Tuesday, May 25, 2021

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 281: Jessica Metheringham

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:Jessica Metheringham
Day Job:I run political workshops. I also look after two small children (nearly 3 and nearly 5), and chair UK campaign group Unlock Democracy.
Designing:One to two years.
BGG:Disarm The Base
Facebook:Library Labyrinth
Today's Interview is with:

Jessica Metheringham
Interviewed on: 2/11/2021

This week's interview is with Jessica Metheringham, the designer behind the successfully Kickstarted Disarm The Base. Soon she'll be running a campaign for her new game, Library Labyrinth, so keep your eye out for that! In the meantime, read on to learn more about Jessica and her current projects.

Some Basics
Tell me a bit about yourself.

How long have you been designing tabletop games?
One to two years.

Why did you start designing tabletop games?
I love playing games, and I had an idea for a game based on direct action some friends of mine had done. I couldn’t immediately think of many games based on activism, so I decided to make one.

What game or games are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on Library Labyrinth. It’s a gateway-weight game about famous historical and fictional women. You’re trapped in a library and literary horrors are hiding between the shelves, so you ask characters from the books to help you escape.

Have you designed any games that have been published?
I successfully kickstarted Disarm the Base in 2019. That was fun.

What is your day job?
I run political workshops. I also look after two small children (nearly 3 and nearly 5), and chair UK campaign group Unlock Democracy.

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
Anywhere there is a good supply of tea! The kitchen table, usually. Cafes are nice too.

Who do you normally game with?
Usually my partner, or our neighbours. It’s been mainly over zoom for the last year, which has not really been the same.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
Possibly Pandemic. Or Sub Terra.

And what snacks would you eat?
We’d have dinner first, but probably have some cake during the game.

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
No music! Actually, that’s something I feel quite strongly about. No music.

What’s your favorite FLGS?
Our local is lovely. It’s called Eclectic Games. It used to run parent and baby game afternoons, which were so useful when the children were tiny.

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
I’m really enjoying Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective at the moment. Least favourite....um, I feel that I don’t really get 7 Wonders, although I do enjoy it when I do play. Worst game I ever played — I don’t much like escape room games, much as I love actual escape rooms.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
I like tile-laying, so I am always eager to play games such as Alhambra! I’m not that keen on bidding.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
I can never get Mysterium to the table. No one else seems to want to play it!

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

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?
Depends on the game. I’ve done both in the past.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
Entered, but not won....

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
I’m terrible with names. And faces. And networking.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
Talking with other people helps. It’s generally triggered by a throw away comment someone else has made.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
I start with me. Then inflict it on my partner, or a friend. Then I ask friends on Facebook if they’d play it (generally for payment in jellybeans).

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
I can see the merits of a team. It depends how big a game it is, really. I am terrible at true team working (ie, all working together on the same thing at the same time), but if you’re all doing different parts then it can work beautifully.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Networking. What, you want me to talk to people?

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
Whisper it, but I don’t really have the right mindset to be a fan. I mean, I like things, but other people seem to have a whole fan switch which I don’t have. Things like favourites are quite fleeting too.

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
The games don’t have to be big. A postcard can be a game.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Probably the same as above. Small games are just as valid.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Published games, I have: Disarm the Base
I'm planning to crowdfund: Library Labyrinth
And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: So many others!

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 Trek. Tea? VHS, I suppose....

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Does going on protests count? I read a lot.

What is something you learned in the last week?
Cheap hair ties are not worth it.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
I was a teenage metalhead — I quite like the wall of noise. Definitely the classics when it comes to literature, although really I’ll read anything. Dorothy L Sayers is obviously the best. And on films I’m at least a decade behind everyone else.

What was the last book you read?
Well, at time of writing I have a few on the go. Last one I closed was The Palm Wine Drinkard, by Amos Tutuola.

Do you play any musical instruments?
I’m practically tone deaf.

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I can’t wink.

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
In secondary school (age about 14) I ate my science experiment for a dare. I believe it was a leaf with some sort of chemical on it. It was non-toxic, luckily.

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
No answer. My children might read this.

Who is your idol?
I’m really really terrible at remembering names.....or being a fan.

What would you do if you had a time machine?
Panic. I’ve read HG Wells, and the future is terrifying.

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Definitely an introvert.

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
Oh, I’d definitely be a villain. Definitely.

Have any pets?
No. I’d quite like a snake though.

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?
To be honest, I think chess will survive. And poker — because I’m much better at poker than chess! And can I have logical positivism under the asteroid please?

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):
This sounds suspiciously like networking to me...

Thanks for answering all my crazy questions!

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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