Tuesday, July 28, 2020

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 235: Aaron McDonell Moline

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:Aaron McDonell Moline
Location:New York City
Day Job:I am a journalist by profession, but I've been working on Antematter full time for the past many months.
Designing:Three years.
Find my games at:On Kickstarter this August!
Today's Interview is with:

Aaron McDonell Moline
Interviewed on: 7/18/2020

In 2017, Aaron McDonell Moline founded BardShark Games with his friends and family with the goal of designing and publishing exciting, new games. His first design, Antematter, will be on Kickstarter next month. Read on to learn more about Aaron and his current projects.

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?
Because I love games, and because I think that working on what you love is the best kind of life.

What game or games are you currently working on?
Antematter, and some preproduction stuff I'm not gonna get into just yet.

Have you designed any games that have been published?
Not yet!

What is your day job?
I am a journalist by profession, but I've been working on Antematter full time for the past many months.

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
In my home.

Who do you normally game with?
My wife, my friends, my brother. Basically all the people I work with at BardShark.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
Something fun and not too rules heavy, like Codenames.

And what snacks would you eat?
New York has the best delivery in the world, so we tend to vary our team meals.

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
Depends on the game. For Antematter, some Jazz might be what I'm looking for.

What’s your favorite FLGS?
Hex and Company

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
It's a hard one. I love Boss Monster. I wanted to love Scythe and I've enjoyed playing it, but it's not for me. I've played a LOT of very bad games over the years. Have you ever heard of Floating Runner?

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
I dig games whose narrative and mechanics are blended together to form a whole better than the sum of its parts. My least favorite things are just bummers like durability or inventory systems that take you from playing something fun to managing something clunky and boring.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Man, what I wouldn't give just to have my friends over for a regular old game of Poker.

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

Do you design different styles of games than what you play?
I like to design Board Games, RPG Games, Video Games

OK, here's a pretty polarizing game. Do you like and play Cards Against Humanity?
I like cards and 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?
I think that development is an iterative process that should intertwine story and themes with the gameplay. In our case, the theme and world our games take place in was devised over the course of years, but the mechanics of the game were built on their own and have shaped and been shaped by the theme we've chosen.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
I think what Jamey Stegmaier is doing over at Stonemaier Games is pretty awesome.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
I think the best ways to get inspiration are to immerse yourself in games, talk about games, and collaborate.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
First we do a whole mess of internal playtesting. Then we bring in trusted friends and family who like to play games. Then we playtest it ourselves some more. Then we take it to conventions where enthusiasts can get their hands on it and provide feedback. Then we go back and playtest it some more, and repeat the process. So far it's worked out for us.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
I have the best team behind me. Artists, mechanics, problem solvers, all friends and family.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Coming from out of nowhere and trying to get people as excited as we are about this new game we've been working on.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
Our IP. The Engine Star Universe. Although if you twisted my arm to mention an outside IP, I'd have to confess that I would love to do something in fantasy, like A Song of Ice and Fire or Lord of the Rings.

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
That I'd love it this much, and to start earlier.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Work with people you trust, and learn how to juggle.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
I'm planning to crowdfund: Antematter

Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
Board Game Reviewers and Media Tabletop Game Kickstarter Advice The Boardgame Group

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?

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Video games, for sure. I'm a voracious reader of nonfiction and history. I also love a bad/good B-Movie.

What is something you learned in the last week?
I learned that getting the first prototypes for your very first game feels pretty freaking awesome.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
My music taste is pretty broad. Books I tend to read mostly nonfiction but I do read science fiction and fantasy. Lord of the Rings, Dune, A Song of Ice and Fire, classic Asimov.

What was the last book you read?
Gods of War, a look at various military rivalries throughout history from Scipio vs Hannibal to Patton and Montgomery vs Rommel.

Do you play any musical instruments?
I am pitiful at guitar.

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I don't eat cheese. Except on pizza. (I am so sorry).

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
Right after college I moved to Prague, a city I had never been to and where I knew absolutely no one.

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
I met my wife entirely by accident in college. My friends and I had the last open room on campus and she became our fourth roommate.

Who is your idol?
I tend not to idolize. But probably an artist who is unapologetically themselves creatively, like Tarantino or Paul Tomas Anderson, or Wes Anderson. What is it with Andersons?

What would you do if you had a time machine?
I would go back in time and convince myself to start making games much earlier.

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Introvert by temperament, extrovert by necessity.

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
When I was a kid and we played superheroes, I would invariably pick Wolverine.

Have any pets?
Not yet, but hopefully a dog soon.

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?
Hopefully some of mine! I think that there are games out there that absolutely will pass the test of time, and I think lots of the most popular ones now will recede into the background. I'm at pains to try to wish oblivion on anyone's creative work, but I must confess that I think some of the lazier installments of certain long and tired games series could stand to be culled.

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):
To our fans and the friendly people who helped us test our game and gave us such fantastic feedback, I'd just have to extend a sincere thank you.

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

Just to feel free to reach out to learn more about us or our game.

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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