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#12 – Carol Mertz

Patrick Rauland: Hello everyone and welcome to the Indie Board Game Designers podcast. Today we're going to be talking with Carol Mertz who is the designer behind Pass The Buck, which is the bluffing game where you're trying to get out of doing work.

Patrick Rauland: Carol, welcome to the show.

Carol Mertz: Hi. Thanks for having me.

How Did You Get Into Game Design?

Patrick Rauland: So first question I like to ask everyone, how did you get into this crazy world of board game design or game design in general?

Carol Mertz: Well, I started out actually in digital design. I had a studio in Saint Louis, Missouri for a little while called Happy Badger Studio with a handful of friends from primarily university, so college. We all just kind of decided that we wanted to play around with games, start messing with game design as a medium, as a hobby, and that got me really excited about working on games in general. In that studio, we had sister studios. We had Rampant Interactive, which was a client facing studio. We did all kinds of interactive work, websites and things like that for clients. Then we had Happy Badger Studio, but while we were working with clients, I started getting really frustrated with a lot of the stuff that I was seeing in corporate America, and I made a joke saying I was going to make a game called Pass The Buck, a game of corporate responsibility management. Like that joke went on Facebook, and I was thinking in my mind, “I'm going to make this a video game.” Then I was like, “No, really. I'm going to make this a game and I want to make you look at each other in the eye when you lie to each other.”

Carol Mertz: I had never made a card game before, and I had always kind of wanted to try. I'd been playing a lot of Werewolf and Coup and things like that. I was like, “This is perfect.” So that's kind of where my forte into card game design started.

Patrick Rauland: I was going to ask you where did the idea of Pass The Buck come from, and it literally came from your experience working with or adjacent to the corporate world. That is an amazing story.

Carol Mertz: Yeah. I just kept getting all these emails that said, “That's not my problem. That's this person's problem. Oh, that's not my problem. That's this person's problem.” “I'm sorry. I'm not in the office this week.” You're trying so desperately to get work done so you can just get paid and feed yourself. Meanwhile, this culture was just preventing that from happening. I was getting so frustrated that I knew if I didn't turn it into something fun, I was just going to have to deal with it.

Patrick Rauland: So this was like a … What's the word? Catharsis? Is that right? Where it's like you're sort of complaining but in a fun way to sort of make yourself feel better.

Carol Mertz: Absolutely. That's one of my mantra is I design games for fun and catharsis. So a lot of the games that I make are kind of in that vein of this is something that I'm going to turn into an experience that I can share with other people so that I can either laugh at it or process it or just share my experience with others so I don't have to just stew in it.

Patrick Rauland: Yeah. Oh, that's great. I mean, it's way healthier than stewing.

Carol Mertz: I'd like to think that.

Patrick Rauland: Okay. So I kind of want to ask you since you said this is all about corporate stuff. I'm just curious like because you ran the Kickstarter three years ago, two and a half years ago?

Carol Mertz: Yeah.

Who Are Your Customers?

Patrick Rauland: Like I'm curious, were most of your customers people who have corporate jobs? Was the theme … Was there a strong connection between the customer and the theme of the game?

Carol Mertz: In a lot of cases yeah. I think a lot of people also played it as catharsis but there were a few times when I demoed it and people were like, “This is too close to home. It's too real. I'm not comfortable basically doing what I've been doing all day.” They had a hard time seeing the joke in it because it's so raw, I guess. Then on the flip side, I played with some artists once who had never worked in corporate America and never had any experience with corporate culture, and they didn't get most of the jokes. Because every card in the game, every task card that you get is a joke about some dumb thing that happens in corporate America. Like schmooze the distributor until they're distributing more than they know what to do with and that sort of thing.

Patrick Rauland: That's amazing.

Carol Mertz: Yeah. When you're not in that setting, a lot of those corporate buzzwords just totally go over your head.

Patrick Rauland: Sure, sure. I imagine and I think I've seen there games do this where almost like the title of the card or maybe just the flavor text of the card is half of the enjoyment, right?

