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#22 – Jenn Sandercock

Patrick Rauland: Hello everyone, and welcome to the Indie Board Game Designers podcast. My name is Patrick Rauland, and today we have a very special guest. We are talking with Jenn Sandercock who is publishing a cookbook with edible games, which I think sounds really cool. Jenn, welcome to the show.

Jenn Sandercock: Thank you.

How Did You Get Into Cooking?

Patrick Rauland: Normally I ask people how did you get into board games, but in your case, how did you get into cooking?

Jenn Sandercock: I guess it was just something that I’ve always been interested in. Partly because I really like dessert. And I think there was this point one time, I came home from school and I wanted to eat something, like a cookie or something, and I realized that we didn’t have any in the house, but I could make some. And so I did.

Patrick Rauland: That’s awesome. Okay, you said you like dessert. I have to take a quick aside, what is your favorite dessert?

Jenn Sandercock: Anything with chocolate and raspberries.

Patrick Rauland: With … Okay, that’s not that many things. Wait, chocolate and raspberries in one dessert item? Or anything with chocolate or raspberries?

Jenn Sandercock: Chocolate and dessert is like the perfection, but either one, I will be like, “Yeah, that’s pretty cool.”

Why Combine Cooking & Games?

Patrick Rauland: All right, cool. What made you want to make a cookbook filled with edible games?

Jenn Sandercock: I guess I’ve been making games for quite some time. And I always try to bring in things from outside of games into my game design. And I thought, “Well hey, why not do edible games?” And I did a trial thing. I made a couple of small games. And the response I got from that was so fantastic that I’m like, “I’ve got to do more of this. People clearly want and need this in their lives.”

Patrick Rauland: About how many games are in your cookbook?

Jenn Sandercock: Well, there’s a dozen in the cookbook at the moment. Yeah. I have a plan for a stretch goal of a 13th game.

Patrick Rauland: Got it. Got it. And this is still a cookbook, right? It’s like a game and a recipe that might go along with the game? Or are there recipes, or no?

Jenn Sandercock: Yeah, there’s definitely recipes. Each chapter is a different game and it has, I guess, all of the possible recipes you can use. It’s not just a single recipe. Some things have either multiple components or multiple ways to make it. I try to make sure that there’s versions of the game for people who have no baking skill or people who have tons of skills so that you can modify the game to suit your needs and desires.

Patrick Rauland: That sounds so cool. I’m really excited by this. Okay, where did you find inspiration for some of the individual games? What was out there that made you think, “I need to make a game about this thing?”

Jenn Sandercock: Oh hang on. Now I’m just thinking … I’ve got to think. Oh, ’cause there’s 12 games. And I love all of them, obviously. I have more as favorites. But I think, I’ve done quite a few game jams and I’ve found that when I get a theme for a game jam that can be very inspiring. For example, the Order of the Oven Mitt, the theme for that year’s game jam was rituals. And, of course, I knew food and rituals are just the perfect combo. I went in knowing I wanted to do an edible game. It was go, okay, well how do I make this into a thing that’s fun and engaging? And sometimes I’m just, hey, I really like this particular food. I wanna come up with a game where it would be fun to do X, Y, Z with this food ’cause I know it can’t be done with other foods or in other mediums.

What Are Game Jams?

Patrick Rauland: Hmm. Now, you mentioned game jams and I know they’re pretty popular in the video game world but they’re not super popular in the board game world. Can you tell us what a game jam is and I guess maybe how you found out about them?

Jenn Sandercock: A game jam is generally about 48 hours. And a theme is given at the beginning and by the end of the 48 hours you need to have a completed game. I guess I found out about them back when I was trying to get into the games industry and I thought this was a great way to be able to just quickly try something and get a completed game under my belt. And since then I’ve found them really fun to just focus myself. Particularly because I often end up working by myself and it’s hard to set deadlines. Even though the games I get out of a game jam aren’t immediately ready to go straight into the cookbook, they’ve got enough of a core there that I’m like, okay, this part’s fun. All I’ve gotta do is iterate on this and keep going.

Patrick Rauland: Okay. I wanna ask about the specific jam you went to in a second, or one of them that you went to in a second. But is it, I’ve never been to a game jam. Is it the type of thing where you can be, “Hey, person at the next table. Come and play-test this thing for five minutes and then I’ll iterate on it and keep working on it”? Or do you work in groups? Do you work with other groups? How does it work, exactly?

