Matt Riddle and Ben Pinchback’s designer diary on the making of their first game, Fleet, was one of the best diaries I had read in a while. It was not only insightful on the design process but also entertaining and readable. I anticipated that Matt’s thoughts on design in general would ALSO be entertaining and readable which, thankfully, they most certainly are.
Why I Design Games
I design games because 3ish years ago my buddy and design partner, Ben Pinchback, walked up to me one morning at work and told me he had an idea for a game (Fleet). He wanted me to help and I said sure. That’s it, really; I wish it was more exciting than that like I grew up changing the rules and inventing my own games and it was a lifelong dream to join the ranks of the exciting and fast paced lifestyle that is “Game Designing”. I wish I could say I grew up idolizing Sid Sackson and Jim Dunnigan… but I did not. I never made up games or changed rules. Actually, I hate house rules. I grew up on Uno, Euchre, Michigan Rummy, Contract Rummy, Hearts, Spades, and other games based around a 52 card Bicycle deck. I played Life and Monopoly and Don’t Break the Ice and Skip Bo and Risk and that one game with the marbles and sticks. They were great. Then I got an Atari (then a Nintendo, PS1, PS2, and PS3). I also had an 8086, a 386, a 486, EGA, VGA, big ol’ graphics cards…
I say all that to point out that I love video games. I am in my 30s with an amazing wife and two beautiful daughters and I still play video games. What does that have to do with board games and the original question that kicked off of my inane ramblings, “Why Do I Design Games?” I am getting to that, promise! I love games. I play board games and video games as often as possible. Video games do not have to be in opposition to board games; they can coexist. But during my college years and 20s I played the occasional game of Risk and that was it. The rest was video games. I did not know that board games other than what was in the toy aisle at Meijer existed. No one told me. Eventually, through a friend of a friend I discovered Settlers and then BGG and all these awesome games. It was a revelation. Logic, strategery, interaction, and fun all played on a table with your buddies and/or family. I was hooked. I really enjoyed these games and I was pretty good at them. They made sense. I was unknowingly building off my years of video games. I think that could be true for most of my generation and younger. We grew up solving puzzles in King’s Quest (of course I will find cheese in the witch’s gingerbread house that later will be needed for a Leprechaun’s talking rat…) and playing magical recorders in Zelda. Even the video games of today that seem to mostly be pointing a gun and firing wildly at everything that moves (Nazis, terrorists, zombies, your buddy, some n00b) have puzzles, strategic planning, and logistics. The kids and teens of today are born gamers. Smart phone apps, Twitter/Facebook apps, DS, and casual game portals all with millions of people playing games. Many of these people never would have played games otherwise. There is so much market potential there. We (Ben and I) want to reach as many people as we can; bring more gamers into the mix; expand the hobby and grow the industry. I started off doing this because Ben asked me to and it turns out I loved it. I want to make games that people play and enjoy. It really is that simple.
I do not expect to ever make money from this. I am fortunate to have a very good job that pays well (I also married a teacher. I cannot recommend it enough. Once the Riddlenettes were school aged my wife went back to work full time but has the same schedule so no daycare and such. It rules. Trust me on this one.), so I can “afford” to work on games with Ben in my free time. Fleet is off to a great start and we hope it continues.
Ben and I are in the midst of games #2, 3, and 4. #2 is ALMOST done. This game has been just as much fun to work on as Fleet and hopefully it is something we will have the chance to bring to market for others to enjoy. If not, I enjoyed making it and that is just as important.
~ Matt Riddle