Tuesday, November 10, 2020

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 252: Ben Moy

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:Ben Moy
Location:United States
Day Job:I formerly worked in the exhibition and trade show display industry as a CPQ (Configure Price Quote)/workflow developer, but these days I find myself taking on freelance work I can find.
Designing:Five to ten years.
BGG:Ben Moy
Facebook:Your Friend Ben Moy Designs Board Games
YouTube:The Board Game Blueprint
Find my games at:Currently the Atlas Games website for Breakdancing Meeples - https://atlas-games.com/product_tables/AG1460 - and hopefully a friendly local game store near you!
[GJJ Games] Also, find Ben’s Breakdancing Meeples game at the 2020 Charity Auction for Extra Life!
Today's Interview is with:

Ben Moy
Interviewed on: 7/22/2020

This week we get to meet one of the most passionate, energetic, and enthusiastic people in the industry. Ben Moy is not just a game designer, but he's an amazing ambassador for the board game community as a whole! He's the only person I know that would drive over 15 hours in a weekend, just to make sure he could attend two conventions in different dtates (and not even bordering states - Missouri and Wisconsin) just so he could spread joy and hang out with his friends for a little while. Read on to learn more about Ben and his projects!

Some Basics
Tell me a bit about yourself.

How long have you been designing tabletop games?
Five to ten years.

Why did you start designing tabletop games?
I originally went to school to become a toy designer, but when I was introduced to the board game hobby my final year, something inside me just clicked; not only was I able to combine my creativity and geekdom from life up to this point and design thinking from university together, but I was also able to devote that fusion to something that fostered a much more social and active space.

What game or games are you currently working on?
My first signed game, a real-time dexterity game called Breakdancing Meeples, just hit retail and online order this summer, which is very exciting for me. Meanwhile, I am continuing to push a lighter game called Happy Hong Bao! to completion and hoping to get my first abstract design currently entitled Tyrano Towns to a finalized state.

Have you designed any games that have been published?
I have indeed, the aforementioned Breakdancing Meeples was published by Atlas Games, and I am happy to say has been received positively thus far!

What is your day job?
I formerly worked in the exhibition and trade show display industry as a CPQ (Configure Price Quote)/workflow developer, but these days I find myself taking on freelance work I can find.

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
I have been playing in game stores and cafes for a long while, so in public they are some of my favorite go-to's. I really like going to a friend's house as well though - comfy couches and bringing snacks always makes game day something to look forward to. :D Nowadays, I do plenty of playtesting from behind the computer screen, and I think it has cemented itself into my usual process.

Who do you normally game with?
When I'm not playing prototypes with other designers, which at this point is basically 100% of my gaming, I can play with my local board gaming group who all met online, or for a little while with my parents (9 times out of 10 it is their favorite game, Mahjong).

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
I have a heavy preference for lighter-strategy games; I find that ones that fit in this category (Reef, Sagrada, Santorini) really push you to strategize, but not in a way that will leave you so mentally exhausted after playing you want to be on your phone the next hour. I find the shorter play time also means we can get more games in too. :) But I am also a softie for a good cooperative game, and really enjoy social ones where everyone around the table can work together.

And what snacks would you eat?
I am a big crunchy snacks guy - chips, veggies, etc. Though a chewy cookie and sweets are my other form of Kryptonite. Thankfully fingers can be wiped pretty easily with those, as opposed to a more messy meal that could definitely leave a game unsalvageable.

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
I usually forget to turn it on, but I do enjoy some background music; usually I try to find something that fits the theme, and generally something instrumental with a little bit of ambience to it. For a game of Seikatsu, I remember finding a zen garden playlist on YouTube to have going, which added another layer of tranquility to our play.

What’s your favorite FLGS?
My favorite FLGS is one that I only stepped in once, but wish I could have stayed at; I'm Board! Games & Family Fun in Madison, WI, has an awesome front display area and a really nice back area full of tables for playing. I love how bright their store is too, with plenty of natural lighting coming in, friendly staff, and if I am not mistaken a second location just opened up or on its way. I wish Bryan and his crew much success!