Carol Mertz: Oh yeah.

Patrick Rauland: In this game, it sounds like the theme is so strong and maybe the mechanisms aren't super important, but it's like you play the … We're going to talk a little bit later. The nepotism card. It's like, “Ha ha. I don't have to do it now.” Like just the name nepotism and like I think people might find that funny or horribly upsetting when someone plays it against you.

Carol Mertz: Yeah. Well, in my case, I mean, like I said, I try to design for catharsis so that includes the mechanics. I try to really incorporate the theme and mechanics in a really unified way. So in a lot of cases, like I said, I wanted people to look each other in the eye when they're lying, things like that. So like while the theme is really strong, I wanted the theme and the mechanics to support each other with just as much strength. So there is the mechanics are a really important part of the game, right? There's this kind of corporate espionage happening. There's this feeling of I don't care if you get screwed over when I do this, this is my right to do. It kind of the mechanics really feed the emotion of the game, which all kind of ties into itself. I know that that's a bit of a tangent, but I just wanted to make sure that it was a …

Documenting The Process

Patrick Rauland: Yeah. That makes perfect sense. So you wrote up this really, really cool, detailed post called The Dirty Details of Self Publishing an Indie Tabletop Game, and I was looking over this post. First of all, I slaw. I'm always impressed and there's lots of numbers. It wasn't just like a rambling. It was like very long. Your entire process of publishing this game, and you talked about the process, right, which a lot of people don't know. But you also talked about the costs for each step, which I think is really, really cool of like, “This is how much shipping cost. This is how much the manufacturers charged.” I guess I want to ask you why did you write this post?

Carol Mertz: Because I didn't have a post like that when I was doing my research and I wished I did. So I read … I dove deep into the Stonemaier Games Blog on Kickstarter resources and everything. Jamey Stegmaier is actually also from Saint Louis. So I was able to actually get insight from him even on my Kickstarter page and everything. But I was having such a hard time finding the actual numbers of how much can I expect to pay for a production, how much can I expect to pay for shipping. All of this research I had to do myself, and while I was happy to do it, I know it would've saved me a lot of stress and anxiety if I would've just been able to compare it to anyone else's numbers to have some concept of what I could expect to pay and what I could expect overall, how much money I might be able to make on a run of 500 versus 1500 versus 5,000, which there's all these existing publishers who are like, “Oh, you can't do a run smaller than 5,000 and still make money.”

Carol Mertz: But first of all my goal was to learn, and second of all, my goals was to just publish something. So I took a big risk and ran the smaller run of games, which I felt was more realistic for a standard … For a hobbyist designer or for a designer just entering the same, and I was very careful to just record every single cent that I paid so that I would have that moving forward for future projects and so that other designers could have that just as a some sort of a baseline, some sort of an idea to know, “Okay, I'm not going to make bank on my first game. I'm not going to become wealthy if I publish a single card game. I have all of these expenses that I can look forward to and plan around with my Kickstarter, but it's possible.” You can break even. I can make this game and not suffer too hard as long as there's good planning. So that was a big motivation behind writing all that out.

Patrick Rauland: I love that you added that resource to the community. So I know I read a lot of blog posts for my day job, and not many blog posts get comments. But yours had like 12. People are actively finding that article, they're talking about it, they're … A lot of them are so grateful that there's basically a case study, right? Like here's how we did this and if you do something similar, you can probably expect similar results. I think it's a really, really valuable asset.

Carol Mertz: Thank you. Yeah. I'm really pleased that I recorded everything so carefully for myself and was able to share it.

Board Game Design Process

Patrick Rauland: So what was the most surprising part of that process for you?

Carol Mertz: The entire production is just so much. I mean, getting it manufactured and then getting pallets of games delivered, having to haul them, having to figure out how to store them, having to figure out how to fulfill them, having to print out shipping labels, all this stuff. I did everything by myself. It was so much. It was beyond a level of effort that I had anticipated, and I was happy to do it because, like I said, it was intended to be a learning experience. But moving forward, my goal is to work through publishers now because I absolutely see the value of having somebody else do all of at research, have somebody else do all the heavy lifting literally and figuratively, having somebody be responsible for distribution. I didn't have a distributor. I didn't have connections to distributors. So I only sold on Amazon and to what retailers I could have access to in Saint Louis.