Jenn Sandercock: It depends on who you are. In many game jams there will be a phase where people will go away and design their own stuff and then people will probably pitch to a bunch of other people. Some people have a very clear idea of who they wanna work with and they’ll just work with those people. Other people wanna find new people or have a great idea for a game themselves but need some extra people involved. There’s, towards the beginning within the first, say, four to six hours probably people will end up forming groups. And they generally stay as that group. But things can vary.

Jenn Sandercock: I mean, I know people who’ve left groups, who’ve joined other groups, and certainly the play-testing is a real thing that … Particularly, I think, for my games I often need other people to be playing them with me to see how other people react to it. And I feel like it’s a bit of a trade-off. I’ll go around asking people if they want me to play-test their games and then when the time comes and I need someone to play-test my games then they’re like, “Oh, well, yeah, you helped me out so I’ll help you out.”

Patrick Rauland: Are you, I know these are big in the video game world. Are you the only person making a table top or maybe physical game while everyone else is making video games? Or is it a more even mix?

Jenn Sandercock: It depends on the game jam. Yeah, certainly, I mean I’ve been the only one making games out of food at all of them. But, yeah. Other people have definitely been making table top games. It’s, for example, the Global Game Jam is a great community and great experience but their website is definitely a lot more geared towards digital games. And therefore it can feel a little frustrating sometimes. But if … each site is very different, you’ve just got to find a site where people are welcoming and accommodating. And games are games. At the end of the day people are happy.

Patrick Rauland: Now, I made an assumption. I assumed that game jams were in-person. Are they more online and you just, there’s a certain time where the theme is announced and there’s a forum or a live chat or something like that?

Jenn Sandercock: They are generally in-person but there are many that you can do online as well via chat and stuff. The Global Game Jam does emphasize having specific sites and being in a location to be able to play. But the thing with Global Game Jam is generally by the end of it you’re supposed to upload the game that you’ve created to the website that they have.

Train Jam

Patrick Rauland: Looking on social media you took part in Train Jam which I actually found out a few years ago from a friend of a friend, and I think it’s the coolest Jam. Can you tell me about it?

Jenn Sandercock: Yeah. Train Jam is the coolest Jam. Basically the organizers rent an entire Amtrak train. Not only just an entire Amtrak train, they make a custom Amtrak train that has added carriages to it. And a bunch of game developers get on in Chicago and catch the train all the way to San Francisco to the Game Developer’s Conference.

Patrick Rauland: That is such a cool … I love that. I live in Denver and I’m just trying to think of what is the biggest board game convention I can go to and how do I get, rent a train to go there and copy slash steal the idea? ‘Cause it’s such a cool idea, right?

Jenn Sandercock: Yeah. I mean, I think I’ve heard some people in Argentina have done it as well. But, yeah. For that you really need to have those long train rides.

Where There Any Games You Couldn’t Fit In?

Patrick Rauland: Okay. Were there any games that you wanted to get into your book but you just couldn’t get them in?

Jenn Sandercock: Yeah. There’s my 13th game that I really wanna get in, that will hopefully be unlocked as a stretch goal. But we will see how my campaign goes. People listening to this will have spoilers and be able to look online and find out. But, yeah, there’s certainly some other games that I call them half-baked ideas. ‘Cause literally they’re half baked. But, yeah, I’ve got a bunch more ideas. I wanna do one that’s a drinking game that isn’t about getting drunk, that’s more about how liquid properties work. There was one idea I had for a game where you’re competing with a dog to try to find treats. Nose or brain, which is gonna win?

Jenn Sandercock: Yeah. I’ve got a bunch of other ideas. The 12 that I chose were the ones that I felt had a big, had a good variety of different sorts of games, were very solid and that I was very confident in. I didn’t wanna try to put in games that I wasn’t 100% confident on.

Patrick Rauland: Yeah. And just for the listeners, we’re recording this before the Kickstarter, which is about half way over or three quarters over. And when this is published you will know if it funded or not. But we’re talking ahead of time.

Patrick Rauland: I mean, it looks pretty good, right? You’re three quarters of the way there and you got 14 days left so you’re doing pretty good.

Jenn Sandercock: Well, hopefully. I mean, obviously there’s the middle slump and that, of course you know that’s gonna happen but you look at it and you’re like, if things keep up like this there’s no way on Earth, this is not good. Yeah. We will see what happens.

What Resource Would You Recommend?

Patrick Rauland: Yeah, yeah. Okay, I mean, this is looking pretty good. And I think, and by the, the arts and the graphics on the Kickstarter page look phenomenal. I’d love to know as a, what one resource would you recommend to some other indie game designer who wants to make their own game?

