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#13 – Emma Larkins

Patrick Rauland: Hello everyone and welcome to the Indie Board Game Designers Podcast. Today we’re talking with Emma Larkins, who is the designer behind Heartcatchers and Confabula Rasa, and a bunch of other prototypes that she’s always showing off on Twitter. Emma, welcome to the show.

Emma Larkins: Thanks for having me.

How Did You Get into Board Game Design?

Patrick Rauland: So how did you get into board game and board game design?

Emma Larkins: I think this is always such an interesting question because a lot of people I come across, a lot of other designers, just have almost intimidating years and years of just playing board games, or like, “Ah, I remember 20 years ago, I was playing Twilight Imperium,” or … I don’t even know if Twilight Imperium is that old. But for me honestly, as far as … I always played video games, but as far as tabletop goes, you know, it was your traditional family Monopoly until college. And as with most other people, my intro into modern game design as a player was Catan, and played that, enjoyed it. It kind of like … Going from Monopoly to that is like, “Whoa, this is what tabletop games can be!” And then kind of nothing.

Emma Larkins: So I dipped straight back into digital games and really only did that until honestly a couple of years ago when I started getting more into a community hangout with more people who are into the hobby. The hobby was really growing a few years ago, especially at that time, so it was really easy to find friends who were into playing tabletop games and get introduced to it.

Patrick Rauland: Awesome. So after Catan, was there a game that pulled you in?

Emma Larkins: Oh my gosh. That’s a really good question. I would say yes.

Emma Larkins: Okay, so I went straight from Catan to like, years and years later, my boyfriend introduced me to Lords of Waterdeep. And so it’s, again, you’re talking about orders of magnitude of differences in like level of design, and interesting-ness of mechanics, and that was really my first worker placement game that I played. And as I felt many times, getting more and more into the hobby, I was very intimidated, you know? Because like oh my gosh, there’s pieces, there’s cards, there’s the board; there’s so much stuff.

Emma Larkins: And it was great. It was so accessible and so easy, and it’s one that I always recommend to people as well because of that, because … You know, obviously having someone to teach that game helped a lot, but just playing it felt so comfortable and fun, and it was really at that point where I was like, “This doesn’t have to be intimidating. I can do this.” And you know, if I can do it, then anyone can do it; can get into this, and play, and have a good time.

Patrick Rauland: That sounds very much like, “I want to do this, so I’m doing it.”

Emma Larkins: Yes. Yeah. It’s weird, that’s kinda been a trend for me, both as a designer and getting more into playing games. Because it’s gonna sound weird to some people who are really into the hobby, but I’ve been forcing myself to play some of these scarier, heavier games, or at least to not be intimidated by them. So things like Scythe, Rising Sun, even Gaia Project, you know? I’ve in the past been really intimidated just looking at these games and now I’ve been like, “You know, it doesn’t really matter. I’m gonna do the best I can.” And every time, it’s like as soon as you get into it, it’s fine, it’s fun, it’s lovely.

Patrick Rauland: I really like that. There’s definitely some games that I’m … I don’t tend to like things that are over two hours; like the game has to be so good for me to want to play it, an over two hour game. Like I’d much rather play two one hour games. But every once in awhile, like when you settle in, it’s not a bad thing at all. I was actually dreading Terraforming Mars and then it was like I got with the right game group, I sat down, it was my first game and I loved it. But it was just this mental block of like I don’t tend to like, you know, a game that could be two hours, so I just won’t play it.

Emma Larkins: Yeah, I’ve had maybe one or two not great experiences, and I think after the experience I actually posed the question to Twitter, and the game will remain nameless because it’s a lovely game and I’m sure lots of other people really enjoy it, but I said, “Is there a polite way to like bow out after a couple of hours and just say, you know, ‘I’ve done everything this game has to offer. I really don’t think I need any more.'” And everyone’s like, “No, you can’t do that. You can’t ever do that.”

