Wednesday, December 16, 2009
I like to say that winning the SdJ for ELFENLAND got me back to zero. Winning the SdJ for TICKET TO RIDE made me successful. ELFENLAND enhanced my reputation to the point where it made it easier for me to be a game designer and sell future prototypes. TICKET TO RIDE has become a staple and its sales are allowing me to enjoy other things in life. Before ELFENLAND, there was definitely pressure to design a game that would sell a lot of copies. Now there is no pressure, just the continuing desire to design another big hit.
Many of the industry people I've spoken to point to the existence of the Spiel award as a big part of why board gaming is a bigger deal in Germany than it has been in the States. For one thing, it incents designers to produce both innovation and quality. For another, it has given the mainstream media there a reason to cover the genre to a much greater degree than we've seen here in the past. That part, at least, seems to be changing, though the primary angle seems to be that "board games are great in recessions because they're cheap." This clearly does not refer to designer board games, which are NOT cheap.
Thanks to Boardgamenews.com for the heads-up.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Special When Lit is the definitive story of the rise and fall of pinball as told by the fans, collectors, designers and champion players from across the globe. Shot all over the world, though predominantly in America, by London-based Australian filmmakers Brett O'Sullivan, Clayton Jacobsen and Emily Rickard, and edited in the UK with the final sound mix completed in Australia, the film truly is an international production with worldwide appeal.TILT: The Battle to Save Pinball set the bar pretty high, but I'm happy to see another contender, and look forward to watching this movie. That's the nice thing about documentaries; there can be 2, 3, 4 of them on the exact same topic, and all covering sufficiently different angles and with different approaches such that they don't exclude one another. That's why I don't mind when I hear rumblings that other people are working on designer board game documentaries, and in fact, welcome it.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
When he's not saving Geocities and computer history itself, he's making documentaries. And when he's not making documentaries, he's making videos for MC Frontalot. If we, the people, "hire" him, he will make us stuff that will be good to have.
To put it another way, before I'd ask you to fund MY project, I would ask you to contribute to Jason's work. Without his mentoring, advice, and generosity, I wouldn't even be DOING my movie.
And, I'd really like to watch Get Lamp, his second documentary about Infocom text adventures. His time is much better spent working on that then some silly day job.
Oh, and...if you don't help, @sockington will probably starve to death.
Monday, November 9, 2009
A co-owner of Blue Highways Games shop in Seattle talks about the unplugged world of board games, just in time for soggy weather to chase us all indoors.
As a schoolboy, Scott Cooper would sit with his buddies at recess, back to the wall, arranging marbles in patterns meant to entice passers-by. Like a carnival hawker, he'd invite kids to knock his marbles out of bounds. If they missed, he took their marble. If they didn't miss, they got his. "At an early age, I learned how to do cost-benefit analyses," Cooper says....
Just pointing this out as another small sign of encouragement that the media is paying more attention to the designer gaming hobby.
Friday, November 6, 2009
As it turns out, that's exactly what it means. I'll be firing up the cameras again for another round of interviews this weekend!
Now, things really are winding down, I swear, but there are still some specific questions that need answering by specific people. So film, I must.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
(Now, while they had to go and use the Monopoly tie-in as usual, one thing we have to keep in mind is that as designer board game fans, it's hugely old and cliche at this point, but to a newbie, that's an important frame of reference to draw them in. Just saying. :)
This was a really good and lengthy read which captured some of the flavor of the Essen fair. This was one of my favorite parts:
By the third day of the fair, games lovers are sprawled across the floors and into the aisles, playing card games, war games, party games, puzzle games, family games; two-player games, four-player games, six-player games; games set in the Wild West, games set in the Far East, games set in the Caribbean; games set in the Industrial Revolution, games set in the Bronze Age, games set in the Middle Ages (games fans are especially fond of the Middle Ages); games about hospitals and police stations and factories; abstract games, about nothing but the game itself. There's a game that involves one player trying to build a Jenga-like structure from wooden blocks, while their opponent bashes them over the head with an inflatable club. It's called Argh!Tect.
They mentioned how all the local hotels, like the Jung, open up banquet and meeting-type areas during the convention, so that players can come back from a long day of gaming and buying new games and continue to play all night long. I experienced this, and it was one more thing that caused me to think, "This couldn't happen in America in a million years." I was hanging out unsupervised in the hotel's kitchen with Martin Wallace and his wife, Eric Martin, Anthony Gallela, and some other great people just chatting, fine German beers in hand. In the room next door, designers and gamers were playing their new games on into the night. So cool. If there were any strangers in the group, I'm sure they didn't feel like strangers for long.
The article also does a dynamite job of summing up the designer board gaming hobby itself, both the designer's side, and the collector/player's side. BOTH sides are wonderful worlds, and there's a lot of cross-over, not surprisingly, as game enthusiasts hatch ideas for games they haven't seen yet, and go on to be designers themselves. This industry is one of the few where, at least currently, such a dream can be realized.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
There are a growing number if board games making the jump over to the iPhone. As a development platform, it sort of mirrors the indie element of the current designer board gaming scene, because an independent designer can learn the ropes of iPhone development, submit an app, and almost instantly be selling it on the App Store.
There's a version of Werewolf designed by Kory Heath, as well as 3 Reiner Knizia apps - Poison, Robot Master, and Knights of Charlemagne. Poison is one I really like as a board game, so it'll be interesting to see how it makes the translation over to iPhone.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
All in all, I conducted over 14 interviews, including:
- Nick Medinger (Funagain.com)
- Matt Leacock (Pandemic)
- Nick Kellet (GiftTRAP)
- Gordon and Fraser Lamont (Snow Tails)
- Reiner Knizia (Lost Cities, Poison, LotR: The Confrontation, and a few hundred others)
- Klaus & Guido Teuber (Settlers of Catan)
- Donald X. Vaccarino (Dominion)
- Christophe Boelinger (Dungeon Twister)
- Mark Kaufmann (Days of Wonder)
- Alexander Yeager (Mayfair Games)
I barely ate, and barely slept. I saw amazing sights, from a life-size foozball table to chainmail bikinis and finger-skateboarding. I got lost for a couple hours, had the best beef and mushroom stew I've ever tasted from one of the food booths, and thronged with the mass of humanity traveling the halls. The sound of the crowd was on par with Niagra Falls.
