Tuesday, May 12, 2020

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 224: Kathi Sjostrom

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:Kathi Sjostrom
Location:Camas, WA
Day Job:I own an aquatic education business called Just Add Water Swim School or Jaws for short. In other words I teach people to swim.
Designing:Six months to a year.
Find my games at:Pnp and game information on our website
Today's Interview is with:

Kathi Sjostrom
Interviewed on: 4/15/2020

This week we get to meet Kathi Sjostrom, a designer that I had the pleasure to join a 48 hour game design sprint with last month. Kathi was on a different team, but it was great getting to talk with a bunch of different designers. She currently has a Kickstarter running for her first to-be-published game, Cows In My Pants. Read on to learn more about Kathi and all her other projects!

Some Basics
Tell me a bit about yourself.

How long have you been designing tabletop games?
Six months to a year.

Why did you start designing tabletop games?
While my answer above is about a year I have been storing away ideas since I was a teen. I have always wanted to create my own games but always thought it was an elusive goal. My husband and best friends decided to take my dream and make it a reality by forming a game company, something about our younger years passing by. Fast forward to now where I have multiple projects on the table and our first game being released to kickstarter the end of April.

What game or games are you currently working on?
Cows in My Pants was released to kickstarter April 27th. Currently I am working on the expansion that goes with it, allowing the game to be played with more players and the twist expansion that takes the current game and flips it on its rule book. My daughter and I are refining a fun game titled Baby Goat Tower Attack, Antsy, Manatee Springs and Captain Zodiak Kona Coast. All are in prototype and applying art and in revision. While I enjoy light weight games like Cows in My Pants I also have one heavier game I working on called Last Light America that I hope to work with other creators on soon.

Have you designed any games that have been published?
Cows in My Pants will be my first published game.

What is your day job?
I own an aquatic education business called Just Add Water Swim School or Jaws for short. In other words I teach people to swim.

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
Home. I love being at home.

Who do you normally game with?
My family and my best friends. Sometimes with other families as well!

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
I would want to start light and then pick up a full fledge strategy, story, meat to it game. However my game group is more likely to be on the light and fun side. Recently Blockus, Goat Lords, Saboteur, Carcassone, Monkey Business and Codenames are top picks. My 15 year old daughter and I play a lot of games together and our favorites are Ticket to Ride, 49, Trellis, Lattice and playing the games we are revising together.

And what snacks would you eat?
Hmmm...a little bit of everything. Homemade brownies and chocolate chip cookies top the list!

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
My daughter and I sing to whatever she wants to share with me: Disney, Broadway, what she is working on in choir... My other family members and game group can't stand having music playing so I adjust.

What’s your favorite FLGS?
I pick up games from our local toy store, Kazoodles as I don't seem to get much farther away from town than that often.

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Current: I love Ticket to Ride because it is my daughter's favorite and we have a joint collection. It has more to do with the personal collection than the game I think. Least Favorite...hmm I dislike and like Unstable Unicorns at the same time...it is fun but it can bring out the worst side of people just like the game back description claims. Worst game ever...is it fair to say that I don't remember it as I probably didn't keep it.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
Games with a mix of card drafting and hand management, cards or tile... Least probably player elimination in a longer game, where you are just done.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
I love both Catan and Dominion but don't have many who will play with me!

What styles of games do you play?
I like to play Board Games, Card 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?
Theme. I have a background in program design for children's programs and camps and teaching PE. That along with swimming when working with children requires creativity to capture your participants. I love being challenged with a theme and concepts or in the case of games, mechanics.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
Entered yes. I am challenging myself to do at least one design competition or challenge a month for 2020.

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
I am a little in awe of people who can do it all, the artist-designer-graphic-writer package all in one.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
Life right now. If I go on an adventure with my family that memory becomes a game. Right now I am working out a game for a Zip Line Adventure for our trip to Hawaii and completing a Manatee game from swimming with them last year.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
Family, game group, friends. We are just now expanding beyond that, or trying to as everything is cancelled or is getting cancelled.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
Yes, but find I am better working with an artist and maybe someone who helps with graphic design on a game idea that came from me. However I like to be challenged by a group, I just get overhwhelmed and the pressure isn't as fun or necessarily good for creating.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Tech and art restrictions, but I am pushing myself to learn.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
Probably one of the series my daughter has read and loved! I actually came up with a game based on one just because she loves the idea of it.

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
Go for it. Game design can be just for you, for your family and friends. If your creations make or can make other people happy, share them. Games have a way of bringing people together.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Keep notes and more notes. Be ready to flip the design into something completely different and go down those rabbit trails even if you liked the original idea you had.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
This is what I have currently crowdfunding: Cows in My Pants
Games that I'm playtesting are: Shadow Cats, Antsy, Baby Goats Attack Tower, Captain Zodiak Kona Coast,
Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are: Zip Isle, Manatee Springs, Last Light America, Fluffies
And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: To 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.)
Yes a ton!

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. Vanilla Coke. Vhs.

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
I love hiking, animals, baking and just being with my family. With my family we have picked up white water rafting, kayaking, paddle boarding and anything adventure related that helps us connect with our 4 teens.

What is something you learned in the last week?
Be patient with yourself and give yourself grace. Choose love and let go of what you can't control. To be fair this is probably more of a daily reminder on how to live out life.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
Contemporary Christian: For King and Country, Zach Williams, Need to Breathe, Lauren Diagle. Books: My husbands, those shared by my daughter that she says I have to read because they are so good. Movies: I am a sucker for Super Heroes!

What was the last book you read?
In the middle of a book called You Don't know Me and one on partnering with the foster care community.

Do you play any musical instruments?
No. I do make a joyful noise while singing though.

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I am a friendly, outgoing because I love people, introvert.

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
Went on all the theme park rides my oldest wanted to just because I was with him celebrating high school graduation. Some of them were so scary. I would do it again too because that is how we make lasting memories.

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
Probably life choices that led to me having one amazing husband and 4 awesome kids.

Who is your idol?

What would you do if you had a time machine?
I would tell my younger self to love and give myself grace so that I could serve and love others better.

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
People loving extroverted introvert.

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

Have any pets?
2 dogs and 2 cats now. I miss my farm of animals :)

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?
What must survive...Our ability to love and accept grace/redemption for ourselves and others.

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 love my team at Paodle Games: Seth Sjostrom, Cheryl and Peter Emerson and I love my kiddos with all my heart and soul Ethan, Logan, Kiara and Hayden!

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

If you love something pursue it.

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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