Tuesday, March 17, 2020

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 216: Jay Cormier

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:Jay Cormier
Location:Vancouver, BC, Canada
Day Job:Video Production Specialist
Designing:Over ten years!
BGG:Jay Cormier
Facebook:Off the Page Games
YouTube:Off The Page Games
Find my games at:BGG, Game stores!
Today's Interview is with:

Jay Cormier
Interviewed on: 2/14/2020

The second interview this week is with Jay Cormier, who there is a good chance you've heard of! Jay has published over a dozen games with a bunch more coming up soon. Most of his games have been designed with his design partner Sen-Foong Lim, who I interviewed in 2017. Currently Jay is running a Kickstarter for his first self-published game, MIND MGMT: The Psychic Espionage "Game", so check it out now!

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 think anyone that enjoys a creative medium and is also creative in some way will eventually find a way to contribute to that medium. So, I have always enjoyed playing games of all sorts since I was a kid. I was designing board games and video games as I grew up. It wasn't until the renaissance of the modern board game era where I felt drawn to contributing to this medium once more. I started playing modern board games in the early to mid 90's when Magic was first starting up. I got hooked on that game hard and loved it so much! That opened the door to all sorts of other games, and along side me the entire time was my best bud, Sen. He actually ushered me into all these games! Eventually we thought we could make a game. Why not? How hard could it be? So we sat down and made something...not a game per se...but something! It wasn't interesting and we couldn't figure out how to make it interesting so we slowly talked about it less and less. It wasn't until I moved super far away from Sen, to the other side of the country when we decided that we needed something to do together to stay in touch. We thought we'd give designing board games another go. This time it stuck and we haven't stopped!
What game or games are you currently working on?
MIND MGMT: The Psychic Espionage "Game"
Have you designed any games that have been published?
Over a dozen! Belfort, Junk Art, Akrotiri, In the Hall of the Mountain King, D&D: Rock Paper Wizard, Zombie Slam, But Wait There's More, Train of Thought, Tortuga, Godfather: A New Don, Orphan Black: The Card Game, This Town Ain't Big Enough for the 2-4 Of Us, Djinn, and Tic Tac Moo
What is your day job?
Video Production Specialist

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, but I playtest games weekly at a game store.
Who do you normally game with?
I playtest with the Game Artisans of Canada, Vancouver chapter. Other than that, since I've had twins (3 years now), my regular gaming has subsided. Hopefully this will return once they're older - and they'll play with me!
If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
I am definitely into the Cult of the New, so anything new and different. I also have a few escape room in a box games that I'd like to play!
And what snacks would you eat?
Hmmm...chips I guess! Can't go wrong with chips!
Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
Maybe quietly and in the background. I'd play some upbeat alternative type music.
What’s your favorite FLGS?
Magic Stronghold in Vancouver because I'm there every week. They let us playtest our games and that's super supportive!
What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Favourite? Hmmm...that changes a lot. I will always play Time's Up: Title Recall at a party. It's my favourite party game that never gets old. I love any game that's trying to do something different. Like Loony Quest or Detective.
What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
I love tile placing! Love it! I've loved Entdecker for a long time, and it was partly responsible for Akrotiri. Sen and I just said, let's make a tile laying game, since I loved them so much. I think they make me feel like I'm exploring and even in abstract games, they make it feel a lot more themey. Amerigo has polyomino tile laying and that's satisfying too! My least favourite is pick up and deliver, which is super funny because my absolute 2 favourite games that I've designed both have pick up and deliver (Akrotiri and In the Hall of the Mountain King). The thing I dislike about this mechanic is how slow it can be. I pick this up here and then next turn I move a few spaces, then the following turn I move a bit more and then finally I get to where I am going to deliver it. Very slow. For Akrotiri we made the traveling super fast by allowing players to move from dock to dock with only 1 action point. For In the Hall of the Mountain King, it's more of a resource management thing than the main objective. Do you have enough carts of the right colour to get your statues where they need to go?
What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Amerigo? I really love it, but haven't played it in awhile.
What styles of games do you play?
I like to play Board Games, Card Games, Video Games, Other Games?
Do you design different styles of games than what you play?
I like to design Board Games, Card Games, Other Games?
OK, here's a pretty polarizing game. Do you like and play Cards Against Humanity?
Hey, we had a lot of fun with it when it came out, but it got stale super fast. I'm disappointed with companies that make CAH rip-offs though.