It was a surreal sort of wonderland, and I already want to go back. As I was sitting at the airport terminal, the following song struck me as a fitting farewell:
Goodbye Song - Yo Gabba Gabba!
Monday, October 19, 2009
I prefer to talk about interviews for the film once I have them completed and in-hand, so I won't jinx myself by listing the ones I've got lined up for this week, but for even a casual designer board gamer, they'll ring a bell when I do. :)
I've spent the day getting the equipment organized and packed. There's no cutting corners here just because its millions of miles away; in fact, specifically because of that, I've got more to bring than I did for the Ohio gathering. I need outlet adapters, backup lighting options, and so forth. Another thing that's new this time around is a few yards of nice fabric. You never can tell what you'll be faced with for interview space, so I feel much more secure bringing my own impromptu backdrops. It's yet again more weight, though.
At some point I'll get to packing clothes and other non-necessities. I'm not planning on bringing back any specific games, but I'm trying to leave myself as much luggage space as possible, just in case. Oh, who are we kidding? Something like 500 new games debut at Essen each year. There's no WAY I'm not coming back with as many as will fit in my suitcase!
Monday, October 5, 2009
And it was fun, really fun! Making rudimentary sequences in Vegas Video is easy. Adding in the cutaways, supporting images, and proper blendings, that makes up the actual learning curve.
Then on Saturday, I took a trip down to Boston to visit Greg Lam, owner of Pair-of-Dice Games. It was a great interview. I say that a lot, I know, but it was! I had a blast, and we even went on a trip to one of his sources for game materials, a little Asian grocery store nearby. I got to play a heated 3-person round of his Chopstick Game. And then, to top it all off, we went down to a little shop that makes good bubble tea, and I had my very first bubble tea! Two of them, actually, a Thai tea and a lychee version. They were excellent.
Sunday had me back on the laptop editing footage, working on a "couples that game together" type segment in addition to the "collection sizes" sequence I did Friday night. Both will be expanded as I gather more interviews, but already, one could almost say these segments are looking like a film.
All this stimulation resulted in horrible nights' sleeps both nights, since my brain just would not shut down. Can't say I mind, though, I'm on a roll!
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Check out the Kickstarter page! Warm and enthusiastic comments are as welcome as donations.
They recommend a video be attached to the project, and I agree, 100%. I'll see what I can do about that! :)
I have no idea where this will go, but it reminds me of a story:
A man down on his luck prayed to God every night for a break. "God," he'd pray, "please let me win the lottery!"
Night after night he'd make the same request, but every day, he'd come home roughly as penniless as the day before.
One night he just couldn't take it anymore. "God," he said, "have you forsaken me? Why won't you answer my prayers!?"
And a booming voice replied, "Would you BUY A SCRATCH TICKET already????"
New Offerings From Catan Include Catan for iPhone & Free Catan Browser Game
The highly anticipated Settlers of Catan iPhone game, an exact replica of the original board game, is almost here! Intuitive controls will allow you to manage your settlements with ease – but do you have what it takes to beat the clever AI opponents? Each of them challenges you with unique tactics. A comprehensive tutorial will be included to allow those who are new to Catan to get into the game quickly. In addition, organized and in-depth stats will offer valuable insight for players of all skill levels.
This is set for launch in October, not sure of the date, but I'll be getting it. Doesn't sound like it will have multi-player, but the nice thing about iPhone apps is, they can evolve over time. For now, I can't wait to be able to play Catan on the go!
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
But first, safety. Each time I flip the switch on that external hard drive, that precious home to the fruits of many hours' labor and the sum total of Going Cardboard's assets, there's a teeny chance something might go wrong. It's a very small chance, mind you, but editing's going to have me flipping that switch a lot more often. So, before I embark, time to back up the data.
It's already hundreds of gigabytes, and while hard drive space is not THAT expensive, it isn't peanuts. Luckily, a friend had a great recommendation for how to economically back up large amounts of data: this handy, dandy SATA HD Docking Station!
It slices, it dices, it lets you plug bare hard drives in and throw data right onto them.
I bought this thing quite a while ago, but last night it finally came out of the packaging, along with a bare 1 TB hard drive (wow, so heavy). It's not just plug and play and that's it, but the setup walkthrough in the manual was crystal clear, and in minutes I had a new hard drive up and was copying footage to it. I'm going back to newegg today to add a review, because it was a great user experience and they deserve it.
Monday, September 21, 2009
Lorien Green: Geeky Mom And Documentary Filmmaker is “Going Cardboard”
Lorien Green is a GeekMom: she’s got two young kids and her geek credentials include meeting her husband through Magic: the Gathering and her love of “geekumentaries” like “King of Kong.” Plus, she’s a sucker for zombies. She decided to combine her love of board games with her love of documentaries and is currently making “Going Cardboard,” a “geekumentary” about board games and the people who love them.
I did an e-mail interview with Lorien about “Going Cardboard,” board games, and her desire to be a Cylon. I also have the audio of a follow-up phone interview, where we talk more about board games, zombies, and juggling a full-time job, parenting, and shooting a documentary. Listen to it here.
You know, I never really thought of myself as a GeekMom, but when HE says it, it sounds kinda cool! I mean, I guess a Mom who makes her kids sing Frodo of the Nine Fingers as T-Pain...or doesn't really have to MAKE them...which is even more incriminating...
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Walmart Adds 'Family Night Center' in All Stores for Creating a Night of Activities...