Jenn Sandercock: I don’t, I would, I don’t know if I would say there was a specific resource to use. I would say that they should just start making games. And seeing what works for them. I think the only way to get better at game design is to make games. And try to find a group of people near you who enjoy play-testing and playing games so that you can see other people’s creations and people can see your creations.

Patrick Rauland: Maybe find a jam?

Jenn Sandercock: No, a game jam is a very different experience. A game jam is more when you’re lacking motivation. Maybe you’ve got a full-time job and you’ve got this idea of something that you’ve been maybe wanting to work on. Or you just know you wanna complete a game. I think a game jam’s very good to get you going. I think a group of people who dedicatedly will bring in prototypes or other things to play is, it’s very different. Because you’re specifically asking for feedback and giving feedback.

What Do You Spend Money On?

Patrick Rauland: Very cool. I, very cool. I like the subtle distinction there. Was there any, I as a game designer am sometimes very cheap. And one of the things I’m trying to get over is knowing when it’s appropriate to spend money on things. Was there something you spent money on in this process that was absolutely, totally worth the money you spent?

Jenn Sandercock: Just the photography, really. I feel, I mean it’s all been very worthwhile. I’ve spent money on a photographer, a layout person, an illustrator. I spent money on getting the Kickstarter video made. And I think all of them are very important but the photography for me was most important. But I think that that’s what sets my project apart from many other things that this is very much a beautiful cookbook. And if I’m gonna say it’s beautiful I’d better have some proof for that.

How Do You Take Photography?

Patrick Rauland: Is this, and I’m just looking at the photography right now on the Kickstarter page, was this an all-day shoot? How long does this type of thing take?

Jenn Sandercock: Yeah. I did two all-day shoots. I’ve done three chapters entirely and then I took, I managed to sneak in a couple of extra games so that I could have some more stuff for the campaign. But, yeah. It’s likely that each chapter will probably be around half a day’s worth of shooting.

Patrick Rauland: Wow. And, I don’t know, why does it take a half a day to shoot one chapter? For someone who’s ignorant like me, why does it take so long?

Time Lapse
Time lapse of a professional photo

Jenn Sandercock: That’s what I thought, exactly. I was, when my photographer first said this I’m like, “Oh, she’s so silly.” It’s just one photo, how long can that really take? But I think I’ve got a GIF towards the bottom of the Kickstarter where I show one of the games, the Order of the Oven Mitt. And it shoes the number of photos that are taken to be able to get to that final photo.

Jenn Sandercock: Although I have one, we call them hero shots, that shows the game in all of its glory. And although that’s just a single shot it takes a really long time to do all of the styling to set it up, to look pretty. And then just move stuff around based on the daylight on the day, just how it’s feeling and what’s working and how the composition works. It takes, I mean, that would be an hour and a half to maybe two hours just for that one shot. Some other shots don’t take as long. The ones where we’re doing it with people. You can take a lot more photos and then what takes a while is choosing which ones are the right ones to keep in and stuff.

Jenn Sandercock: But then for all of the how-to pictures I need to basically have, “And here’s one I prepared before,” at the stage that we wanna take a photo of and that takes a while to get all of that put together.

Patrick Rauland: I’m looking at the GIF at the bottom of your campaign page right now and it is actually, it’s very cool to see slide this glass like an inch to the right. Slide this glass to the left, move the cooking mitts down a little bit more. Oh, swap out the white cooking mitts for the blue cooking mitts.

Jenn Sandercock: Yeah, exactly. It’s all these very little things that just mount up to take a very long time.

How Important is Professional Photography?

Patrick Rauland: Wow. Very cool. Now, obviously a cookbook is, I think photography is crucial there. I’m wondering if for your average board game do you think it would be worth getting a professional photographer? Or is that really only necessary for a cookbook?

Jenn Sandercock: Well, I mean I think excellent visuals are important for any board game. Whether that’s really great illustrations or the photography is, in some respect some of my illustration. I would say, yeah. It is very important to have a good professional look and if you’re not good at doing art, get somebody who is good at doing art to do it.

How Have You Marketed Your Game?

Patrick Rauland: So far the campaign seems pretty successful. What would you say has been the most effective marketing you’ve done for it?

