Twitter @GeekyGimp, or my email, ERIN:@geekygimp.com. I hope you enjoyed. Thank you. Bye-bye.