Emma Larkins: But that’s the thing, right? That’s the thing about these bigger, heavier games, especially … I was with a new group, I didn’t really know people there, so it is scary to think that you’re locked into this experience.

Being Active on Twitter

Patrick Rauland: Well I’m glad you brought up Twitter because that’s sort of how I originally found you. You basically have this cool little hashtag called #GameDesignDaily. Can you tell us about it?

Emma Larkins: Yes, absolutely. So about … How long? It was about a year and a half ago I moved from New York City to Seattle, and in the process … We were moving, my boyfriend and I, because my boyfriend got a job at Amazon, and in the process, my life was kind of … I wanted to do it, but my life was turned upside down; like I ended up leaving the job that I had there, I wasn’t sure exactly what I was going to do next. I wanted to do more board game design stuff, wasn’t sure in what capacity.

Emma Larkins: So in this floundering period, I turned towards the idea of daily practices. And it’s the kind of thing, you know, everyone will tell you to do; it’s like you don’t know what you want to do with your life, journal and meditate and exercise, and the stuff you’re always like, “Yeah yeah, whatever.” Like I don’t have time for that. But when you’re trying to figure out your life path, you do have time. And it works. And it’s like oh, maybe this is why everyone says to do it, because it actually helps to do like a little bit every day.

Emma Larkins: And eventually, I turned the idea of these daily practices towards the idea of game design because I was also feeling a little stuck with where I was … Wasn’t sure how to move forward with game design. I was like, “Well what if I just do something every day?” But the big part of this is like making it so easy for yourself, you can’t fail; like for exercise, two minutes. Like jog for two minutes or like do five pushups or something. Just set the bar so low.

Emma Larkins: So for game design, I allowed myself basically … Like do some doodles, come up with an idea for a game, make a list of game names. And I started doing that, I started sharing it on Twitter and Instagram to hold myself accountable, and it really worked. I found that as I was doing this, all the games I was stuck on started to flow and I found myself, because I was in this mind state, able to move forward on a lot of projects and ideas that I hadn’t been able to before because everything kind of became unlocked.

Patrick Rauland: I really love that. I guess a year and a half ago, I decided I wanted to run every week because, I think the year prior, I was like, “Oh, I ran so much. I’m so awesome.” And I used my Fitbit, so I’m like how many times did I run? And it was like 26. I thought I ran every week, sort of like on average I thought I ran every week, and then I counted, I’m like oh, it’s literally every other week when I … You know, I didn’t run in December, I didn’t run in January. And I switched to a once a week period, like you have to run in between Monday and Sunday, and now I run twice as much just from that sort of rhythm, I guess.

Patrick Rauland: So I’m guessing you get something similar. You’re just always moving forward with your game design by forcing yourself to work on it every day.

Emma Larkins: Yeah, exactly.

Patrick Rauland: Cool. So I’m curious, have people been … I’m also curious, in addition to motivating yourself, you’re also sharing this on Twitter or on Instagram or wherever. Like have you gotten really good conversations with other people that have also moved your game forward?

Emma Larkins: Yeah. It’s funny, having this daily thing, it really helps … It helps for staying motivated to work on games, but even starting conversations. Like it turns out posting regularly on Twitter and Instagram is also a great way to build your presence on those platforms and make yourself more accessible. So it’s this beautiful snowball sort of a thing where everything combines and works together.

Emma Larkins: And the posts that I’ve done really resonate with people. For example, one of the tasks I did was writing a list of alliterative game names. And I did it on the bus, I wrote like 20 or 30 of them, and took a picture of it, posted it, and people are looking at it as like, “Oh, Abandon All Artichokes. I would buy that.” I’m like, “That’s not a … There’s nothing. It’s just words in a list.” They’re like, “No no, it’s great. I want it.” So that became one of the games that I did for my week of prototyping a game a day, and the game turned out to work really well. And so I pushed it, I prototyped it, I pitched it to publishers at PAX Unplugged, and now I have a few publishers who are looking at that game.