BENTONVILLE, Ark., Sept. 10 /PRNewswire/ -- Responding to moms' risingNow, at first I thought they meant they were actually setting up tables for people to come play at, and that was a LOT more intriguing than the reality. This is just another marketing tactic to push their existing products for people to buy and take home.
interest in more affordable entertainment activities at home, Walmart is
featuring a new "Family Night Center" in all stores this month. The area aims
to help customers find new ideas for memorable family time activities and
savings on popular items from Hasbro and Disney among others in a convenient
It mentions that board game sales are up 10% for the first half of 2009 vs. the same time period for 2008. I like that Walmart is putting a focus on board games as a family activity, but I question how much of that sales bump was a result of Chutes and Ladders vs. Catan and friends, who, at least in this article, have been left out in the cold like Sneetches with no stars on their bellies.
What's it going to take for designer games to get an invite to the party? They're certainly more mainstream than they were even just 6 months ago, in my opinion.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
And it was entirely in German.
Luckily I have a friend at work who is fluent in German, and she was kind enough to translate it for me. I'm making efforts to learn German before I go, and I was encouraged to see that I could pick out an awful lot of what this newsletter had to say, but certainly not enough to effectively read it.
I've been working hard at scheduling interviews for Essen, and so far things are looking good for some time with Reiner Knizia (Poison), the Lamont Brothers (Snow Tails), as well as reps from Funagain Games and Days of Wonder. In addition to the Essen plans, I'm juggling scheduling some follow-up interviews with two local independant game designers, and trying to figure out how to get to some folks in DC and NY state that I'd REALLY like to interview.
And the Funagain Photo Contest - I've seen some great stuff come through from that, nice work, all! Definitely a number of shots I'll be including in the movie. Keep them coming, the contest runs through August!
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Funagain Games is teaming up with the makers of Going Cardboard (http://www.boardgamemovie.com/), a documentary currently in the making about modern day board gaming, to bring you a photo contest. Entering is simple and you can win a Funagain $50 gift certificate. We're looking for 2 kinds of photos:
- Childhood photos of your family playing board games
- Pictures of modern-day designer board gaming.
There are 2 ways to enter:
If you have a picture, send it in! I can't wait to see them. Big thanks to Funagain for their support of the documentary!
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Sometimes, of course, they don't suck. Sometimes somebody cares, and makes a really GOOD game to go along with a really good license. Fantasy Flight does a great job with licensed IPs, and because I interviewed one of their designers, and because they made the Battlestar Galactica board game I really like, and because in my former life I worked on The Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons & Dragons Online, this is an interesting topic for me.
However, what really got me excited about this blog entry was ZOMBIES. Bloggers, if your content is rich in zombie references, you will rise to the top of the geek SEO pile. Within their list of good board games based on movies was my all-time favorite movie...Dawn of the Dead (the original, though the remake wasn't bad). Are you kidding me? There's a Dawn of the Dead board game and I didn't even know it? And it's GOOD?
This classic ’70s game proves that sometimes the best things in life involve nothing more than a maps and some pieces of cardboard — things like pretending to be a murderous zombie terrorizing humans in a mall. Ah, sweet childhood.
Wait, this gets better...
you can download it free.
Oh yeah. This day just got off to a great start. Not to mention, the large Dunkin Donuts coffee on my right, and the NOS my "friend" Justin just dropped off to my left. Hang on, this could get rocky...
Monday, July 13, 2009
Catan has also been announced for the DS.
These two are the widely hailed "gateway games" for the hobby, so the question now is, how much further into designer gaming will Nintendo venture for DS titles? And...which board games would make for a good port over to this system?
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Since my last blog post, the following has happened on the documentary front:
- Filmed a game day event, the day before the 2009 Spiel des Jahres award winners were announced. Congratulations to Dominion on that! The Intrigue expansion has just been released, that's gotta be nice timing for them. :)
- Started listening to possible music tracks to license for the film (including some songs that are actually about board games)
- Started formatting dialog notes into spreadsheet form (this will be important when I start cutting together segments, which should start SOON)
- Started posting more on BoardGameGeek. It's hard not to feel like an interloper, though I've lurked there for a long time
- Bought the plane ticket for Essen
Lorien Green chose a different medium to popularize board games - she's making a movie titled "Going Cardboard." It's supposed to show the phenomenon of modern board games and its subculture. The film includes a game review, meetings with ordinary players, extraordinary designers and visits to the most important international events (Essen). The filmmaker takes her subject very seriously - you can visit the website of Going Cardboard and read the blog. The work on this film has been going on for 4 months already and it's scheduled to finish fall/winter 2009. The film should be available on DVD in winter 2010. It's a long time away, but it just goes to show you the scope of this project.
Some of the big impending to-dos include getting some images up from the interviews I've done, and possibly some teaser clips. Many more interviews yet to shoot before Essen rolls around. It's going to be one busy summer. Stay tuned. :)
Monday, June 29, 2009
Reportedly, directors as notable as Ridley Scott and Peter Berg have respectively signed on to big-budget versions of Monopoly and Battleship, and there's even a version of Candy Land in the works. No word yet, though, on the Steven Spielberg adaptation of Chutes and Ladders....
I love the Tim Curry Clue adaptation, but not as having anything to do with the game, just as a fun whodunit comedy. I just don't see this working with Monopoly. Unless it's just their clever way of marketing Wall Street 2...and why not just do another cool submarine movie, like Das Boot? Why's everything gotta be "tied in" these days? Doesn't it virtually guarantee a mediocre movie?
This will be Super Mario Bros. all over again.
Friday, June 26, 2009
You can find a bigger version here.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
I've waited for this day for a long time. TILT: The Battle to Save Pinball is one of my all-time favorite documentaries, but it hasn't been widely available. Until now! TILT can now be found on
It doesn't matter if you are a pinball fan or not; I wasn't a big pinball person when I first saw the film. The story told by TILT has got everything a documentary is supposed to have; interesting facts and beautifully illustrated background history, interviews with key contributors (like the guy who invented putting flippers at the bottom of the play field), and a story with an endearing human element to tie everything together.
