Tuesday, January 2, 2018

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 102: Mike Szalajko

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. Support me on Patreon!

Name:Mike Szalajko
Location:Orlando, FL
Day Job:Making Games! I quit my job to pursue this dream of making games!
Designing:Less than six months.
Find my games at:Hit us up; we are running game days! And Indiegogo come Feb 2018.
Today's Interview is with:

Mike Szalajko
Interviewed on: 11/11/2017

Mike Szalajko is half the team behind Lethal Chicken Games, a startup game design comapny looking to release their first game this year. Look for What the Film?! on IndieGoGo in February, and if you're in the Orlando, FL area you can catch them at Cool Stuff Inc. to playtest their games.

Some Basics
Tell me a bit about yourself.

How long have you been designing tabletop games?
Less than six months.

Why did you start designing tabletop games?
We wanted to create light fun hearted games we can play in a social environment! Essentially make what we love to do!

What game or games are you currently working on?
What The Film?! will be launching on Indiegogo in Feb and we are working on a light card game called Camping With Sasquatch.

Have you designed any games that have been published?
Not yet, What The Film?! Is our first title

What is your day job?
Making Games! I quit my job to pursue this dream of making games!

Your Gaming Tastes
My readers would like to know more about you as a gamer.

Where do you prefer to play games?
Monthly at Cool Stuff Inc. Weekly at our homes.

Who do you normally game with?
Wife and Friends

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
Sheriff of Nottingham, Smallworld, Cash and Guns, Obama Llama, The Godfather

And what snacks would you eat?
Everything but Chicken, You never want the Lethal Chicken to get angry!

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
Yes we do. Depending on the theme of the game

What’s your favorite FLGS?
Cool Stuff Inc.

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Nothing Personal my favorite, Catan is least favorite, Worst game ever is St. Petersburg or any Euro. I am falling asleep just saying the word EURO

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
Take That or Social Deduction. Programming

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Cosmic Encounter

What styles of games do you play?
I like to play Board Games, Card Games, Miniatures Games, Video Games

Do you design different styles of games than what you play?
I like to design Card Games, Other 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?
The Theme first then the mechanics fall into place. I love theme! Our games include simple mechanics. So we really pound out the theme! For instance What The Film?! is sketch art in black and white to resemble a storyboard! We want everyone to feel like a movie maker!

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
No and No

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
Eric Lang

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
All over and anytime. What The Film?! came about in a tent during Hurricane Irma clean up service project at like 3 A.M. Inspiration and creativity can come at anytime anywhere, let it happen.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
We start off by obviously testing games with friends and family. Then blind testing. Let's face it your mom isn't going to tell you your game sucks! I like our blind tests to feel like an event. So we do the whole invite thing, I always look for our testers to feel good about us as a brand and our games.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
Team work makes the dream work! I think the best ideas come when you are bouncing them off others. It is the Marketing major in me! We are currently a team of two with commissioned artists.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Understanding that your games might not be for everyone. We make light social games, so finding that balance of a game that is for everyone. We want to let the community know that laughing and light heartedness is just as important as huge grandiose games.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
Gravity Falls or The Aquabats

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
How much work goes into it haha. No, but seriously, even for a light game like What The Film?! It is a lot of hours.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Remember there is a place for your idea! Don't let people tell you it will never work. There is always someone out there waiting for your personal creativity. Also, just have fun. If you are not loving every second of the process there is something wrong! The last point is don't neglect marketing, you might have a great game, but if no one believes in your brand you might never get it out there.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Games that will soon be published are: What The Film?! (Will be launching crowdfunding in Feb.)
I'm planning to crowdfund: Camping With Sasquatch.
Games I feel are in the final development and tweaking stage are: What The Film?!
Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are: Camping With Sasquatch.
And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: If I told you, I would have to kill you!

Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
Board Game Developers Guild

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. Both Coke and Pepsi mixed together. VHS all day!

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Hockey and Video Gaming!

What is something you learned in the last week?
That Rhode Island is neither a road nor an island.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
SKA. Biographies. All kinds. (guilty pleasure is romantic comedies shhh don't tell anyone.)

What was the last book you read?
Don Cherry's Hockey Stories and Stuff.

Do you play any musical instruments?

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I am Mormon. Due to the fact that I'm covered in tattoos haha gets them every time!

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
I got lost in Mexico when I was 18!

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
Moving to Florida.

Who is your idol?
Tim Burton

What would you do if you had a time machine?
I would probably go back to when my parents were teenagers. Just like Marty McFly. Help them out! haha

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Totally extrovert!

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
Howard The Duck, he is hilarious

Have any pets?

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 hope to finally get in a game of Cosmic Encounter, maybe with Keith Richards, Myself, a Yeti, Nick Nolte, and One of the guys from the Jersey Shore( dealers choice.) There will be no class separation, when we are all living in igloos. What I hope gets wiped out is political correctness, you can really say what you want in survival mode!

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):
Shout out to those guys and gals at Big Potato Games, they are super cool and make golden fun games. Also Full Sail University who taught me being different is cool!

Just a Bit More
Thanks for answering all my crazy questions! Is there anything else you'd like to tell my readers?

There is a place for smaller games that are just light hearted fun!

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

Did you like this interview?  Pleasse show your support: Support me on Patreon! Or click the heart at Board Game Links , like GJJ Games on Facebook , or follow on Twitter .  And be sure to check out my games on  Tabletop Generation.

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