Tuesday, February 5, 2019

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 157: Joe Slack

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:Joe Slack
Location:Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Day Job:Game design is my day job. :)
Designing:Two to five years.
Webpage:boardgamedesigncourse.com and crazylikeabox.com
Facebook:Joe Slack
Other:My #1 best-selling book, The Board Game Designer's Guide on Amazon.
Find my games at:Keep an eye out for games coming out soon!
Today's Interview is with:

Joe Slack
Interviewed on: 12/11/2018

Today we meet Joe Slack, a designer who has been fortunate enough to turn game design into a full time job. In addition to designing games, Joe also teaches game design. He taught a game design course at Wilfrid Laurier University and is also running the online Board Game Design Course. He is also the author of the #1 best-selling book, The Board Game Designer's Guide. In fact, you can currently enter a giveaway to win one of five audiobook copies of the game!

Some Basics
Tell me a bit about yourself.

How long have you been designing tabletop games?
Two to five years.

Why did you start designing tabletop games?
I found myself playing the same game with friends over and over, which was fun at first but lost it's appeal after some time, and wanted to make something better!

What game or games are you currently working on?
Isle of Rock and Roll, Jewel Heist, Mayan Curse, Everything Must Go!, and plenty of others

Have you designed any games that have been published?
Two games signed. One coming to Kickstarter spring 2019, and the other one to be released fall 2020.

What is your day job?
Game design is my day job. :)

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
Anywhere other great people want to play.

Who do you normally game with?
My wife, friends, and other game designers.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
I'd start with something light and fun like For Sale. Then maybe Azul, Century: Spice Road, The Mind, or one of many other great games.

And what snacks would you eat?
Chips and salsa

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
Not usually

What’s your favorite FLGS?
I have two. 401 Games and Board Game Bliss. Both are awesome. Great prices and selection. Plus Board Game Bliss has amazing, knowledgeable staff.

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
We just finished Pandemic Legacy Season 1, which was pretty awesome. I wouldn't normally grab Dixit from the shelf, but it's still enjoyable to me. The worst would have to be Snakes and Ladders. Absolutley no decisions to make.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
I don't have a favorite mechanic, but I enjoy any that provide interesting and meaningful decisions. I'm not a huge fan of deck-builders generally.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Century: Spice Road

What styles of games do you play?
I like to play Board Games, Card Games, Video 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?
Every game is different. But generally, I have a name or idea pop into my head and I think about what experience I'd like to create for players. There's often something thematic about this, but not always. The mechanics and theme usually naturally flow from this initial experience I'm aiming for.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
I've entered a few, but have never won a game design competition. I have received some helpful feedback, though.

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
I'd say Matt Leacock is one of my favorite designers.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
Out of the blue. I could be walking around, having a conversation with someone, anything really. I just think "that could be a game!"

How do you go about playtesting your games?
I put together the most basic version I can (MVP = minimum viable prototype) and try it myself to see how it works. Then I make changes, and play with someone else, quite often my wife. I continue to make improvements, and when it is functioning decently, I playtest it with friends, playtesters, and other designers. From there I determine next steps and keep trying to make it better with every iteration.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
I enjoy both designing on my own and with co-designers. Sometimes I've got an idea I just have to run with. Other times I have someone in mind that I know would be able to make my idea so much better by working together. I've pulled other designers in when I've been stuck and others have done the same with me, and it's usually worked out very well. Your game can be that much better with another designer's perspective and you find other designers you love to work with.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Knowing when to just shelf a game rather than keep fixing it.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
Road Rash maybe?

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
Just make something quick and get it in front of people!

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Just make something quick and get it in front of people!

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Published games, I have: On the way...
Games that will soon be published are: Four Word Thinking - A quick, simultaneous word making game (Fall 2020) | King of Indecision - Fulfill the King's every desire to earn his loyalty, but be careful - he changes his mind often... (Spring 2019 on Kickstarter)
Currently looking for a publisher I have: Defio - A 2-4 player dice-drafting and dice-manipulation game, Cunning Linguistics, Awesome Sauce
I'm planning to crowdfund: Montalo's Revenge - A solo game of challenge and adventure
Games I feel are in the final development and tweaking stage are: Isle of Rock n Roll
Games that I'm playtesting are: Mayan Curse, Jewel Heist, Everything Must Go!, Mystery Crew, Storage Wars, Flippin' Dice, BBQ SOS
Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are: Plenty!
And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: Too many to mention!

Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
Too many Facebook 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. Neither. VHS!

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Music, sketch comedy

What is something you learned in the last week?
Wear good footwear when moving a storage cabinet (luckily my toe's not broken!)

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
Rock music. Suspense, mystery, and game design books. Comedy and documentary movies.

What was the last book you read?
The Brain Audit

Do you play any musical instruments?
Yes. I play bass. I also dabble on drums.

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I've never played Magic.

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
Drawing a blank!

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
Most of my games. LOL!

Who is your idol?
My mom.

What would you do if you had a time machine?
Start designing games earlier! And placed some lucky sports bets...

Are you an extrovert or introvert?

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?

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 great games survive, along with music and comedy. If Monopoly gets wiped out forever, I wouldn't be too upset. :)

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):
Thanks to everyone who plays board games and brings others into the hobby!

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

If you're looking for tips and free training on how to design your game, check out my site https://www.boardgamedesigncourse.com/

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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