If you use Netflix or iTunes, go check it out IMMEDIATELY, and don't forget to add the bonus DVD to your Netflix queue. It's got some really great extras. Just do it, have I ever steered you wrong before? Swing by here and let me know what you think afterwards, and if you'd like to buy a copy to own after that, you can get it on the official website.
Saturday, June 20, 2009
Oh, right, and...a title! Going Cardboard is the artist formerly known as board game doc. Of course you know this means I need a new order of business cards. :)
So check out www.boardgamemovie.com when you have a second. It's a work in progress, but I won't deny I'm stupidly excited.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Corey represents yet another point on the designer spectrum. He works with a team, and frequently with the interesting pros and cons that come with designing under an existing intellectual property license. This makes for yet another interesting angle on designing, and it was a great interview.
It was also the first real chance I've had to "dress the set." I was able to set up the Battlestar board game on the table, which makes for really nice context.
Next up? A board gaming barbecue weekend!
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Days of Wonder has announced the Small World Design Contest in which aspiring game designers can create and submit their own custom additions to the new hit board game, Small World. Central to the game are the fantasy-inspired character races paired with special powers enabling them to conquer the Small World board maps....
Saturday, May 23, 2009
It's a big book, no-nonsense walls of text and not interested in pictures. And within the first 10 pages it had me thinking about documentary structure and storyline in ways I had not been before. That didn't necessarily make my job easier, but I felt like I was back in college studying for an actual course, and learning at that level.
With my subject, I'm not lucky enough to have a storyline with an obvious main character, a quest, adversity, and a pre-ordained event path. Movies like The King of Kong, 10 MPH, and Spellbound have that part easy; they are tracing events leading up to a bigger, defining event - a big tournament, the end of the cross-country segway trip, and the National Spelling Bee.
I had a progression of events in mind for the board gaming documentary, bigger and bigger board gaming events leading up to the industry's biggest, but that's not a storyline.
However, now that I'm thinking storytelling, about how to best convey what's interesting about my topic, ways to tell that story are easily coming to mind. I've just finished the first draft of a plot outline, and though I know it needs work, it's really exciting to actually have that in hand. It's a big step!
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Board Games Become Popular among Jiangxi White-collar Workers
Board games, a type of content-rich social games first introduced in Europe and the United States some thirty years ago, have recently gained popularity among white-collar workers in Nanchang of east China's Jiangxi Province.
Local website jxnews.com.cn reported Tuesday that the board games have become a new alternative to the tech and computer lifestyle popular amongst well-paid working locals, who are now often opt to play after their work....
You can read the whole thing here. I love that picture.
Friday, May 15, 2009
Only, I actually really like my day job. And for my film, I don't have the "money guy" putting up $20k (which may be just as well, as it turns out)...or an idea guy, or pretty much anyone but me and my brother and a couple awesome friends, I'm not quitting my day job, or moving to Colorado to ride cross-country on a Segway from Seattle to Boston...FINE, it's not that eerily similar. But I DID see somebody riding a Segway down my street one day...and this is a cool little documentary.
"An idea is like a seed. It can grow to be a beautiful flower...or it can grow to be a huge-ass weed." - J.fred
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
So it might seem like there hasn't been an awful lot going on here since the Gathering a month ago, but I'm being the proverbial duck paddling like crazy below the surface of the pond. Above the surface, I'm sniffling and sneezing, my first introduction to the wonderful world of allergies, and I'm like the 4th person I know who's getting hit HARD with them this season for the first time ever (I smell a horror movie screenplay, or at least a really good X-Files episode)...but I digress...
Here's a little status update on the project:
- Transcribing. I still need to go through all 20+ hours of footage from Ohio and jot down notes on what is said throughout it. That'll also help move along the...
- Storyline. I have settled on THE way I want the film to open, which is something I was really struggling with. I have the bones sketched out, and even though I already have over 30 hours of stuff, I'm maybe 30% done. The good thing is, I know this because I actually have a pretty good idea what a lot of the stuff I still need to shoot IS. I've also got a book called, Documentary Storytelling on its way from Amazon, looking forward to checking that out.
- Website. I'm working on the content for a dedicated website, which will include a survey. One of the unsatiated needs I have right now is for basic facts about designer board gaming in the US. Unless you're lucky to be filming the most awesomest character study documentary ever, you need some facts and figures. Oh, and I LOOOOOVE the design of my new website. It has the same color family as my business cards, and just feels "board game" to me.
- More interviews. I'm in discussions with a few imminent interviews. I don't have a concrete schedule set up for them yet, but it'll happen.
It's really hard, not being able to do this stuff full-time, and it's times like these, when there are so many elements needing to be worked on, that I feel that acutely. In fact, I was almost feeling burned out a couple weeks ago (I blame the allergies), but now I just feel like I need more free time.
So yeah, things are going well, and I am getting better at this stuff with every single interview. I'm sure I'll talk about that on the director's commentary... :D
Monday, May 11, 2009
Pittsford student creates board game
...The Calkins Road Middle School seventh-grader started his own company, The Alert Mind, and created Grid Greed — a math board game — through classes with the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) at the University of Rochester that started in September....
OK, so this isn't really the style of board game I'm focusing on, but who's to say this kid won't get there someday? I just wanted to give him a hearty "You kin do eeeet!" and hope he finds out about all the cool designers I've already met and have yet to meet in this genre.
Monday, May 4, 2009
Intimidatingly technical? Not so, said my friend. He'd actually created one himself before, and knew all the ins and outs for filing the two simple forms NH state law requires for this.
So before I knew what was happening, I was filling out the forms and mailing them. And on Saturday, the confirmation came in the mail. And just like that, T-Cat Productions, LLC was a reality.