Carol Mertz: So it was a huge, huge learning experience for me to understand the value of tabletop publishers more than anything really.

Patrick Rauland: I think it's great you're doing that, and that's something I want to do. I want to self publish basically just to learn about it, and even if it's a miserable process, then at least I know why I don't want to do those things.

Carol Mertz: Yeah, well, my warning for you with self publishing is just to keep in mind that warehousing is a thing, and if you don't sell all your games, you're going to have to keep them somewhere. I live in New York now. I keep mentioning Saint Louis because that's where I grew up. That's where I spent the first 99% of my life, and now I'm in New York. All of my games are in a storage unit in Saint Louis. I have to pay for that storage unit. Yeah, I've got other stuff in there, but it still just kind of this thing that's always in the back of my mind. I've got a couple hundred copies I still got to unload.

Carol Mertz: I was talking to one of my professors, Eric Zimmerman, who wrote Rules of Play, and he was like, “Yeah. One day you're just going to go to an event and just give them out for free just to unload them.” I'm like, “I hope not. It's so important to me. I'm so proud of it as a game.” It's just I'm only one person and I only have so much marketing and distribution to cover.

Patrick Rauland: Yeah. Yeah. It's a bit of a shame. I think the board game world moves so … There's so many games published all the time and I think there's a little bit of the cult of the new, right? So I think it's really hard to sell a game that's two and a half years old. Not really hard but you have to … You can't just do it accidentally, you know what I mean? You need to put effort into it.

Carol Mertz: Yeah. I mean, unless there is some sort of an accident blog post or it gets featured on some thing here or there, it's unlikely to get picked up magically. Yeah. I've been trying to consider the idea of maybe doing a second printing with another publisher, but most of the people who I talked to are like, “You should just move on and look at the future,” which I am. But it's still kind of sad because I love that game so much. I'm really proud of it. But I know that it could do a lot better under a publisher. So there's always going to be that kind of well, what if sort of scenario when you self publish like that.

Patrick Rauland: Well, I mean, at a minimum, you now see the value in going through a publisher, right?

Carol Mertz: Of course. Yeah.

Distributing Print and Play Games

Patrick Rauland: Okay. So you did an interesting thing with your print and play. You used a service, and I'm hoping it's

Carol Mertz: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah.

Patrick Rauland: So why did you use this service to share your print and play? Yeah, why'd you use it?

Carol Mertz: Yeah. So, like I mentioned, I actually come from a video games background and is primarily a video game distributor. So it's similar to if you've heard of Steam, which is run by Valve. It's a storefront for digital games. I knew that they allowed you to upload anything you want, any kind of file, whatever you want to do, and there's a lot of other people who have PDFs of RPGs and print and plays and things like that on there. They have keys that you can download. They give you a 90% cut of all of the purchases. So it's just basically just this platform that's designed to be super creator friendly and really accessible to anyone making anything.

Carol Mertz: So for the Kickstarter, I knew I wanted to have something that was trackable and the keys allowed me to do that. So I was able to give every single backer an individual key. I was able to charge for the game and be able to log all of my purchases. Everything was super, super easy to do, and it just gives me a really nice digital storefront for doing a print and play like that. I already had actually my digital games up on there so it was really easy as opposed to doing something … I know there's other like print and play resources out there for tabletop designers, but I already had my account through Itch and I was really happy with how it worked.

Patrick Rauland: So is this the type of thing where, let's say, it's $5.00 for the print and play, and when someone backs your Kickstarter, you manually send them a key to get it for free, or how does that work?

Carol Mertz: Yeah. That's what I did. I just generated as many codes as I needed for the Kickstarter and just sent an individual email to every backer. I could've probably done some sort of mail merge thing or something, but I liked being able to write in my little personal notes to each backer as well. I was able to do that as soon as each person backed the campaign also instead of waiting until the last minute. So people as soon as they backed anything, they immediately got a print and play that they could play around with, and then some people actually upgraded their pledges to the full game once they did the print and play and they really enjoyed it.