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
My current favorite game (that I am most excited about) is Fort by Leder Games. Least favorite that I still enjoy might be Dead of Winter - when I first learned how to play I had no idea what was going on. *laughs* And worst game I ever played..Probably one of my own untested prototypes; I have a bad habit of not testing my own things out before putting them in front of people, leading to some sometimes very broken experiences.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
My favorite game mechanic might be dice allocation - I love rolling those suckers, and then trying to make them work with hopefully a bit of mitigation - while my least favorite is probably take-that; I don't enjoy piling on someone as much as I used to.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
I played Rising Sun at Geekway to the West my first or second year there, and I got so excited about it I bought a copy from someone. Since then, I played it once, and I think that was years ago - would love to maybe come up with a "house rules" way to play that might purely be action points for more "intuitive" play for my newer-to-the-hobby friends.

What styles of games do you play?
I like to play Board Games, Card Games, Miniatures 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?
No thanks

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?
Lately I have been mechanics-driven as the point of interest - how can I make the system of this game interesting and new? - and then find a theme I feel would be an interesting match-up, or simply a theme that might not be expected. The aforementioned Tyrano Towns I knew I wanted a deconstruction/construction component for table presence, and then had to think about how giant monsters could be woven into the narrative. Once these two are generally agreed-upon, I try then to hone in on the experience I want players to have, which then guides maybe even more of the design choices than the original two points.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
I have definitely entered competitions, and have won a category in a local competition (CUDO Plays). I think they are a great motivator and way to challenge oneself to begin a design and see the project through to fruition; many of my designs actually start from an intended entry into a contest, etc., including Happy Hong Bao!. :)

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
I don't know that I do have a favorite game designer, per se, that I buy or play every one of their games or anything. I recently hung out with Keith Matejka of Thunderworks Games waiting at an airport terminal though, he's pretty cool. And his Roll Player games are great fun, not to mention how beastly his Skulk Hollow design (with Pencil First Games) is.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
I feel like every design is different, but the first place I always start is asking myself, "what can I do that is different?" With Breakdancing Meeples, it was rolling meeples that traditionally act as stationary markers or pawns. With a design I am looking to bring back, Fantasy Golf, it was - "how can I incorporate a dice tower into a design?" And for a way-shelved design, Sea Dogs (a game of puppy pirates), I wanted a weather track - in the shape of a compass! - that players directly affected with the cards they played. I feel like, to come up with my best ideas, I lock myself in my room, sit, and think really hard. At least, the start of ideas.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
For the past several months I have been playtesting exclusively online through Tabletop Simulator (TTS), which I never would have seen myself doing until it became a necessity. Before the now, I would have a few monthly groups I would get together with, meeting in friend's homes or breadhouses, etc., as described previously.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
I have generally worked alone, though believe 100% in accreditation. The way my process goes, I like to implement as much of my testers' feedback into the design as I can, which often leads me going back-and-forth at times, but it is a journey I enjoy going on with them, and I hope they do too. My "focus" is to pitch to publishers, so a lot of the team aspect when it comes to realizing a game is lost on me after it is hopefully signed, but I absolutely love collaborating with friends and offering thoughts whenever I can/is appropriate. I marvel in awe at so many artists.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
My biggest challenge as a game designer is probably standing firm when it comes to feedback - as mentioned above, because I want everyone to feel valued, I maybe take off more than I chew by making changes and tweaks after *every* single playtest, when really I should weigh the validity of each one in the grand scope of my vision for the game, etc. Spinning my wheels to feel busy is easily my greatest weakness (other than crunchy snacks and sweet treats).

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
I can't say I have any designs in mind for a specific IP, but it just came to me a cool one might be the Nickelodeon show Danny Phantom; I really like superheroes, I like its cast of characters, and I like its art direction. I will probably come up with a "better" dream license after this interview but for now I am "going ghost!"