Other than making one feel cool and official, and preventing people from suing you directly over anything that happens during film production, LLC status allows you to claim expenses incurred during your project as business losses (i.e., they are tax deductible). Naturally your profits will also be subject to taxing, but given that I am 100% confident I will have expenses, and somewhat less certain about seeing a profit...sounds good to me! Since I've decided not to seek external funding or grants, this is the next best thing.
As for where the name "T-Cat" came from, it has a long and illustrious history. It all started with my cat, Toes, who was often referred to as T-Cat (by me). When I first started playing Rock Band, I named my character T-Cat because of that. She was all attitude and high-up pigtails, and her aviator sunglasses completed the look. My daughter LOVES T-Cat, when she wears sunglasses she says she's T-Cat, and when she wants her hair in pigtails, she asks us for "T-Cat hair." T-Cat the Rock Band star has become a legend in our house.
The original T-Cat, Toes, has recently been diagnosed with mouth cancer, and she won't be around for much longer. That pretty much sealed the deal. T-Cat Productions. What else was I gonna call it?
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
One of the posts he made a few days ago included a clip of Reiner Knizia talking about his game design philosophies. I'm very glad to have seen this, thanks Brett for talking about it! Here it is:
Not sure how I will keep up with the pace of entries here, but since the ones I've sampled so far are well-written and fascinating, I figure I'll manage.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
According to an Associated Press report and figures from simplyfun.com, board game sales have risen while most other non-essential item sales have declined. There was a 5 percent increase in January and a 6 percent in February. In fact, since 2006, there has been an overall 13 percent increase in board game sales, the AP report stated.
..."Anytime that people want to save money, next to books, board games give you the most bang for the buck," she said. "They don't need batteries, they're portable, they can be used over and over again, and there's something different about them every time."...
I would argue that board games are WAY ahead of books as far as bank for the buck. Unless you're borrowing from the library, which isn't fair because that's free, and besides, more and more libraries are having board game events.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
But now, now I have a mission made clear to me by @allenshull. I must make Catan cakes.
In fact, I must do whatever it takes to host a huge gathering of board gamers at my house for a day, for the sole purpose of serving...Catan cakes.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
The article is called 7 Great Documentary "Characters" and it's one more reason I wish I got The Documentary Channel.
One thing I have to say: Billy Mitchell may not be quite the villain he was edited/portrayed as in The King of Kong, but he IS undeniably an interesting character, so I think it's OK that he's included here.
The rules are simple. Players start by choosing one industry, represented by a pictographic card, out of four options—automobile, pharmaceutical, food and beverages, and information technology—depicted by a car, a drug, a drink and a computer system.
Each product has a portfolio of 15 unique intellectual properties associated with it marked on the cards...
OK, so it doesn't necessarily sound like a game I'd be interested in, but I applaud the fact that this guy was passionate enough about the subject to work for 2 years on a board game about it. Especially since, as the article points out, board gaming is not currently a part of India's mainstream culture. “Here, there are only cards and gambling.” From what I've learned thus far, that kind of passion is what being a board games designer is all about.
Further, he's not in it for the money, and plans to make the game available free to anyone who can't afford it, and make a free online version as well. And ironically, for a game about intellectual property, Mr. Anand has made his game open source. So, if you don't think it sounds compelling, give it a spin and make some changes! :)
Monday, April 20, 2009
...European-style or, more specifically, German-style board games have recently been gaining traction in the mainstream American market. With a sophisticated blend of strategy, chance and social interplay -- and higher-quality pieces made of wood rather than plastic -- these board games from across the pond have generated legions of serious gaming fans....
I don't really have a lot to say at the moment other than, "Holy cripes, another one..."
I added more notes to the project notebook, including some thoughts about a couples and friends segment (I was surprised at how many couples met through board gaming, but really, why not?), and also some ideas for putting a big survey out to gain some interesting data on dedicated board gamers.
Board games are popping up regularly in the news, with a lot of media focusing on the "budget-friendliness" of them in "these tough economic times." They're clearly not talking about dedicated designer board gamers when they say that, at least not from what I've seen of the average size of a Thought Hammer order. The following article is more about non designer-games, but it's still encouraging people to game, and that's what counts.
Board games come back in a big way
“What do we get out of it? Sometimes useless knowledge,” said brother Nicholas DiGesare, 29. “It saves a lot of money, too. Movies are so expensive. Spend $20 on a board game, and then all chip in for food. It becomes easy to have a good night, rather than going out.”
Now that staying home is even more in vogue, board games have become a preferred form of entertainment for many families who would rather talk than text.
I think just as significant as the economic aspect is that "rather talk than text" part. I love eye candy as much as the next technophile, but with big screen tv, iMax 3D, iPhones, Nintendo DS, and computers, computers, computers...sometimes it's nice to do something that doesn't run off a power source.
Here's another article, about a different economic element of board gaming; the board game version of a Tupperware party?
City woman plays games for work
...After deciding to become a consultant for SimplyFun, she started hosting game parties, where guests play the games and have the opportunity to buy the ones they like.
“Since I love games so much, I could talk about them and get excited about them,” she said. “You don’t really need me to tell you anything because you’ll like them.”
She said she’s recently been able to get approval to show her games to Stillwater Public Schools....
Again, not really designer board games, but mostly designer board gamers seem non-judgemental about these things. I just think it's good that classrooms are open to this sort of thing. Good for the hobby in the long run, and good for the kids too. :)
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
This one was basically a response piece to Andrew Curry's Monopoly Killer article, but with some interesting additional facts of its own.
Ironically, the electronic revolution that nearly killed board games over the last quarter century has given them new life online, allowing people who own the same game to play in real time over the Internet. And as modern economics provoke a reexamination of our lifestyles, board games are making a comeback in the United States....
You can read the entire piece here.