Patrick Rauland: Really? What percent of people did that? Like 5%-10%?

Carol Mertz: Very small percent. 1%-5% I would say because I had 300 backers. But it was enough that I felt like it was worthwhile to have done.

Patrick Rauland: Wow. Were there a lot of people that just get the print and play or is it … I mean, do a lot of people get the game and the print and play, and it's sort of an extra?

Carol Mertz: Well, the game automatically came with a print and play, but there was a good percentage of folks who just got the print and play, especially international folks where shipping would've been really costly. But I also don't blame folks for not wanting to add to their giant library that is just constantly growing. I know that I'm kind of suffering from that now having moved to a tiny apartment in New York City. I'm like, “What do I do with all of these Kickstarter games?”

Patrick Rauland: Yeah. When I'm looking at a new game, there are two very important factors. One is the price, of course, but the other is the amount of space it takes up. If you're a pretty good game but you're massive, I would much rather have four or five smaller, great games.

Carol Mertz: Yeah. I love A Fake Artist Goes To New York and Love Letter because I can just pop them in my bag, take them anywhere. They're great games, and it's just they're so accessible because they're so small. That was part of what I really wanted to do with Pass The Buck as well. It's in a small box about the size of Hanabi. It's just super easy to carry around with you and it's made my life really easy when I go to events and things because now I can just throw like 60 into a small suitcase, as opposed to four.

Recommendations for First Time Publishers

Patrick Rauland: Yes. No, totally. That small box, I'm sure, is a great … Is that something you'd recommend for first time creators is to go with a smaller game?

Carol Mertz: I mean, yes. If you're self publishing, you're thinking about cost, you're thinking about warehousing space, you're thinking about weight. Like how many times are you going to have to lift a case of these boxes, how many places are you going to be traveling with these things? I'm really conscious now whenever I'm designing physical games if I'm planning on publishing, I'm constantly thinking about what components are going into it, how much those components cost, what kind of space they take up, that sort of thing.

Patrick Rauland: Yeah. Can you give me an example of … So I totally agree with that on principle, but like … Or abstractly, but like can you give me an example of where you've made a decision. Like, “Oh, we could do this, but the cost isn't worth it.” Is there like a concrete example you can give me of something like that?

Carol Mertz: Yeah. There's a game that I've been working on with a couple of folks in my cohort at the NYU Game Center. We started it out as a simple card game with just very few cards, and we wanted to keep pushing it and trying to make it feel like a more fulfilling experience. So we started thinking about maybe we can include a timer, maybe we can include resource chips, and all these things. Constantly, every time we talked about adding in a new component like that, I always had to remind the group, “Remember, if we plan to publish this, that is one more thing that we have to think about how we're going to incorporate that, how it's going to fit into the box, how much extra cost that's going to add, how much extra just thought in general space that's going to take up,” and so as the game stands right now, it's back to just cards just because of the conversations that we've been having about, “Well, is this viable? Does it make sense? Does it add that much of an experience to the game that we really need to include a sand timer in every box, or can people use their phone?” For example.

Patrick Rauland: Got it. Man, that's a whole extra level of stuff I can't even think about right now, but at some points, when I get closer to publishing, I will definitely have to think about that.

Carol Mertz: Yeah. It's definitely … I mean, it's easy to at least get quotes on that sort of thing because a lot of manufacturers are used to strange components, and they're happy to give you quotes on stuff like that. But you also have to think if you want anything custom, there's just a baseline cost to any custom pieces because they have to make the materials and stuff for it. So it's just a lot of people aren't thinking about that with their first games because it's so easy to prototype even with a laser cutter or a 3D printer. You can make pretty cheap examples of what it might look like, but then you start thinking about the set up cost for mass manufacturing and things like that. It's just, “Oh, that's not what I expected.”

Patrick Rauland: Yeah.