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
I wish someone could have told me long ago (and burned into my brain so I would never fall for these ever again) all the things that sound great but invariably lead to "feel-bad" moments in games. One example might be "lose a turn" - there are many other more interesting and satisfying ways for a penalty than skipping over and denying someone who wants just as much to play the game as anyone else at the table from doing so. Another I can never seem to get right is a zero-sum economy. *laughs*

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Though I do not yet feel what I have to say can be considered advice, perhaps the most insightful thing I can offer is, "be open". My designs have only improved when I was receptive to feedback and opinions that weren't just my own, and I continue to grow as a person by being so; I hope that the readers will also find the same to hold true for them!

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Published games, I have: Breakdancing Meeples - A real-time game of dueling dance crews
Games that will soon be published are: Happy Hong Bao! - A social-light game of strategy and fortune
Games I feel are in the final development and tweaking stage are: Tyrano Towns - A DNA-builder of monstrous proportions
Games that I'm playtesting are: Fantasy Golf - A bard-course gentleman's game
The Halcyon Is Stormed - An asymmetric sci-fi game of objective action

And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: Drop Mech - An arena battle game of gravitational gladiators
I Chit You Knot - A bluffing game of maritime racing

Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
Board Game Design Lab Community and TGC Designer Discussion are my two favorites!

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. Mountain Dew. YouTube? :D

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Besides tabletop games, I enjoy thinking about weightlifting, considering improving my art skills, and enjoying sunshine.

What is something you learned in the last week?
"Prolithic" does not have the meaning I thought it did.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
Favorite type of music will probably always be 50s and 60s, but anything that can move will always be good. I especially like uplifting sorts of tunes. Fantasy was my favorite genre growing up, now I am more likely to read books of insights and such. Favorite movies definitely include action summer blockbusters.

What was the last book you read?
The last book I read (half of) was a biography, How to American: An Immigrant's Guide to Disappointing Your Parents, by Jimmy O. Yang.

Do you play any musical instruments?
I do not play any musical instruments now; a year or two of clarinet in middle school, and learned a few chords on the ukulele end of high school. Wish I knew the harmonica or steel drum.

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
One thing about myself that might surprise people is that I only first watched the Matrix this year.

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
Someone mistook me for another person recently so I pretended to be them for the length of the conversation.

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
Betting my dad I would hit a home run by the end of the season for a PS2 and actually doing it - then there was almost at least one every game by the rest of the team. I think this was 2003 or so?

Who is your idol?
Dwayne Johnson is one of them right now, I would say.

What would you do if you had a time machine?
Use it to bend *space* so I could go to different places and eat delicious foods.

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
I identify as an extrovert, but in my age drift closer to the introvert side of the spectrum.

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
I don't know if any superheroes don't have tragic stories, so I would rather have the powers of any superhero, and that one would be The Flash and super speed; so many designs done like that!

Have any pets?
I do not currently have any pets, but would love a Samoyed to name Sam Moy.

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 recreation as a whole will survive. Much of our way of living will probably shift to survival, but I hope things aren't so poor that we can't also enjoy ourselves. In terms of wiped entirely from human consciousness, I wouldn't mind seeing the removal of conflict and "otherness".

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):
CUDO Plays, JT and The Game Crafter, Atlas Games (Jeff, Kyla, Atlas), Ben & Second Fridays, Gabe Barrett and the BGDL Community at large, Matt Paquette, Elf Creek Games (Mike, Brent, Elf Creek), Thunderworks Games (Keith), Leder Games, Mom, Dad, Bro, UIUC ID Fam, SAL Pals, George Jaros

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

Thank you for this interview, and I hope everyone is sure to practice self-care.

Thank you, George! We love you; I hope you are doing well.

[GJJ Games] Thanks Ben! You’re awesome, and I miss hanging out at Protospiels!

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?  Please 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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