Monday, April 13, 2009
Masters of the (Tabletop) Universe
New York Times - Apr 3, 2009
THEY tumbled in at 7:30 on an icy Friday night, collecting in the eat-in kitchen. Handshakes and the usual opening pleasantries. They were nine: eight men and a woman. They had a lot to do — build medieval kingdoms, manage beer gardens and construct galactic civilizations. If they had any energy left, they would cure the world’s deadliest diseases.
and, as I mentioned before, this big feature piece from Wired Magazine:
Monopoly Killer: Perfect German Board Game Redefines Genre
UPDATE - I got in touch with Andrew Curry, and a neat bit of info is that the picture above is of Klaus Teuber and his son, in their backyard. :)
In 1991, Klaus Teuber was well on his way to becoming one of the planet's hottest board game designers. Teuber (pronounced "TOY-burr"), a dental technician living with his wife and three kids in a white row house in Rossdorf, Germany, had created a game a few years earlier called Barbarossa and the Riddlemaster, a sort of ur-Cranium in which players mold figures out of modeling clay while their opponents try to guess what the sculptures represent. The game was a hit...
While the idea of someone playing Catan in their backyard in the grass is kind of amusing, I must admit, we have taken it with us on camping trips and had a BLAST (I'll have to dig up that photo).
Nice to see Wired and NYT talking about designer board games! Some people I've talked to felt that the Times' piece made fun of the hobby in a way, but if so I think it was good-natured fun, and I still feel it paints things in a positive light.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
As they've stated on the Double Down Film Show, you really should have a dedicated website for a project like this, and not rely on gmail and blogger. Don't get me wrong, they've served their purpose thus far, and from a purely functional standpoint, you could easily get away with using those free resources clear to release. However, there are more elements at play than pure functionality.
And that's why a real website is coming soon. :) Stay tuned!
Thursday, April 9, 2009
I saw and heard many interesting and wonderful things, and met many interesting and wonderful people. There were board game designers and industry notables as far as the eye could see, making it a pivotal few days for the documentary, and an opportunity I was not going to squander. It was hard, because there were so many games I'd never seen before, even many prototypes, and I really needed to NOT play them. I made 2 brief exceptions, for The Resistance, and Fits. It was probably a valuable little break, I rationalize. :) All work and no play..., as they say. But for the most part, I stayed focused.
At this event, you need to check your sleep needs at the door. These guys are here to game, and they do not stop gaming. I never found the main room completely empty during my entire stay. The closest it came was once around 7 AM, when less than a dozen people were to be seen, but that lull didn't last long. This made it much easier to amass interviews than in most traditional settings. I think I wrapped up one interview around 10:30 PM, then went downstairs to a packed gaming floor to continue filming.
The interviews included designers Alan R. Moon (Ticket to Ride), Friedemann Friese (Power Grid), Stephen Glenn (Balloon Cup), Kory Heath (Zendo), Peter Hawes (Heads of State), and Jay Tummelson, founder of Rio Grande Games, to name a few. And I do mean a few, there were many other people I talked to, though not ALL the ones I would have liked. It's time to start a page listing all of the interviews I've done, and I'll be doing that soon, so keep an eye out!
Sincere thanks to everyone at the Gathering who took the time to talk to me, and help out with advice and additional introductions (and food, thank you for the FOOD invites). You were the greatest bunch of people one could hope to meet!
Friday, April 3, 2009
By the way, have you heard about The Documentary Channel? It fills me with joy. Granted, I'd be more full of joy if I were a DISH Network customer (they have Pizza: The Movie!), but I recently started conversing with @TheDocChannel on Twitter, and she mentioned that some of the stuff can be seen online at Sling.
The first thing I watched there was an indie documentary about a moonshiner. While not my typical geek fare, this was a crisply-filmed documentary with beautiful imagery and interesting characters. I paid close attention to things like interview framing and out-take shots, as I sit here trying to get back in the filming mindset after a month away from the dv. My plane leaves in less than 24 hours for what is without question one of the most important filming sessions this doc will have (the other being Essen). Jason Scott had some great timely advice as always to allay my stage fright nerves.
Oh, and if you haven't checked out the April edition of Wired Magazine, there's a GREAT article about the rise of designer board games in the United States entitled, "Monopoly Killer."
Thanks to Anthony Q. Artis of Down and Dirty DV for the link to the online version! While I don't think it's entirely fair (I actually kind of liked it as a kid), and even though it really isn't an "us" vs. "them" situation, Monopoly seems to be the poster child for everything wrong that designer board games do right. Somebody has to take that bullet, I guess, because we need an easy way to boil down the complex simplicity that is the designer games genre into something quick that will click with people when you try to explain in a single sentence.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
- DVD burner, for backing up the data
- DVD-Rs, 50 of them to start with
- portable charger for the VIXIA, because the last thing I need at the Gathering, where every second of footage counts, is to sit out camera #1 so it can charge its own battery
- A couple more packs of mini DV tapes - brings me up to about 48 hours of blank tape, which may or may not be enough
Now I'm working on packing logistics. By this time next week, I'll be on a plane. Good lord.
Saturday, March 7, 2009
Last week I paid a visit to Bryan Johnson, a board game designer who's about to see the release of his first published title, Huang Di, published by JKLMgames.com.
This time my camera man couldn't make it, so I was running the equipment setup and the interview solo. That's a challenge, but it was easier than I expected. Just a note that if you are having to do this stuff solo, you kin do eet.
Up next, preparing for the Gathering of Friends in April.
Sunday, March 1, 2009
We shot a decent amount of B-roll/outtake footage there, but half the day we were cloistered away in a lobby side room doing the individual interviews. If I'd had this montage in mind to begin with, I would have taken more footage of specific games being played, more genre-representative games like Catan and Agricola, and replaced those choppy pan shots with that. Still, I am quite happy with what I was able to throw together:
Stereo MCs said they were cool with letting me include their song, and that's just another reason I can't recommend them highly enough.