Patrick Rauland: Wow. So-

Emma Larkins: And that all happened because someone on Twitter said they would buy it.

Patrick Rauland: That’s so cool. And sorry, I want to go back to … You just said you published a game every day of one week? Tell me about that.

Emma Larkins: Oh, well, prototyped.

Patrick Rauland: Oh sorry, sorry. Sorry, I meant prototyped.

Emma Larkins: Yeah. So that was another part of the daily practice. As I got into the rhythm and I became more comfortable with just like being able to do a little something every day, then I was like oh, I should do a challenge; I should push myself a little bit. So I created my first challenge of prototyping a game a day for a week. And I set myself up beforehand, I had kind of ideas of the things that I wanted to work on, and it was a bunch of projects that I’m like oh, this would be cool, this would be cool. I have a Trello list that’s just so long with all these ideas I want to work with, but it’s hard to find time to get those projects in.

Emma Larkins: So this challenge really focused me. I’m like I’m gonna get these done, I might be able to work on it for half an hour, I might be able to work on it for three hours, but I’m gonna get something playable. And you can do that with tabletop, you can make a game in half an hour or an hour. It’s not done, you know, it’s maybe more of a mechanic, but it’s something you can test and play. And seven days, I was able to get seven prototypes in. At least three or four of them were pretty good and stuff. I was like, “I want to move forward on this.” So it is a lot, for sure, but it’s just like a hugely, hugely helpful practice.

Patrick Rauland: So at the time of this recording, I had just came back from Tabletop Network, which was a game design conference, and I am so jazzed on game design right now. However, I am realizing that my ideas are not hitting the table fast enough; like I just have a backlog of a million ideas, and they all sound really fun and I want to try them all, but I’m not dedicating the time to prototyping and … I’m not dedicating enough time to prototyping. So I love the idea of a game design every day, because I also like stay-vacations. So maybe this summer, I will have to set up a little stay-cation for myself and try to get … That sounds amazing and just a really effective way to actually test your ideas.

Emma Larkins: Oh yeah, for sure.

Patrick Rauland: Cool. Okay, so you said you moved to Seattle. Now first of all, I’m slightly offended you moved to Seattle and not Denver because I’m a big, big fan of Denver. Obviously you said you moved for your partner’s job, but you should consider Denver next time.

Patrick Rauland: But it seems like-

Emma Larkins: I’ll add to the list.

Patrick Rauland: Yes, please. You know, I hear Amazon might open an office here, so you can …

Emma Larkins: Yeah, there you go.

Patrick Rauland: So if they do, you can move to the sun with me.

Building a Game Design Community

Patrick Rauland: So in Seattle, it seems like you have a really active game design group. Like it seems like every … I see a picture from you or from Gold Nugget Games, and it’s always like a table and you’re all … It seriously looks like happy. I can imagine you’re like hobbits and dwarves sitting around a table, drinking and eating hobbit and dwarf food, and you’re playing games, and it looks like so much fun. How did you create such an active group?

Emma Larkins: It’s really funny, actually. I gotta think back to what exactly was the seed of it. So I was here in Seattle, like I had … There’s other groups; there’s like Playtest Northwest, is a pretty active group, and they do stuff on the weekends, usually Saturdays or Sundays, where you can go and test publicly. Which is really cool too, you know, because it’s important to get feedback from public-facing in addition to designer-facing.

Emma Larkins: So I’d done that a few times, but in the interim, I had gotten a job working for Mox Boarding House, which is a local board game store, and my weekends … Like I didn’t have as much time to work on the weekends, or to do game design on the weekends. So I’m like, “Oh, I’m free on Wednesdays, so I want to be able to do design on a day where I have some free time.” And there was an existing group in Seattle, like a Facebook group, so I kind of just … Like I joined the group, I’m like, “Oh, we’re not really doing events. Let’s do an event every Wednesday from now on.” And people were … You know, there was like 150 or something people in the group, the group wasn’t super active, and people were like, “Okay. I guess I’ll come out and check it out.”

