Tuesday, July 31, 2018

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 131: Jeff Wilcox

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:Jeff Wilcox
Email: jeff@knowbodyknows.com
Location:Suburbs of Chicago
Day Job:Software Consultant
Designing:Over ten years!
BGG:Knowbody Knows
Facebook:Knowbody Knows app
Find my games at:Amazon is the solid one. But, you'll find it at other places.
Today's Interview is with:

Jeff Wilcox
Interviewed on: 6/14/2018

Jeff Wilcox is a Chicago area designer that self-published Knowbody Knows, a silly party game, about 13 years ago. Since then he's worked on other designs, including a follow-up to Knowbody Knows called Who Knows. Read on to learn more about Jeff and his projects!

Some Basics
Tell me a bit about yourself.

How long have you been designing tabletop games?
Over ten years!

Why did you start designing tabletop games?
I've been making various games since I was a kid, so just always been part of me.

What game or games are you currently working on?
I'm working on resurrecting the "email version" of my main produced game called Knowbody Knows.

Have you designed any games that have been published?
I self published Knowbody Knows, years ago.

What is your day job?
Software Consultant

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
around a kitchen table with a beer or two.

Who do you normally game with?
Neighborhood friends

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
Anything social. Party games mainly.

And what snacks would you eat?
Pretzels and cream cheese.

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
Definitely. I'm a Phish guy, but the group is more of a classic rock group.

What’s your favorite FLGS?
Sad, but I don't have one

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Bubble Talk is a family favorite.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
I'm not sure what you mean. But, why I love my game, Knowbody Knows is that there is a winner, but it's so secondary to the actual fun. So, having a winner, but not being super competitive is when I like party games the most.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Balderdash. I love when you can be creative in a game, and that is definitely one. But, some of our friends feel pressure to be creative and don't like that. That's my take anyways!

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?

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 best ones kind of just happen. I like to notice fun conversation, why did everyone love talking about that? how did that come up? And, then kind of back in to that, force that fun conversation. With Knowbody Knows, it all started, thinking about my brother's statement about his unborn son, 14 years ago. He said he'd tell him to save every single bottle cap from every beer he drank, so he'd know how many he had. Then, discussing just how many that'd be. Our answers were wildly different, and it sparked some fun conversation. I took that and ran with it.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
Yes. Knowbody Knows received the "Major Fun Award".

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
Not really. I'm way more in to developing games, and barely care who came up with the games I like. For better or worse.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
As mentioned before, I like watching people and what makes them tick, so I will make mental notes when people are laughing or enjoying themselves, and find ways to channel back to that.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
Nowadays, Just asking friends. When I was developing Knowbody Knows, I ran a game night at a local bar. Kind of testing various rules and all, not necessarily Knowbody Knows related, but definitely used those nights and friends I met through there, to help test that and other games I just never "finished".

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
"I'm a loner, Dotty!" - Pee Wee Herman.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Getting it noticed (in the sea of fun games out there) in a side job capacity. I would call some places, send them a Sample game, then get busy with my main job. Six months later, I'm calling them to see if they liked it, they're like, "what game?!" It's hard to sell part time, but I like my main gig and have a mortgage and family and all, so just don't want to go "all in" either.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
I'd love to come up with games for that Celebrity Party Game show with Jane Lynch. I forget the name.

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
Tough question. I could say I wish someone told me how hard self-publishing a game would be. On the other hand, while it hasn't made me millions, I can't believe my life without trying to run with Knowbody Knows. We've had so many good times playing and talking about it. My wife's a teacher, and her whole staff plays during their off hours on Fridays. That's the stuff I just love hearing about. And, so while it's been a financial loser, it's been a huge spiritual winner, so ...

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Playtest a ton.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Published games, I have: Knowbody Knows and Uncle Rez Pets (much smaller run)
Games that I'm playtesting are: Who Knows. It's a follow up to Knowbody Knows.
Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are: A lot, just busy coaching little league and all these days.
And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: Tons.

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

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, Coke, and VHS.

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Sports and live music

What is something you learned in the last week?
That soup is bad for you! At my age, I have to watch my salt, and recently someone said, "Soup has a ton of salt." I said, what kind of soup? They said ALL Soup!! That's ridiculous. So, Chicken Noodle Soup is bad for me now?!? Geez.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
I'm a jam band guy. Phish is my favorite band of all time. Books, I like that Malcom Gladwell guy, Tipping Point and more. Movies, it's stupid funny movies for me.

What was the last book you read?
The Hunger Game series. The whole family read it.

Do you play any musical instruments?
No. Someday.

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I'm 49 and I can still dive. I dove in college, and try to keep doing some of those dives as long as I can. So, people see this gray haired guy on the diving board, and think ... whu-huh?!?

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
I did one of those tandem skydiving jumps

Who is your idol?
My Mom and Dad

What would you do if you had a time machine?
Sell it for billions.

Are you an extrovert or introvert?

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
Aqua man.

Have any pets?
Yes, Mooch, our 100 pound mutt.

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?
A deck of cards. Amazing how many fun games there are with just those 52 cards.

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

Try my Email Version! It's fun, simple, doesn't take much time, but makes the work day go by faster.

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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