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?
Both - and more! Sometimes we've started with the title (like Train of Thought came first and we said - what would that game be about?). That said, I will say that any game idea that started with a mechanic first has had a much higher success rate than if it started with a theme first. It might be my brain, but I need to ensure there's something unique and different with how the game is played. That excites me more than saying Zombies in Space!
Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
Entered and made it to the finals, but didn't win.
Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
Oh there are a lot. Anyone that's trying new and different things. Phil Walker-Harding is always doing new and different things. Antoine Bauza has been pretty amazing with really creating the drafting mechanic as a game with 7 Wonders and then also creating Hanabi with the aspect of not being able to see your own cards. Both are so inventive!
Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
From constantly brainstorming and keeping track of all ideas on a forum with my design partner Sen-Foong Lim! We'd come up with hundreds of ideas and eventually one of them would interest both of us and we're off to the races!
How do you go about playtesting your games?
I'm fortunate enough to have a weekly playtest group of other designers. It's amazing and I'd highly recommend designers to find other designers to playtest with to get really interesting and useful feedback.
Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
I've designed one game on my own: Draw Your Own Conclusions - that just came out from Grey Fox Games. Otherwise I've designed with a partner. Most with Sen-Foong Lim and then In the Hall of the Mountain King with Graeme Jahns. I have 2 more signed games that are each designed with a different partner as well.
What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Time. I'd just love to have more time. I'd love to be full time as a designer but it isn't feasible right now. I am able to be part time at my job job, which is 3 days a week, and then 2 days a week as a game designer, and that's awesome. Otherwise, I'd say playtesting. Even though I'm able to playtest weekly, I could easily playtest 2-3 times a week based on the number of designs I have going on at any one time. But then it goes back to also needing more time. With twin 3 year old boys at home, I can't be out every night playtesting!
If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
Indiana Jones. Can you make this happen???
What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
I've learned it since, but early on: Don't change the game based on every single piece of feedback you get. You're the designer. You make the call on what you should change or not. 100% you need to listen and make notes about the feedback you're getting, but it doesn't mean you have to act on everything.
What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Partner up. Sure you cut your royalties in half, but if money is the reason why you're getting into game design, then you're in the wrong field. It's just like being a writer. For every JK Rowling, there are a million other writers trying to get by. Find a partner who has the same passion and objectives that you do. Someone you can work with. Someone who can take feedback and work with it. Someone who will do half the work. This really helps when you're in a motivational rut. Your partner can pick up where you left off.
Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Published games, I have:
Belfort: The Expansion Expansion
Train of Thought
But Wait There's More
This Town Ain't Big Enough for the 2-4 Of Us
Orphan Black: The Card Game
Godfather: A New Don
Junk Art
D&D: Rock Paper Wizard
D&D: RPW Fistful of Monsters
MIB: Undercover
Zombie Slam
Tic Tac Moo
In the Hall of the Mountain King
Draw Your Own Conclusions

Games that will soon be published are:
MIND MGMT: The Psychic Espionage "Game"
WWE: Headlock Paper Scissors
Belfort: Her Majesty's Civil Service
2 unannounced 'escape room in a box' games
Draw the Line
Godzilla Card Game

This is what I have currently crowdfunding: MIND MGMT: The Psychic Espionage "Game" is from March 3rd to April 2nd
Currently looking for a publisher I have: Too many to list! :-)
Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)

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?
I'm not much of a fan of either of the Star franchises, though I enjoyed parts 1 and 3 of the new Star Trek movies. I enjoy Diet Coke and I had a Betamax, but obviously had to switch to VHS so I could rent movies!
What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Playing video games - especially 3rd person action games like Tomb Raider or Assassin's Creed. I love reading comics when I get the chance and movies are probably my biggest passion outside of games. My wife is continually amazed at how much I know about every movie, but still can't remember to take out the garbage.
What is something you learned in the last week?
Seeing that I'm less than 3 weeks away from running my first Kickstarter as a board game publisher (I ran one last year for the Fail Faster Playtesting Journal), I'm learning 10 new things a day - or more! This week? I learned about setting deadlines with your partners not just so you can get the content you need, but to also work in the schedules of other people that might be affected - like your graphic designer!!!
Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
Music: I like upbeat music! Books: Time travel is my favourite, but I love fast-paced stories with contemporary characters with either a thrilling concept or slightly unbelievable one! Movies: Almost anything, but I will say that I am much more a plot person than a 'let's explore this character' person. I love great characters and trying to understand their motivations, but I need a plot to keep it moving.
What was the last book you read?
I read 2-3 books a month (not counting comics). Currently I'm reading Unhappenings - which keeps getting better and better. It's not overly emotionally affecting me, but the plot is pretty awesome (time travel!)
Do you play any musical instruments?
I do not. I tried learning guitar once. Didn't work. So much effort to play an instrument. I would really love to when I'm older and have nothing to do!
Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I have performed as a children's entertainer for over 20 years! I have my own character who tells stories and uses magic while getting the kids involved. It's been a lot of fun, but I have stopped performing as I'd rather be designing board games!
Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
I jumped out of an airplane! And - it was in the air at the time. :-) I did a tandem jump and it was fun. No need to really do it again, but I'm glad I did it!
Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
I can't think of one!
Who is your idol?
Steve Martin. Besides being an amazing stand up comedian whose style was unique at the time (and was the first to sell out stadiums), he's also been an actor, playwright and award winning banjo player. I just love that he loves being creative.
What would you do if you had a time machine?
Depends on the science and consequences of my travels. If I'm a tourist, then I'd check out the future. Maybe see what games are popular in the future! :-)
Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Extro all the way! :-)
If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
Batman. While I don't want to have dead parents, I do like that he's smart and uses more than just muscle to stop crimes. I also like that he doesn't use guns. Spiderman would also be cool for similar reasons - plus he's funny!
Have any pets?
No, my wife is allergic to all 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 think a deck of cards would be good because they're so versatile!
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):
I'll shout out to my own publishing company, because I haven't mentioned them yet: Off the Page Games! www.offthepagegames.com With this company I'm publishing MIND MGMT: The Psychic Espionage "Game"!

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

I mentioned it briefly, but I also designed the Fail Faster Playtesting Journal which is available here: www.failfaster.ca if you want the pdf form, or here: https://www.thegamecrafter.com/parts/fail-faster-playtesting-journal - if you want the physical journal

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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