Emma Larkins: And I managed to get Sean Sancovich, and Chris Gline, and a few like core members who, right from the beginning, were just so excited about this, like unlocking their potential and just like … It’s like the floodgates were opened; like they just had so much stuff they wanted to do. They just had never realized how passionate they were about this, so I was kind of in a position where there was … The time was right. Like there was people just aching to have something like this and, you know, I started doing the event and people just latched onto it in an incredible way.

Patrick Rauland: It seems like … So I had this a long time ago with … There was like a WordPress meetup. This was like six years ago. There was a WordPress meetup that was just sitting there and no one schedules an event, and like the organizer wasn’t doing anything. And I kind of just asked the organizer, like “Hey, do you mind if I schedule it?” And then it launched into this thing and that meetup group is still going today just because … Basically there was like a potential and no one was sitting there, and it seems like you saw the potential and you did something with it.

Emma Larkins: Yeah. And it really … Again, I can’t emphasize enough how much everything is connected together. So I think some people look at a particular instance and they’re like, “Oh, how did you do this one thing?” or this one thing is like really big and impressive. It’s like all these little, tiny things are just like building and building. So having already done game design daily for like six months at that point, the idea of doing something on a regular basis was feeling very natural to me. And I was lucky to have a space to … I mean, I think that’s a big thing that can deter people, especially in a city where it’s harder to find … Like sometimes people want you to pay a lot of money to find somewhere that’s like big enough for a group. And the apartment building that I live in actually has this semi-public/private space that I just started using.

Emma Larkins: So having that place, having the dedicated core group of people, and knowing I wanted to do it and that I could commit to it … It was scary, like I wasn’t sure I could commit to it, but just like making that choice to commit to it every single week, is really what makes it grow. Because once you see people … Like that’s the friendship … Like if you talk about mechanizing friendship, the minimum bar is like seeing a person every week and that’s when you start to develop a stronger bond. So the bonds that we’ve made just individually within the group is really what ties it together.

Like if you talk about mechanizing friendship, the minimum bar is like seeing a person every week and that’s when you start to develop a stronger bond.

Patrick Rauland: I don’t know about you, but making friends as an adult is surprisingly challenging, and meeting someone once a week is … You have to be like really close friends to sort of … Sort of like a … What’s the phrase? A catch-22. It’s like if you want to see them regularly, you have to already be good friends, but to be good friends you sort of have to see them regularly.

Emma Larkins: Yeah. And honestly, that was a big part of it too, is moving to Seattle, you know, not really knowing anyone out here, but even just like reaching a point in my adulthood where I’m like I don’t really have a lot of good friends and I want to change that, and I want to have people who I really care about and am connected, to because that makes life better.

What Type of Games Do You Like to Design?

Patrick Rauland: Love it. All right, let’s change gears a little bit. So you have a process, you want to do something, five minutes, every single day, you have a weekly playtesting group. Now that you have all that set up, what type of games do you like to design?

Emma Larkins: I like to design games that are … I want to say accessible, but I think that some people, within the hobby and designers, kind of … There’s a little bit of tension between accessible games and casual games, and whether they’re good for the hobby or bad for the hobby, and there’s kind of a lot wrapped up in there. And really, the most important thing for me is like it can be a more complex game; it doesn’t have to be casual. Like I have a lot of levels of games that I’m working on, but the big part is you can get people into the game; like something that I can play with my friend group, some of whom might not be gamers. And it doesn’t … Like people are smart. You don’t have to have something super casual or super easy. There’s things you can do in game design to make really interesting, strategic, thought-provoking games accessible. I mean, Azul really is like one of the best examples of … Like that’s a fun game, that’s a fun game for designers, it’s a fun game for heavy gamers, but it’s also super, super fun and accessible and satisfying for new players.