Carol Mertz: But it's something to think about for sure.

What Do You Want to Design Moving Foward?

Patrick Rauland: So let's change gears a little it. I'm curious. You've done one game. Moving forward, what types of games do you like to design and what are .. Are there any mechanisms or themes you're looking into for some of your next games?

Carol Mertz: Well, I consider myself a multidisciplinary designer, but my primary goal, like I said, is to make games for fun and catharsis. So I either want to make games that just bring joy or I want to make games that really help to express an emotion in some capacity. So right now the games that I'm working on are group projects primarily. At least the tabletop games where I have one that's a really beautiful strategy game that is made on a custom back lit board. Speaking of custom components that are going to be extraordinarily expensive, we actually custom laser cut and custom built this LED lit board for these back lit, translucent colored pieces to do a really fascinating strategy game. I'm very excited about that because it's just plain fun and just plain beautiful.

Patrick Rauland: So I saw a picture of that on your site. It looks really cool. I think I want to give you kudos on … I'm so used to people coming up … There's so many people coming up with card games and worker placement games, and it seems like … Maybe it's just because you've had some training or education in game design, but for me and for a lot of the designers I know, we always come at it from a army of cards. We have meeples. We have this board. How do we make a game? You like custom cutting like a back lit board with like these really cool colored, angular colored tiles on top, that is something I would've never thought about. I think its really cool and really out of the box.

Carol Mertz: Yeah. Well, it was an evolution from a previous project. So that is a game … It's called Kroma. We're currently talking to different publishers about actually making it possible because that is a game I do not want to self publish. But it evolved out of an earlier prototype that I had worked on that was a more simple two dimensional strategy game that was … I don't even remember the … I think it was just intended to be an abstract game of some sort, a theme-less abstract game, and I was working on that project with a woman who's background was in architecture. So she was very comfortable with the idea of laser cutting custom pieces, and we started working with this idea of a triangle grid. It all just kind of fell into place from there. We loved that game so much that we decided to make a new game based on that same idea of the triangle grid and the strategy but really pushing what we could do in that space.

Carol Mertz: So we made this whole new game called Kroma that is more focused on color blending. It's kind of like territory capture through primary color blending. As we were researching it, we couldn't find anything that was similar in any capacity in the tabletop space. There's of course color blending games digitally, but it's much more difficult to find something like that in tabletop. So we were really excited to just explore this totally new territory. Every time we demo it, people just stop and start drooling practically. It's so great to photograph. It's so great to watch. It doubles as like a coffee table lamp. So it's a really fun project and we're really excited to have found a publisher who's as excited about it as we are. So we may see that coming out eventually. No guarantees of course but it's a hope that we'll be able to get that on shelves eventually.

Patrick Rauland: It looks very, very cool. I'll have to try to find a … I'll steal an imagine from your blog maybe and put it in our recap post of this because it just looks so pretty.

Carol Mertz: Yeah.

PixelPop Festival

Patrick Rauland: Okay. So one of the things here, in addition to all this game design, you do video game, you do board games, you're also putting on an event called PixelPop. What is PixelPop and why did you create it?

Carol Mertz: PixelPop Festival is an annual festival based in Saint Louis, Missouri, again, where I grew up and spent most of my adulthood. We made it. I made it with my team at Happy Badger Studio, like I mentioned, and a friend of ours who runs the Anime Convention in Saint Louis, Anime STL. We put it together originally just because we wanted to see more resources available in the Midwest that were affordable and accessible and supportive because we felt really disconnected from the national industry for game creators. We would go to stuff like the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco and people would hear that we came from Saint Louis and giggle a little bit because they couldn't imagine a game creator coming from Saint Louis. Now we're of course seeing folks like Jamey Stegmaier and Greater Than Games and all kinds of great companies coming out of Saint Louis. But at that point, it was much more uncommon.