Jenn Sandercock: I find that very difficult to tell. I do some stuff and it feels like I’m tweeting out into the void, and other stuff gets a lot of retweets. But then I look at how many backers have come since I tweeted that thing and nothing much comes. Yeah. I think it’s just trying to spread the word of mouth a lot. I don’t think there’s a specific thing. It’s doing research, it’s reaching out to a bunch of different places. And many of which won’t stick or won’t do anything and just keeping at it. ‘Cause every little bit counts.

What Does Success Look Like?

Patrick Rauland: What does success look like in this … I wanna, normally I say in the board game world but maybe for you in the cooking slash board game world?

Jenn Sandercock: Success for me looks like being able to pay rent and be able to keep making more games. More games that I think are fun. Maybe creating another book or opening a cafĂ© or, I don’t really know what. I’m, I concentrate on this Kickstarter campaign, which will hopefully get me able to make the game and complete it. And the cookbook and complete that. And then from there it’s just hopefully getting money from people to be able to keep going.

Patrick Rauland: And I should have looked this up ahead of time, is this your first Kickstarter campaign?

Jenn Sandercock: It’s my first one that I’ve created myself. I was involved in the Thimbleweed Park Kickstarter campaign. I helped a little bit when it was being created but mostly I jumped on board about six months or so after they’d started work on the project. And then I was the one who was in charge of looking after backers, getting all of the backer awards sorted, working with our partner to get them all sent out. And, yeah. Doing a million other things ’cause I was also coding and designing on that game as well.

Patrick Rauland: I mean, you’re at what? 839 backers at the moment and your campaign isn’t even over. I think for a first campaign that is incredible. I think that’s personally very successful. I’m really curious what you’ll do moving forward, right. If you get 839 and you’re not even done, 839 part way through your first campaign I would love to see what you can get on a future campaign.

Jenn Sandercock: Yeah, totally. I mean, I think this project is very unique and different. And I don’t know if it’s necessarily repeatable. I mean, it’s gonna depend how I go. Hopefully I can do this and maybe I’ll be able to create a second book that’s way cheaper or is more appealing to a broader audience. And having been able to do one successfully people will hopefully appreciate that. Yeah. We’ll see. I think a lot of what I’m getting at the moment is this hasn’t been done before. And there’s a lot of curious people who are like, “Oh, I just, I’m gonna see what happens here.” Yeah.

What Themes or Mechanics Are You Looking Into?

Patrick Rauland: Are there any, for some future creative project are there any themes or mechanics or recipes that you’re looking into?

Jenn Sandercock: In terms of themes I always go with the same themes, which is friendship, curiosity and challenge. I make games that help people come together more and make friends. Whether that is in person or just helping you appreciate your friends more online. And then curiosity, I like to reward people trying out different things. And I don’t like to punish that. And then challenges because I like things that have a bit of a game element to them. I’ll always do that and then I will layer on particular foods. As I said, I wanted to try to do something with beverages. I’d maybe like to consider doing a book that was dedicated to just being for children and another book that was just dedicated to adults. To have more complex themes and gameplay.

Patrick Rauland: I just wanna pause on those themes because I, to me they almost sound like personal values and you’re infusing them into your games. Does that, is that about right?

Jenn Sandercock: Yeah. They kind of are. It did start out as, I was founding my company and I was like well, what are the core values that I think are really important for this company and for the sorts of games that I wanna make? And in the end, yeah. Friendship, curiosity and challenge is how I like to live my life. I like to try to do nice things for other people. I am generally very curious and I like a good challenge, that’s for sure.

Patrick Rauland: I know for me personally I’ve tried to come up with my own personal values a few times, and this is for my business. Not even for game design but just for my own business. And I’ve never been able to rattle them off like you just did, right? For you it seems like they’re ingrained or they’re natural or intuitive, they just come up. But for me I’m, what are my values? And I have them written down in some journal somewhere but they don’t feel as [crosstalk 00:21:08] live-

Jenn Sandercock: Well, it did take me a while to be able to say that. But I’ve been doing that for, gosh, what? Three, four year now. And when I first created them I printed each one out on a big piece of paper and stuck it up above my desk and I saw it every day and I’m like, “That is what you’re doing, Jenn.” And then I’ve spoken at the Game Developer’s Conference about this and how to create your own set of core values and that talk is available for people to find and watch for free.

Jenn Sandercock: Yeah. It’s something that’s pretty important to me to have these core values. I think it’s also, particularly as an indie game designer, you can make anything at all. And you’re like, “Whoa. That’s. Whoa. Anything? Sheesh. That’s … Now I don’t even know where to start.” I very much like having constraints. My themes are like, “well, that’s your beginning constraints, now add some more constraints.”