Emma Larkins: So that’s really a goal for me as a designer, to make these more interesting mechanics and mechanically interesting games appeal to a broader audience. So for example, Abandon All Artichokes is a deck builder reduced to its simplest components. And there are a few games out there that are like simpler deck builders, but the idea behind Abandon All Artichokes is like you don’t even really know that you’re doing a deck builder. It’s like, “Oh, I have this stack of cards and I put stuff in the discard pile, and then that becomes my new stack of cards and I’m just taking stuff from it.” So it’s natural, but then if you were to play a deck builder after that, you’re like “Oh yeah, I already kind of know … ” Like it’s a new concept. If you’ve never done it before, it’s a little confusing, but going over that barrier, it just opens up so many different types of games to you.

Patrick Rauland: So I really like that example and I think we as board gamers tend to be like, “Oh, this is a deck builder” to sort of explain what the game is-

Emma Larkins: Yeah, exactly.

Patrick Rauland: … and that totally works when someone knows that jargon. But when someone doesn’t know the jargon, it’s like, “Hey, do you like worker placement games?” “What’s worker placement?” And I know people use jargon … In every industry, in every facet of life, we use jargon to like communicate complex ideas in a simple fashion, but if someone doesn’t know that, people … Also people rarely go, “What is that?” right? Like most people are very bad at that. So I kind of like the idea of explaining complicated game mechanisms, like deck building, in a … You just add to the card to your discard pile and then when you shuffle it, it’s just in your new deck; without the jargon.

Emma Larkins: I think Gamewright does some of that stuff really well. So for Sushi Go!, it’s a drafting game, right? And for anyone who’s played Magic or who knows about the jargon, you know it’s a drafting game. But when I … I’ve been practicing pitching the game at Mox Boarding House, because we have a library so I like try and find people games that they’ll want to play, and at first I was pitching it as a drafting game. People were like, “Uh.” And so when I actually talked to the Gamewright people, they’re like, “Oh yeah, we don’t like to call it a drafting game. We like to call it a pick and pass game.”

Patrick Rauland: Oh my gosh.

Emma Larkins: Yes! Right?

Patrick Rauland: That’s great.

Emma Larkins: I know. And hearing that, I just felt like … And this is exactly the kind of thing I’m talking about, where like pick and pass, I take it and then I pass the hand? That’s kinda cool, that’s fun. Like that makes sense. But then later, if you realize like “Oh, I did a drafting game,” and if you see drafting again, it’s like “Oh, I do kinda understand the concept of this”; it can like be a stepping stone to more complex experiences.

What Games Inspire You?

Patrick Rauland: So what sort of games are out there that inspire your designs? Something, either a theme or mechanism or both … Yeah, what inspires you?

Emma Larkins: Definitely things like Sushi Go and Azul. I mean, again Azul’s like a [inaudible 00:23:06] nominee or something; like these are the pinnacle of simple, accessible but still really fun and interesting and strategic game design. So definitely that concept of, you know, like I can get lots of people into it. Dixit is another great example where I’ve played that with gamer/non-gamer friends and everybody’s had a really good time. Nice components too, I would say. Like that’s definitely something Azul has going for it, is just you open it up and you hand someone the pieces, they’re like, “I don’t even care how you play this; I just want to play around with these little starburst thing.” They’re just so juicy and satisfying.

Emma Larkins: And I would say, last but not least, games that are exploring … Pushing the bounds of what a theme for a board game can be. So like the one thing that has just been … Like I’ve played heavier games, I’ve gotten into different games. The one thing I’m still so resistant to is any sort of like train game, coal game, oil game, like historical representation; it just all seems to dry to me. And even if it has good mechanics, it’s just like … Just the box art just makes me kind of sad inside. So when I see games, like the … Is it Villagers One? Villagers something? The Kickstarter that just came out. Just the design of that, it just pops, and I’m like that’s a cool theme.