Carol Mertz: So we really wanted to provide a space where people could get together, where people who love games could meet people who are making games, and maybe get inspired to start making their own, where storied game creators could teach new game creators, new game creators could help inspire older creators, where tabletop creators and digital creators could share their experiences and lessons because there's so much to learn from everyone. So we built this space. It started as a single day festival and has evolved into a two day festival. Now we're about to put on our fifth annual PixelPop Festival on July 28th and 29th of this year. It's just gotten bigger and better every year. I love how much we get to showcase so many different kinds of projects and we've really gotten to see beautiful relationships come out of it.

Carol Mertz: This year, we're actually hosting a gallery exhibition called Rules To Play by, which was concepted by one of the professors at Lindenwood University at Saint Louis, and a woman who was showing her tabletop game Mom & Me, Brianna Shuttleworth at last year's PixelPop Festival, they met and decided they wanted to do art things together as they related to games. So they're putting on this art exhibition of artful game rules at PixelPop Festival this year. It's just so cool to see all the different media come together and really just be an opportunity to inspire one another and to really showcase the interesting work that comes out of design and play.

Patrick Rauland: Yeah. I don't think there's enough of that. I agree with you. There's so much stuff on the East Coast and on the West Coast, but in the Midwest, it's a little empty I guess.

Carol Mertz: It's hard to find for sure. There's events like Bit Bash in Chicago. There's GDAX in Ohio. But a lot of times these events are single days or they're difficult to get into. They're highly curated or they're expensive. There's all kinds of reasons why someone in the Midwest who's not making a ton of money, who doesn't travel much, if at all, wouldn't go, and it's a shame because I think events are one of the best ways to really connect with the industry, to really learn a lot in a short period of time, and to get really inspired. So that was really the goal is to just make something that's financially affordable, that's geographically accessible and that's exciting enough that it draws from all over the country, which we do.

Patrick Rauland: I think that's amazing. We'll get to sort of … At the end of the interview, I'll ask people how they can find you online. But just for right now, if someone wants to go to PixelPop, they can just go to the website and get a ticket?

Carol Mertz: Yeah, tickets are actually available now. It's July 28th and 29th in Saint Louis, and it's only $30 for the weekend. Like I said, we make it financially accessible. So it's like as if you've paid to go see a movie on each day.

Patrick Rauland: Wow. That's amazing.

Carol Mertz: Yeah.

Patrick Rauland: That's really, really cool.

Carol Mertz: Thank you.

What Does Success Look Like?

Patrick Rauland: So you do a lot of different things. Festival, board games, video games, and I'm sure a bunch more. What is success look like to you? Where are you going?

Carol Mertz: That's a good question. I mean, that's part of why I went back to school because I'm not sure, right? So right now I'm studying for my master's in fine arts from the NYU Game Center, and I still have another year left here. I came here just because I really wanted to push my skills even harder than I could in Saint Louis. I was starting to kind of feel like I needed to explore other cities for other industry opportunities and found this opportunity at the Game Center and came here because I got to study under people like Eric Zimmerman and Frank Lance and Bennet Foddy and Naomi Clark and all of these really wonderful experienced designers who are doing things that I've looked up to for years. So it's been everything I wanted it to be and more.

Carol Mertz: Once I finish up here, I really just want to design games and make people happy. So I'm not really sure what that means. I love to design games with a studio that is working on projects that I believe in. I love to start my own studio and continue working on my own projects, but really, ultimately, I'm looking for sustainability, being able to feed myself, clothe myself and house myself while working on really cool stuff.

Patrick Rauland: I think that sounds amazing.

Carol Mertz: Yeah, thank you.

Underrated / Overrated Game

Patrick Rauland: So we're getting near the end here. So I like to end this with a little game called Overrated/Underrated. Basically I'm going to give you a word or a phrase and then I'm going to force you to take a position on if people think it's overrated or if it's underrated.

Carol Mertz: Oh no.

Patrick Rauland: So let's say Patrick and clearly everyone would say he's underrated because Patrick is amazing in so many ways. So something like that.

Carol Mertz: Okay.

Patrick Rauland: Does that make sense?

Carol Mertz: Okay. I'll try to hold this harsh of opinions as I can.