Overrated / Underrated

Patrick Rauland: I really like that. All right. We’re getting near the end here. I like to play a game called Overrated, Underrated, The End. It’s a very simple game and the way it goes is basically I’ll give you a word or a phrase, and then I’ll force you to take a position if you think it’s overrated or underrated. If I said The Avengers, the movie, you’d be, “Oh, of course it’s overrated, Patrick. ‘Cause it’s the best movie ever and Thanos is a cool villain.” Got it?

Jenn Sandercock: Okay.

Patrick Rauland: All right. Is Monopoly overrated or underrated?

Jenn Sandercock: I think it used to be overrated and no, it still is overrated. Even people, I feel like people have cottoned on to the fact that it’s not a particularly good game. And it was actually made ironically in the first place. Well, not ironically. It was meant as a lesson of how bad capitalism is. But, yeah, I would probably say overrated.

Patrick Rauland: I just wanna point out, not many people know that story and I think it’s really cool that you do. ‘Cause I, Monopoly was, wasn’t one half of the game Monopoly, the other one was … Had a different name, didn’t it? And it was all about working together.

Jenn Sandercock: Oh. I didn’t know that part, no. Yeah. I only knew that Monopoly was meant to be a lesson.

Patrick Rauland: Well, I don’t have it up in front of me so I’ll probably get this wrong and the angry internet will let me know that I got it wrong. But I’m pretty sure you could use the exact same game but with two different rule sets. One of them you buy property collectively and the other one you, it’s the Monopoly we know today. It’s a cool story.

Patrick Rauland: Okay. Cooking with someone else. Overrated or underrated?

Jenn Sandercock: I’d say underrated. Yeah. I don’t perhaps do it as often as I would like, but any time I do … Even if I just have somebody in the kitchen to chat to while I’m cooking, I love that.

Patrick Rauland: How about Codenames, the game. Is it overrated or underrated?

Jenn Sandercock: Underrated. I’m just, I do, I really love Codenames. Particularly Codenames Duet, I’ve been playing that a lot with my partner. I’d say underrated.

Patrick Rauland: I have yet to play Duet, it’s on my list.

Jenn Sandercock: Yeah, it’s a really fun game. I quite like it with groups although I can understand some people don’t like it with groups ’cause you’re forced to whisper and things. But I like, I guess, it’s part of my friendship thing. I like all working towards a common goal.

Patrick Rauland: Got it. All right. And potluck dinners. Overrated or underrated?

Jenn Sandercock: Definitely underrated. We need more potluck in the world. I love bringing along stuff. I think it’s mostly ’cause I love bringing dessert and having other people make really good mains or savory food. ‘Cause I can make that stuff but it’s not what I’m as passionate about.

Patrick Rauland: What about, okay. Now what about people like me who have virtually no cooking skill? Can I just show up with macaroni and cheese?

Jenn Sandercock: Yeah, totally. I’m not fussed. You could buy something at the supermarket or from a takeaway place or something and I’d be yeah, that’s cool. You’ve contributed and you’re part of it. Yeah.

Patrick Rauland: Oh cool. All right. ‘Cause-

Jenn Sandercock: I’m not judgy. If other people are bringing food, I’m like, yeah. You’re awesome. I don’t care about the quality.

Wrap Up

Patrick Rauland: Awesome. Well, thank you for being on the show, Jenn. Where can people find you and your game online?

Jenn Sandercock: At EdibleGames.com.

Patrick Rauland: And will it be possible for people to back your project after it’s already funded?

Jenn Sandercock: Yeah. I’ll probably, I’ll be doing something with BackerKit, so if you go to EdibleGames.com I’m sure by the time people are listening to this, all of that information will be up there. Or will be coming soon.

Patrick Rauland: Got it. And then I just, and I think you said up until near the end of the year, right? Near the end of 2018?

Jenn Sandercock: Yes, that’s right. Yes. I’m working on the book up until then and then towards the end of this year I’ll be putting in the order and I’ll just put in one order.

Patrick Rauland: That’s actually, I mean, that gives people a lot of time. I’m happy that even though we’re recording this a little bit late there’s still a way for people to contribute.

Patrick Rauland: Thank you again for being on the show. Listeners, if you like, if you enjoy this podcast, please leave us a review on iTunes. If you leave a review, Jenn said that she’d make a cookie in your likeness and eat it. You can visit us at IndieBoardGameDesigners.com. You can follow me on Twitter. And until next time, happy designing. Bye bye.

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