Emma Larkins: I have another game I’m working on called Sofas for Sale, which is like a worker placement game, but you’re in just this like rundown discount store with these grandma sofas that you’re trying to buy. And that’s something … Like that flavor I haven’t really seen, so I want to see more of that.

Patrick Rauland: Yeah. Yeah, I think … I totally agree with you on themes. I’m a little bit burned out on just like werewolves and zombies, you know, that type. And don’t get me … I literally got to, what is it, Tiny Epic Zombies? Like if it was a good zombie game, I’m still gonna get it, but I think like dazzle me with a new theme. Yeah, I really like sort of like alternate …

Patrick Rauland: And I really like alternate takes on existing themes. There was the goblin game they just finished up on Kickstarter. It was like a … Instead of the heroes going into the dungeon, you were the goblin merchant that sells the heroes good, and then you also like buy the treasures when they come back from the dungeon. It was just like … You know, it’s the same fantasy feeling, but at least you’re the goblin merchant, which is like a cool new take on it.

Emma Larkins: Yeah. And I think … Sorry.

Patrick Rauland: No, go ahead and finish.

Emma Larkins: There’s a lot of space for things that are just people … Like garbage trucks or like kindergarten classes. There’s just so many things that haven’t been done yet, you know? People are like oh, there’s not really space for new games, but I think there’s just a lot of territory to be explored.

What Mechanisms or Themes Are You Looking Into?

Patrick Rauland: Cool. Okay, so I kinda want to change gears a little bit. So I know what type of games you’re designing, but what sort of fun ideas or mechanisms are you like actively looking into? If there’s anything that you can share.

Emma Larkins: So like different … For some of the prototypes that I’m working on?

Patrick Rauland: Yeah, just … How about this? How about what are some fun ideas that are rattling around your head right now?

Emma Larkins: Oh gosh. They’re all … Like I try and shove them down because I just … They’re just so much stuff. I wake up almost every other morning with something that I’ve dreamed about and I’m like, “Oh, this would be so cool.” Just to go down the list, I have a game where you play as a cat and you’re knocking stuff on the floor, because our cats just love knocking stuff on the floor. But the idea of this is the absolute opposite, like this is a gamer’s nightmare; knocking things on the floor, and then if you lose them, you get extra points. And someone was like, “Oh, it could be a legacy game where you kind of … ” Like the game has fewer and fewer pieces over time. But then if you find them later, you have to like retcon your score, so you have to like lose them real good. And this just … Awful. But, you know, it’s something like … Maybe there’s a seed of something that’s actually a good game in there somewhere.

Emma Larkins: I also … So for Confabula Rasa, it’s a storytelling game with word fragments on non-linear cards that makes this kind of branching tableau on the table. And when I first came up with that, I didn’t want it to be words, I wanted it to be pictures. So I’ve been talking about it a little on Twitter recently, this idea of like seeing, visions, and this kind of Googled deep dream landscape. And again, I’m not sure exactly how to mechanize that. I feel like I would need to work with a really creative design-focused artist to even come up with the pieces for that. But like just seeing visions in a mechanical way for a game, I think would be really cool.

What Does Success Look Like?

Patrick Rauland: Love it. Okay, so I kinda want to change gears a little bit because we’re sort of running out of a little bit of time. So one of my favorite questions that I ask everyone is what is … You’re in the board game world. What does success look like to you?

Emma Larkins: I’m excited about the variety of potential in this industry. I always try to tell new designers who are coming in … You know, they come in, they’re excited, they’re like, “I’m gonna make games, I’m gonna make money off of those made games,” and that’s what it means to be a designer. But if your idea of success is like making a ton of money specifically off of games that you have produced, it’s such a narrow line and there’s not a lot of room for play in there.