To all who organized this convention and provided the essential services to make it run smoothly, thanks and KUDOS! Every last minute was a great experience and it was obvious everyone was having a wonderful time.
Can't wait for the next one!
Saturday, February 21, 2009
(Studio A is on the bar in the livingroom). It's Saturday morning, and now that I have the necessary firewire, I'm ready start downloading Camera 1's tape footage from Unity Games XV.
Uhhh...wow, that file size is going up REALLY fast...not even 10 minutes into this and it's at a GIG?...
I was well-aware that we were going to be talking large amounts of space here, but knowing that in theory and doing the quick calculation in my head that yielded approximately 10GB/hour of footage are two different things.
Fortunately, there are great minds on the case here at T Cat Pictures. My brother had the foresight to give me a Cavalry CAXE/CAXM external USB hard drive for Christmas. "If you're making a movie," he said, "you'll be needing a boatload of disk space."
Time to fire up this bad boy, or, to indulge the makers of this device, "Send in the Cavalry!" The packaging doesn't actually say ANYWHERE how big this drive is, so you can imagine I was pretty happy to find out it was a terabyte (1,024GB).
That outta keep me busy for a while.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
I'm also getting back to lining up more individual interviews, and planning out a formal shoot schedule. I've been advised to do whatever it takes to attend both major gatherings I need to attend (one in Ohio and of course Spiel, in Germany) this year so as to wrap up production by the end of October, and move into post-production. Is it possible, budget-wise? I'm not sure, but I'd really love to achieve that.
So I've started looking into grants, but that's quite tricky, and requires a formal application process, often with sample clips of your work. Well, I haven't got any of those, so it's a challenge. Further, I don't want to relinquish any artistic control, and this whole charitable foundation aspect, where you need to have a charitable sponsorship accept the money on your behalf for tax purposes...ugh. A few grand would really make things easier on my family, but I may have to do without.
I'm listening to last night's Double Down show over lunchtime, because I missed it last night. I spent an hour trying to put the kids to bed, and they turned it into a game of ping-pong where I was bounced back and forth between their rooms as they took turns getting out of bed. You meddling kids!
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
The Double Down Film Show is an hour long experience of "real talk" about what it takes to get your project from script to screen and establish a career in film and tv. Hosts Anthony Q. Artis of Down and Dirty DV and Pete Chatmon of Double 7 Film will deliver all of the production, technology, business, and motivational support that filmmakers need to achieve their filmmaking dreams.
Anthony and Pete have both actually offered words of encouragement to me on my project. And I'm discovering, words of encouragement are actually worth their weight in GOLD when you're trying to find time for a project like this, something you're passionate about, and something that utterly flies in the face of your reality and practicality. "Don't stop until you have a final cut." Anthony said. How's that for motivational support? :)
I'm constantly impressed by how open to helping and giving advice the indie film community is turning out to be (Jason Scott, you are my patron saint of documentary). It makes me want to do likewise, so I'm making a point to share every little step, resource and tidbit I learn along the way. Without Jason's "will-do" attitude from the first conversation I had with him, I'd still be thinking about this movie, not filming it. I now wish I'd studied film in college, instead of marine biology. A double major in film and marketing, yes, that would have been the thing to do.
I've been taking the advice in Anthony's Shut up and Shoot book to heart. I really enjoyed the no-nonsense tone of it, and the picture it paints about being a "guerilla film maker." At one point during our Unity Games shoot, I exclaimed to my brother, the camera man, "We've gotta hustle! GET THE SHOT!" We started walking faster, and then I said, "We're actually doing fine, I just wanted to say that..." There's a certain level of the theatrical when you're walking around with cameras and tripods (and business cards that declare you are making a documentary), and I was having fun with the role. Having fun, but getting great footage, mind you.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
I went through the footage from Camera 2 last weekend. It is good stuff, but Camera 1 is the camera that was capturing the wireless mic sound for all our interviews, and was also the primary angle view.
The shotgun mic I have for Camera 2 didn't seem to produce thrilling sound quality, but I have to go back and check out the footage in an actual editing program vs. just on the camera.
I'm quite pleased with the interviews so far. What I really need to do next is put together a quick montage of clips from Unity, set to some kind of hip and open source music, and get that posted to the Facebook group. So that's probably the next step.
Monday, February 9, 2009
The saga for me started the night before. Mind racing, not sleeping, one of those deals. I think I got maybe 4 hours tops, when at last the alarm clock went off.
The three of us (me, my husband, Adam, and his fellow War of the Ring addict friend, Chris) got ready, packed all the gear (which consisted of a rather heavy bag of lights, tripods, cameras, and contingency equipment) into the car, and, with Dunkin coffee in hand, were off to Woburn. OBVIOUSLY you can't go on a film shoot without a coffee.
As we pulled into the parking lot around 9:30 AM, I immediately kicked myself for not having the camera in hand and ready to shoot, as a constant trickle of people carrying huge crates of board games to the entrance met our gaze. That is without question establishing footage I will need to shoot at the next Unity. I also forgot my still camera, which wasn't essential, but would have been nice.
We went into the hotel and up to the registration desk. Shortly after, my camera man (aka my brother, John, with a lot more film schooling and experience than me) arrived. Adam and Chris went off to set up...War of the Ring, and John and I scouted the site for good interview locations and such. We met Dave, the owner of the event, and staked out a home base amongst the wall-to-wall stacks of games people had brought to play.
We took some footage of the convention room in general, just the overall crowd and ambiance, and tried to find and introduce ourselves to the number of people I'd corresponded with before this event with the intention of interviewing. We found some of those, and then picked our a likely teaching table where 2 games of Dominion were going on. We wired the instructor for sound, and then began filming the session.
We got about half an hour of that on both cameras. Then we went back to home base, where a couple tables of a game called Crokinole were set up. Hadn't seen that one before, and it looked pretty neat, a large round wooden playing surface where wooden tokens were being slung around like shuffleboard, so we filmed a session of that.
