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: 3/11/2017
Andrew Birkett has been designing games for only a couple of years now, but he's already gotten into publishing games through his company Atheris Games. Last year he successfully funded Cul-De-Sac Conquest and has a game (by another designer) on Kickstarter right now! But only for a couple more days. Mutant Crops is already funded and working toward stretch goals in the last 48 hours. For only $19, it's worth checking out now.
Tell me a bit about yourself.
How long have you been designing tabletop games?
One to two years.
Why did you start designing tabletop games?
I have always been really passionate about entrepreneurship. I used to try to start all kinds of businesses as a kid. I bought a gumball machine to put into the AT&T store my dad owned, washed cars, mowed lawns, etc. All my family were entrepreneurs at some point of time or any other so I knew I wanted to start a company. When I was in high school I developed an idea for an automotive trading card game. The game ended up changing into more of a livable card game model and has yet to be published. However, the time developing the business plan and learning game design was instrumental to my introduction to designing tabletop games. Ultimately the artwork costs for my automotive game became too high. I didn't have the capital to continue and I had potential investors that all dropped out so I pivoted to make a board game. At first it was a war game I had been developing whenever I got stuck on the automotive game, but then I changed the theme to be about annoying neighbors. We launched on Kickstarter super quickly and raised just over $20k.
What game or games are you currently working on?
When I was making my automotive game I posted in an art for tabletop games group and asked if any graphic designers would be able to assist me with improving the design of my cards. Sebastian Koziner responded and did the first layout for free. I loved his work so we worked together on all the graphics for the automotive game, Cul-De-Sac Conquest, and my upcoming game Supernatural Socks. In addition to graphic design Sebastian is a game designer and owns a publishing studio in Argentina. Atheris Games is excited to launch Sebastian's game Mutant Crops on Kickstarter March 21st 2017 through April 20th 2017. Mutant Crops is a game about sowing, feeding, watering and harvesting mutated crops. My next game, Supernatural Socks, which is a game about socks being lost in the laundry should be on Kickstarter in June.
Have you designed any games that have been published?
Cul-De-Sac Conquest was my first published game
What is your day job?
I am still a college student at the University of Florida. I took the spring semester off school and work but I often work, go to school, and work on Atheris at the same time. It is pretty stressful, but I love making games and couldn't imagine my life without Atheris Games. I owned a game store shortly (4 months) because I won space at the University of Florida student union, but I felt it took me away from publishing games so I ultimately decided to close it. I now have a job as an account manager. I am still training but it seems like a great job. It is my uncle's company so I work with family, which is nice.
Your Gaming Tastes
My readers would like to know more about you as a gamer.
Where do you prefer to play games?
Who do you normally game with?
Recently my family (most were not gamers before)
If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
We normally play Deception: Murder at Hong Kong, Dixit, Avalon, Cash N Guns and other simple games with large player counts.
And what snacks would you eat?
Any snack is good with me. I eat a ton of candy and drink a lot of Red Bull. Some of my family will bring beer and other drinks over. I normally don't drink alcohol, but I am all for Red Bull. We also ate pizza last week. I am lactose-intolerant, but they make pills to ease digestion.
Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
I guess it would depend on the game. I play music when playing some of my prototype games. I have a office game I am working on and I like to play elevator music. For Cul-De-Sac on my turn I play whatever music would be thematic for my character.
What’s your favorite FLGS?
Gamesville Tabletop definitely has a place in my heart. When I started designing in Gainesville, FL everyone at Gamesville were super helpful and supportive. Though I must admit I love most of the local FLGS in Orlando and all the FLGS that have supported Atheris.
What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
I really enjoy Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle. My least favorite game that was still ok was Backyard Builders Treehouse. The worst game I ever played was a roll-and-move game at a prototype convention.
What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
My favorite mechanic is probably card drafting. My least favorite is probably anything with dice movement.
What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
World’s Fair 1893
What styles of games do you play?
I like to play Board Games, Card Games, RPG 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?
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?
Both. Most of the time I start with theme, but I am designing a game now that has no theme currently.
Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
I have not.
Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
I do a 5-minute game theme challenge almost everyday. That is great inspiration. I also love writing so some of the themes come from that. Cul-De-Sac Conquest started as a story I was writing about annoying neighbors.
How do you go about playtesting your games?
There are local playtesting groups, we also do blind testing and I test with my girlfriend when the games are at the worst. She is kind enough to play them.
Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
I like working with other people. With Supernatural Socks I wanted to design alone since i worked with others on Cul-De-Sac Conquest, but I have many collab projects in the works now.
What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Time. Or rather the lack-thereof.
If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
Probably Guardians of the Galaxy
What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
That prototypes don't need expensive artwork.
What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Prototype rapidly. Take criticism well, but know that at the end of the day it is your game so you need to be happy with it. Have fun.
Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Published games, I have: Cul-De-Sac Conquest
Games that will soon be published are: Supernatural Socks
I'm planning to crowdfund: Supernatural Socks
Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
Yep. Hopefully all of them.
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 but I am not a huge fan of either. Coke and Pepsi are the same thing. VHS. Growing up I used to use VHS tapes to make roads for my Hot Wheels.
What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
I like running, writing and reading.
What is something you learned in the last week?
I am learning a lot about student loan repayment options since I am almost out of school.
Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
I like all kinds of music but I mainly listen to rap. I read a lot of business books, non-fiction and fiction books. Right now I am reading Marcia Clark's Without a Doubt. One of my favorite books is the Green Mile by Stephen King. For movies I am obsessed with Guardians of the Galaxy. I like comedies, too.
What was the last book you read?
Cold Killing by Luke Delaney. It is a fiction book but I read a lot of crime novels (fiction and non-fiction).
Do you play any musical instruments?
Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I have maxed out all of my credit cards to start Atheris Games.
Who is your idol?
Elon Musk. I love cars and Tesla Model D's can do 0 to 60 in 2.8 seconds
What would you do if you had a time machine?
Nothing. I am happy with my life and wouldn't want to accidentally change anything. I do enjoy history so I might go and check out old artifacts in pristine condition.
Are you an extrovert or introvert?
If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
Batman. He has a sweet car and is an entrepreneur.
Have any pets?
My dad has two shih-tzus, Gizmo and Lily.
Just a Bit More
Thanks for answering all my crazy questions! Is there anything else you'd like to tell my readers?
Here are a few more pictures:
Andrew with a Holeshot Heroes shirt and a copy of Oni, the first game Sebastian Koziner (the designer of Mutant Crops) had published internationally. Holeshot Heroes was the car game Andrew was working on.
Andrew is Kickstarting Mutant Crops, Atheris' second game, by Sebastian Koziner. Check out the game now!
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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