Emma Larkins: So for me, I see it more as a journey where you don’t know exactly where it will lead, but it’s all good directions. So like this, you know, doing podcast, doing articles, doing books, doing talks, teaching, getting people into the industry; even other industries that you can take game design into, you know? You might do game design for NASA. I know there’s a person I follow on Twitter who does that. He might do game design for like Microsoft or Amazon. Yes, there’s just like … Game design, I feel like, is a concept that has the potential to break apart a lot of industries and like take things to the next level by making them fun and encouraging play, whether it’s education or the auto industry. There’s just so much room for this concept of play to be explored.

Patrick Rauland: Wow. I really, really like this answer, and I … No, I think I really like the idea of exploring play and … Because I do think that play can be elaborated on, it can be explored; it doesn’t have to be a board game as we imagine it today, it doesn’t have to be a video game as we imagine it today. I think there’s a lot of … And I think maybe we can also teach things with play, right? It doesn’t always have to be super hard and boring, and I think we can … There’s some cool … Like prisoner’s dilemma, you know what I mean? Like we can explore cool psychological concepts through play and it doesn’t always have to be like … I can just imagine like a paragraph explaining a prisoner’s dilemma in a psychology textbook and that just sounds super boring and I don’t think you actually get it until you go through it.

Emma Larkins: Right, exactly.

Patrick Rauland: I think that’s a great answer.

What’s the Best Way to Market Your Game?

Patrick Rauland: Okay, so sort of a last question is just what is the best way to market your game?

Emma Larkins: Community. It’s something that I come back to. People are always looking for the tips, and the hacks, and the shortcuts, and the easy way out, but really it’s building those human connections with people. And Joseph Chen, who’s doing the Fantastic Factories Kickstarter now and really blowing that out of the water, he’s really embodied the ideal of marketing mixed with community. He worked, and continues to work, so hard on just going to conventions, connecting with people, getting the email addresses from there, making those human connections, like networking with podcasters, and he just cares about people; he cares about what you’re working on. He’s just so lovely and nice and such a wonderful person, and that reflects back on his success because, you know, he’s a good designer and his game is excellent, so that helps of course. But for the marketing aspect, it’s just connections.

Patrick Rauland: That’s a really … I appreciate that because I think I’d say about 50% of the people answer this question by like oh, it’s Twitter, oh, it’s email, oh, it’s … And it’s nice to get answers like that where it’s like a very specific technology or something that sort of … I can’t think of the word. But sort of like practical, hands-on that you could-

Emma Larkins: [inaudible 00:32:30]

Patrick Rauland: Actionable. There we go, actionable.

Emma Larkins: Yeah, actionable.

Patrick Rauland: That’s the word I’m looking … But what you’re saying is like building a community, however you decide to build that community, is how you actually create authentic human connections and that’s what ultimately will sell your game.

Emma Larkins: And it’s fun too, and that’s something … Like you don’t have to differentiate between making friendships and networking and making connections that way. I mean, my board game designer community are my friends, you know? I do care about these people, and the people I meet at conventions, I care about them and I want to see them succeed. So it’s something you can just naturally do and enjoy. So that’s kind of nice, you know? It’s not like typing out marketing emails all the time. Part of it can be fun as well.

Underrated Overrated Game

Patrick Rauland: Love it. All right, so I like to end every episode with a game called Underrated, Overrated. Have you heard of it?

Emma Larkins: Oh, yes. I’ve heard of it.

Patrick Rauland: Yes? Okay, cool. So basically I’m gonna say a phrase or a name of something and I’m gonna force you to take a position, if you think it’s overrated or if you think it’s underrated.

Patrick Rauland: So the very first one, tile laying games; are they overrated or are they underrated?

Emma Larkins: Overrated as implemented. I think a lot of them get reductive and I want to see people blow out the space with like different shapes and ideas and that kind of thing.

