Welcome to People Behind the Meeples, a series of interviews with indie game designers. Here you'll find out more than you ever wanted to know about the people who make the best games that you may or may not have heard of before. If you'd like to be featured, head over to http://gjjgames.blogspot.com/p/game-designer-interview-questionnaire.html and fill out the questionnaire! You can find all the interviews here: People Behind the Meeples or in the index.
Interviewed on: 1/28/2017
If you're in southern California and into game design, chances are you've run into Patrick Marino. He's an active designer in that community as well as online in a number of different design groups. He doesn't have anything published... yet. Two games are currently with publishers and will hopefully be seeing publication some time this year. Read on to learn more about Patrick and the other projects he's working on.
Tell me a bit about yourself.
How long have you been designing tabletop games?
Five to ten years.
Why did you start designing tabletop games?
I played a lot of games with my brother Jim as a kid and then fell out of it during college when my focus turned more to video games. As an adult I was reintroduced to boardgames through Catan and was immediately hooked. I became a bit obsessive in learning about hobby games. Not long after an idea came to me for a new game and I couldn't stop thinking about it, so I did some research on the industry and decided to make a prototype and start testing it out.
What game or games are you currently working on?
I have quite a few projects in various stages right now including "Spell Bound Books," "Mountains Out of Molehills," "Faberge Chickens," "Frankenstein Academy," "Spirit of the Trees," "Powder Keg," "Action News Team," and "Restaurateur." Many of these are being co-designed with my brother Jim DiCamillo
Have you designed any games that have been published?
Both "Faberge Chickens" and "Mountains Out of Molehills," which Jim and I designed together, are under contract for publication. "Faberge Chickens" should be out first later this year; though likely under a different name due to trademark issues with the Faberge brand.
What is your day job?
I work in the Residential Life Office at the University of San Diego where my primary role is to oversee the on-campus housing for all of our first-year students.
Your Gaming Tastes
My readers would like to know more about you as a gamer.
Where do you prefer to play games?
I mostly play games at home or at a friends home. With that said we have some great stores in the San Diego area as well, including "At Ease Games" which is now connected to the Barrel Harbor Beer tasting room; and Pair-a-dice in Vista where I have helped to host a few Unpub play-testing events.
Who do you normally game with?
I probably game with my wife most often, and then I have a few different friend groups in the area as well. We also have a great community of game designers here in San Diego and we meet-up to test each other’s prototypes. When I am back East I also play games with my brother Jim who I also design with. Our Mom also enjoys playing games with us over the holidays.
If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
I usually tailor the game selection to the players and their level of experience with tabletop games. Personally, I like Euro games, so an ideal scenario for me is to have a group that is interested in a weightier euro game. Alternately, I always appreciate an opportunity to play-test one of my own designs to get feedback.
And what snacks would you eat?
I have a weakness for baked goods, so if it were up to me it would probably be cookies or brownies. Though I periodically do the Whole30 diet to eat healthy, in which case it would be fruit and veggies.
Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
I do enjoy having music on in the background, but rarely think to turn it on when playing games. If I do have music it is usually one of my many Pandora stations which cover all genres of music.
What’s your favorite FLGS?
This is a tough question. I used to live in Rochester, NY, so we had Millennium games which set a high standard. Here in San Diego there are several great stores. At Ease Games has my favorite gaming area and the connecting beer tasting room, Pair-A-Dice has the best selection of board games in the area, and Game Empire is close to where I live, and is good about featuring new games, so they are all great in their own ways.
What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
My current favorite might be Burano, it just has a good mix of mechanics I like and I love the 3d building aspect of the houses. I also got to play Raiders of the North Sea and Champions of Midgard recently which I really enjoyed as well. My least favorite game that I still enjoy is probably Pandemic, I really enjoyed Pandemic Legacy but I often hesitate to play the original. In general I tend to prefer competitive games but a coop can be great with the right people. The worst game I have ever played is a toss up between two kickstarter games I backed a few years ago. I won't name them here, but both of them had serious issues with the mechanics - one was broken and the other was missing key parts of the rules.
What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
I really enjoy worker placement games and set-collection mechanics when they are done well. I also like puzzles within games, which some of my designs tend to have. I am not a big fan of bluffing games, for some reason they just don't seem to click with the people I game with.
What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
What styles of games do you play?
I like to play Board Games, Card Games
Do you design different styles of games than what you play?
I like to design Board Games, Card Games
OK, here's a pretty polarizing game. Do you like and play Cards Against Humanity?
In the right circumstances it can be fun, but not my first choice.
You as a Designer
OK, now the bit that sets you apart from the typical gamer. Let's find out about you as a game designer.
When you design games, do you come up with a theme first and build the mechanics around that? Or do you come up with mechanics and then add a theme? Or something else?
It depends on the game. I have designed from both perspectives, but I usually get more excited about the mechanics. My most successful designs are those that blend the two really well.
Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
I submitted Frankenstein Academy and Spell Bound Books to this year’s Cardboard Edison Award; which is my 1st design competition. I am honored that both games were selected as finalists, and that Frankenstein Academy got a shout out on the Secret Cabal Gaming Podcast when they did a news segment about the competition. There are a ton of great games in the finals, and the winner will be announced on 4/6 at cardboardedison.com The website also has videos on each of the finalists and I recommend checking them out.
Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
I am a big fan of Uwe Rosenberg and I am really drawn to Alexander Pfister's work recently.
Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
I keep a notebook where I write one new idea a day for either a mechanic or a theme or both. I have been doing that for the last 155 days or so. Prior to that I would jot things down as they came to me. My ideas come from all kinds of sources, I am always thinking about games and sometimes the connections just come. The original inspiration for Spell Bound Books came from watching a casino dealer shuffle domino tiles for Pai Gow Dominos. Most importantly I work with my older brother Jim DiCamillo. I'll share a rough idea, and then he will add his own thoughts or interpretations; which always leads to better games; in fact Jim and I co-designed both of the games that are being published.
How do you go about playtesting your games?
I start by testing them myself to work out the biggest flaws. When the game seems to work I will bring it to our designer meet-up, share it with my gaming groups and/or bring it to conventions. I help coordinate the Unpub mini here in San Diego which has been a great source of feedback. I also attend GenCon each year and test games in the First Exposure Playtest Hall. This year I will attend Unpub 7 in Baltimore as well.
Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
I enjoy working with my brother as he and I have similar understandings of game mechanics and themes, but different ideas and approaches. I have designed a few games solo as well, but I think having co-designers can lead to stronger games. My friend Tristan Rios is also a great sounding board for ideas.
What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
There is never enough time! I work full time and I am working on a PhD, so making the time to build prototypes and test them is always a challenge. At this point I have more ideas than I'll ever be able to use.
If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
When I designed Spell Bound Books it had a very different theme. In its current form I think it would be awesome to fold into the Harry Potter IP as a Flourish and Blotts game. I would also love to work with Patrick Rothfuss on a Kingkiller Chronicle game.
What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
I was fortunate enough to find The Kobold Guide to Boardgame design fairly early on and I think that book saved me from making a lot of mistakes. I do wish I had been introduced to podcasts and social media networks earlier though as I do a lot of research through these channels.
What advice would you like to share about designing games?
I think it is really important to do your homework and listen to the advice of publishers and other designers. It is essential to approach game design as a constant learning experience - whether that is learning about how to better pitch games or learning from play-testers. It can be hard to receive critical feedback, but at this point I love when my play-testers are critical because it gives me something to work on and ultimately because I want to make the best games possible.
Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Published games, I have: Nothing yet- but coming soon
Games that will soon be published are: Faberge Chickens and Mountains Out of Molehills
This is what I have currently crowdfunding: None - I prefer working with publishers over crowdfunding.
Currently looking for a publisher I have: Frankenstein Academy, Spell Bound Books
Games that I'm playtesting are: Powder Keg, Spirit of the Trees, Restaurateur
Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are: Action News Team: 12 Hour Cycle
And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: Too many to list!
Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
Card and Board Game Developers Guild, Unpub Mini SD, San Diego Board Game Design Group, SoCal Playtesting, and several other smaller groups.
And the oddly personal, but harmless stuff…
OK, enough of the game stuff, let's find out what really makes you tick! These are the questions that I’m sure are on everyone’s minds!
Star Trek or Star Wars? Coke or Pepsi? VHS or Betamax?
Star Wars. I gave up drinking soda so coffee for me. If it's movies I'll take Blu-Ray.
What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
I rock climb and play guitar, though I am not very good. Mostly tabletop games are my singular obsession.
What is something you learned in the last week?
I just started my last semester of classes in my PhD program, so I learned a few new things about qualitative research design. I also picked up a few tips on pitching games from the Board Game Design Lab podcast.
Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
I like a very wide range of music, but I am partial to songs with great acoustic guitar. Favorite books at the moment are the Kingkiller Chronicle series, I am also a big fan of the Ender's Game series, LotR and Ready Player One. As for movies I enjoy the Hobbit and LotR movies; and the original Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with Gene Wilder.
What was the last book you read?
"The Evolving Self" by Robert Kegan (for class) before that "100 Principles of Game Design" Edited by Wendy Despain.
Do you play any musical instruments?
In school I played the viola in the orchestra. I played electric bass in a band as well. Now I just play a bit of guitar when I can find the time.
Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I was really into B-boying (breakdancing) for awhile and took lessons several nights a week.
Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
The past two years I went rock climbing in Joshua Tree over Thanksgiving.
Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
Faberge Chickens as a game design probably qualifies. It start out as a joke between my brother and I and it turned into a great game.
Who is your idol?
Not sure I have an idol per se, but there are a lot of people whose work I admire. In the game industry it ranges from designers like Uwe Rosenberg and Alexander Pfister, to content creators like Rodney Smith and The Secret Cabal Founders. There are a lot of musicians I really admire as well.
What would you do if you had a time machine?
Tough question. If I could, I would try to undo historic atrocities. Selfishly I would convince my younger self to start designing games earlier in life.
Are you an extrovert or introvert?
An introvert. I can play the part of an extrovert when needed, but it is exhausting.
If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
Professor X I think, as he is powerful, but wise.
Have any pets?
An amazing dog named Murphy.
When the next asteroid hits Earth, causing the Yellowstone caldera to explode, California to fall into the ocean, the sea levels to rise, and the next ice age to set in, what current games or other pastimes do you think (or hope) will survive into the next era of human civilization? What do you hope is underneath that asteroid to be wiped out of the human consciousness forever?
I would hate to see any aspect of geek culture destroyed; as every game or fandom is important to different groups of people. If anything I'd like to see the culture around judging people's interests or hobbies be destroyed along with the Gamergate mentality.
If you’d like to send a shout out to anyone, anyone at all, here’s your chance (I can’t guarantee they’ll read this though):
I'll give a shoutout to my brother Jim and Tristan Rios for being a part of my game design journey; and to my wife for supporting my game design pursuits.
Thanks for answering all my crazy questions!
Thank you for reading this People Behind the Meeples indie game designer interview! You can find all the interviews here: People Behind the Meeples and if you'd like to be featured yourself, you can fill out the questionnaire here: http://gjjgames.blogspot.com/p/game-designer-interview-questionnaire.html
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