More random shots of games and atmosphere, and before we knew it, it was lunchtime! We ate, and then shifted focus to the 1-on-1 interviews we had as a goal for the day. The original location we'd scouted for interviews near the registration area was now far too active to use, so we found a really beautiful little waiting room near the entrance of the hotel, with a fireplace even, and more importantly, very quiet.
We did our first interview down there, then relocated to the show floor to interview Dave about the event. Because he started these events, we wanted the loud ambient sound and crowd activity all around him for his interview.
We got that, missed a couple of people we were trying to tag between gaming events, and then got a great interview with a whole family of gamers. One aspect I definitely want to include in the film is how great board games are for connecting with your kids, as a family activity. Good stuff.
We went back down to our "quiet" interview room, and, noticing that we only had a couple hours left, started beating the bushes to get people down there for their interviews. We got 3 more, including Derk, the co-creator of Board Game Geek, and Greg, a self-publishing designer of games. Really REALLY good stuff.
While I personally think board gaming is a fabulously photogenic hobby that obviously deserves a documentary, things aren't that simple. You ideally need a storyline to make the film interesting. We'd gone to Unity with the goal of just getting our feet wet, meeting people, getting general interviews (our questions list was pretty generic), sort of starting the conversation about board gaming, and seeing where it led. I'm not positive just yet, but I think I've hit on what I want that theme to be.
Suddenly the clock struck 6, and it was time to go. I hated to leave with so much yet to do, but like I said, 16 hours probably would have had me feeling the same way. I've quickly learned that filming expands to occupy whatever time you have available. All in all, it was a phenomenal kick-off for the project, I met dozens of really great people (the entire room was filled with happy friendly gamers) and I can't wait for the next opportunity.
Now, to start going through all that footage and see what we've got...
You can see pictures from the event here.
Friday, February 6, 2009
Finally… ‘Candy Land’ The Movie!
TGIF, the business cards arrived this morning, in the nick of time! See some of you tomorrow at Unity XV!
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Can it be happening so soon? I spent some time experimenting with equipment setup, but not enough, so that means some late nights this week doing the same. My patron saint of documentary lent me some really key items that will make things a lot easier, but at the same time, new equipment means a new learning curve.
There are a million other things to do between now and then, like get gaffer's tape, and release forms, and an outline of the interview schedule (I get the feeling you can't "over-plan" this stuff) but I'm looking forward to it! Let's rock and roll.
Monday, January 26, 2009
The wind buffer thingie looks like a cat toy (I'll get a picture of that tonight for this entry), and if my cats ever laid eyes on it...well, hopefully they won't. And besides, I shouldn't have a lot of windy situations to contend with until my X-treme Board Gamers sequel.
So Sunday I opened up the tripod box, and put the camera on the tripod, then attached the new mic. It looked pretty badass, I must say, very official. Now I just need to swing by Home Depot and grab a light, and I'll be ready to start subjecting my family members to practice interviews this weekend. I am wondering if I can get my hands on a China ball in time for Unity Games XV. That's for diffusing the light, and it just looks cool.
Oh, I also started a group on Facebook for the project. I very much want community collaboration to happen, so that seemed like a great way to both provide news and updates (and video clips when the time comes) as well as get discussions going and plan events. Pretty sweet one-stop shopping when you think about it, and the price is right!
Thursday, January 22, 2009
I learned a whole lot about editing the footage that I will soon be collecting, which is great because I'm a total video editing noob.
Do I feel prepared for Unity Games? No, not really, but I AM ready to get rolling!
I've just ordered the directional mic, an extra memory card, and an extra battery. I still need an external light and a tripod, but I should have those by the end of the week. Oh, and transluscent powder makeup...I need that, if for no other reason than to cry out, "MAKE-UP!!!!" between cuts.
Have also introduced myself on the Unity Games message board, warned them of my arrival, and started exchanging emails with some good interview leads.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Here is paper and a marker. Keep a strict log of your journey so I may study it when we meet again and point out your missteps....The point of this blog is largely to keep me on track and to make continuous incremental progress in this crazy venture of mine, making a boardgaming documentary.
So far, I have acquired the camera. I have read a book about Down and Dirty DV film making. I've imported practice clips of footage into Sony Vegas Video (30-day trial) and spent a couple hours EDITING IT. I even added a fade between a couple scenes. Just seeing the different sample styles of credit rolls made me giddy...
I've traded a few emails discussing the project with our friend Eric from BoardgameNews.com, who is already proving invaluable as an information source. One such suggestion was the Unity Games event coming up February 7. Talk about going from zero to 60...I'm going to need a tripod, extra battery, extra memory cards, lighting, interview questions, a babysitter, PLANS. Good lord, I need to make plans FAST! This is a good thing, really, but I want to give off at least a faint trace of competency here, and there's not much time to learn an awful lot.
So I contacted Dave at Unity Games last week and started asking about the event, and his thoughts on this project. Aaaaaand...they're off!
So now I'm listening to the Little Wooden Cubist #17 podcast Dave mentioned. Sort of immersion learning, even though I already know a decent amount about designer boardgaming. Another point in my favor that's starting to become apparent is that there is a SOLID boardgaming scene here in the local MA/NH/ME region.
I'm also scheduled to pay Jason Scott, director of BBS: the Documentary and Get Lamp a visit next week. For me, this is the equivalent of having the guru on the mountaintop turn up in your backyard instead. He's been an enormous help already with advice and equipment recommendations, as has TILT director Greg Maletic.
At Jason's recommendation, I've also started a spreadsheet of people I might interview for the film. I'm still at the stage where I can pretty much name them off the top of my head, but that's about to change, and I'm sure the Unity gaming day is going to be the catalyst for an explosion of names, contacts, and to-dos.
I count myself very lucky to have met people like Eric, Jason, and Greg who've been gracious enough to throw some of their knowledge my way. With people like these guys around, this thing could really happen!