Patrick Rauland: So like you want to … I guess you want to see more innovation there?

Emma Larkins: Yes.

Patrick Rauland: Cool. Love it. All right, so Wrinkle in Time, and I’m specifically saying the movie.

Emma Larkins: Oh my gosh, so underrated. I loved the book as a child, I saw the movie come out, I saw not great reviews and I was a little sad about it, and I finally watched it on the plane. It is just so luscious and the characters are amazing, it captures the feel of the book. So I can’t talk it up enough.

Patrick Rauland: Unfortunately I did not have the same experience.

Emma Larkins: Oh no!

Patrick Rauland: I didn’t ever read it as a kid, and so for me, it felt discombobulated and I honestly gave up halfway through.

Emma Larkins: That’s fair, yeah.

Patrick Rauland: But I honestly gave up halfway through, so maybe if I pushed through the second half, I’ll figure it out or I’ll enjoy it more. Maybe I should … I’ll go back to it now.

Emma Larkins: All right.

Patrick Rauland: Game design contests, are they overrated or underrated?

Emma Larkins: That’s a tough one. I would say just a little overrated. I love the fact that they can inspire people to do game design, to like take on the challenge, to finish a product to completion, but if you’re looking to get your game kind of out there and seen and like produced, there’s potentially better ways to do it. Also, I feel like the ones I’ve seen tend to trend the same territory a little bit; like I haven’t seen really innovative things come out of them, is kind of my frustration at the moment.

Patrick Rauland: All right. I like that answer. Lastly, macaroons; overrated, underrated?

Emma Larkins: Okay, macaroons or macarons?

Patrick Rauland: The adorable French cookie thing.

Emma Larkins: Cool. Yeah.

Patrick Rauland: Which one is that?

Emma Larkins: Macarons. So macaroons-

Patrick Rauland: Oh no!

Emma Larkins: … is the one that’s like shredded coconut in the like egg thing. But yeah, no, I didn’t realize this either until very recently when I began my obsession with macarons. And despite the fact that they are rated so highly, I would still say underrated because I discovered Lady Yum’s macarons in Seattle and it’s been like a religious experience for me with the deliciousness of those very expensive little cookies.

Patrick Rauland: They are very expensive, but my god, they can be delicious.

Emma Larkins: Oh my gosh. I can’t even explain. It’s like eating a butter cloud with just these flavors. Like how does this taste like an actual strawberry? It’s made out of almonds.

Patrick Rauland: Love it. I totally agree and I love it.

Thanks For Being on the Show

Patrick Rauland: Thank you for being on the show, Emma. Where can people find you online?

Emma Larkins: Well thank you so much for having me. This has been a lot of fun. So you can find me pretty much everywhere Emma Larkins is sold. So that’s the brand I use to tie everything together. My website is EmmaLarkins.com, Emma Larkins on Twitter and Instagram. I have Medium and Twitch as well under the same name that I kind of need to buff up a little bit because I’ve been slacking on those, but yeah. That’s pretty much the best places to find me.

Patrick Rauland: And what was that dope hashtag?

Emma Larkins: #GameDesignDaily.

Patrick Rauland: There we go. Yeah, because I think that’s really, really cool. I really enjoy seeing those posts.

Patrick Rauland: Thank you again for being on here. For the listeners, if you enjoyed this podcast, please leave us a review on iTunes or wherever you’re listening to this. If you do leave a review, Emma said that she would come over to your local meetup and high-five every member to get them excited, so that seems like a pretty good deal to me. You can visit the site at IndieBoardGameDesigners.com, you can follow me on Twitter, I am @BFTrick.

Patrick Rauland: By the way, I’m starting to look for questions, so if you have a question for a specific designer or designers in general, go to the website. I’ll have a contact form up soon and you can just send in a question and let me know, and I’ll try to ask some of those questions to the speakers. I guess that’s all, so until next time, happy designing, everyone.

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