Patrick Rauland: Okay. So dexterity games, are they overrated or underrated?

Carol Mertz: I personally find them overrated. I'm not a huge fan. I have shaky hands and I don't like things that make me feel like bad at stuff. I like games for relaxation and not for skill and challenge necessarily.

Patrick Rauland: So maybe a relaxing dexterity game if those exist.

Carol Mertz: What is that? Is that …

Patrick Rauland: I don't even know.

Carol Mertz: I don't know. So I mentioned Bennet Foddy is one of my professors. He just released this game called Getting Over It With Bennet Foddy, which is a dexterity game, but like he has this voiceover throughout the entire game that's just like trying to calm you down as you fail over and over. So maybe that could be considered a relaxing dexterity game. I don't think it's particularly relaxing though.

Patrick Rauland: All right. How about the HR department, overrated or underrated?

Carol Mertz: Oh, underrated. Well, okay. I guess it depends on what context. I guess in most cases, the HR department is there just to protect the company. Oh no. This is getting deep. So I think if the HR department did what employees actually thought that it did, which is protect the employees, it's underrated. If the HR department does what it actually does for corporations, which is protect the corporation at the expense of the employees, it's very much overrated. Please don't hate me HR friends. But yeah, I think it's important for companies to protect their employees and to respond with very much seriousness to complaints.

Patrick Rauland: Love it. Makes sense. Kickstarter in general, overrated/underrated.

Carol Mertz: I think it's well rated. I think Kickstarter is important. I don't think it needs any more hype than it has necessarily. I think it does amazing things. But I do think that there's other ways for people to create work and to make it viable. I love what the folks at Kickstarter are doing and I think that they provide phenomenal support for creators. But I by no means would say that they are underrated. I think that there's a lot of people who are turning to Kickstarter who maybe haven't researched it well enough. So maybe researching Kickstarter and researching the process of funding your projects is a little underrated.

Patrick Rauland: Sure.

Carol Mertz: But I think that it's right where it needs to be and that it's doing really good work. It's supporting the community and it's also leaving space for other opportunities for people to create games.

Patrick Rauland: Great answer. All right. Last one, public speaking, overrated or underrated?

Carol Mertz: Underrated. I think it's so important to get out there and share your thoughts and get that experience of like sharing your experiences. I think a lot of people think that getting talks and stuff feels maybe like it's something that's outside of their … They haven't done enough to merit standing on stage and talking with people about what they've gone through or maybe they're afraid of it. But I think it's just such a good practice, it's a good habit to get into of sharing … Because everything that we go through is unique to us, right? So we've all experienced something that no one else has experienced, and the best way to share that is through industry events and things like that, through podcasts, things like this where we can really just go out of our way and make sure that people gain some understanding of the experiences that we've had so that they can apply that to their own life, take the lessons that we've learned maybe some times in a hard way and apply it to their projects and to their lives. I think it's a really, really special thing to be able to share your experiences and your knowledge with everybody else.

Patrick Rauland: I love that. All right. Well, thank you for being on the show, Carol. Where can people find you online?

Carol Mertz: You can check out all of my work at That's You can also find me on Twitter @CarolMertz, and like I mentioned you can check out PixelPop at

Patrick Rauland: Thank you, again, and for those of you listening, if you would like to leave a review of this podcast on iTunes or wherever you're listening to it, Carol said that she'd let you play the nepotism card from her game to get out of work. So you just got to get a copy of her game, play the nepotism card, and you don't have to go in anymore.

Carol Mertz: Yep.

Patrick Rauland: That's how it works.

Carol Mertz: Yeah, that's exactly how it works.

Patrick Rauland: So you can visit the site at You can follow me on Twitter @BFTrick. Oh, I forgot to mention I'm kind of looking for extra questions. So if there's any questions that you want to ask a designer, go to the website. There will be a contact form, fill out the contact form. So if you have questions, send me some questions through and I'll try to ask them.

Carol Mertz: Yeah.

Patrick Rauland: Until next time, happy designing everyone. Bye.

Carol Mertz: Bye.

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