Jessica Creane

#89 – Jessica Creane

Patrick Rauland: Hello, everyone. Welcome to the Indie Board Game Designers podcast, where I sit down with a different independent game designer every single week to talk about their experience in game design and the lessons they've learned along the way. My name is Patrick Rauland, and today I'll be talking to Jessica Creane who designed a destructible tabletop game called Schrodinger's Cat, a game theater piece running in New York City called Chaos Theory, a gamified philosophy salon called Know Thyself, and a collaboration with the National Park Service that includes conversation games about climate change. I don't even know what a game theater piece is, nor a gamified philosophy salon, so we will get into all that in the show. Jessica, welcome to the show.

Jessica Creane: Hi, Patrick.


Patrick: You and I have e-mailed a little bit back and forth, so I know a little bit about you but the audience doesn't. I like to start with a very simple lightning round at the beginning. Ready?

Jessica: Yes.

Patrick: Lovely. All right. Excluding cats and dogs, what is the best possible pet?

Jessica: Baby raccoon.

Patrick: A baby raccoon. Do you get rid of them when they're older? Do you kick them out?

Jessica: I think I'll probably end up loving it, but they're really difficult to train, which I respect about them. I think that maybe our best time as pet partners would be when they're babies, but I think if it works out then maybe we could be lifelong friends.

Patrick: Do you have a baby raccoon?

Jessica: No. You would know because I would be much more of a minimalist. It would have destroyed everything I own.

Patrick: Very cool. Fun fact, my game company mascot is a raccoon. So, I hear you. What is your favorite national park?

Jessica: This is probably the cruelest question you could ask. I love them all equally, but I think Glacier is probably the one that left the biggest impression on me. I was there, I blew off my grad school graduation and went to Glacier instead. I was standing there in this kind of crazy misty weather with a baby grizzly bear and her mom playing down by the river, and I was thinking that this is everything that I wanted in life.

Patrick: Wow. That is a very cool visual. I've never been, so it's on my list.

Jessica: Highly recommend.

Patrick: One of my favorite lightning round questions is, what is a game you play with someone every single time at a con?

Jessica: I have a new game that I intend to play at more cons that I just played for the first time at Gen Con last week. It's awful, so I'm very sorry to introduce this to anyone's life, but the game is called Mua'd Div. For Dune readers out there, it's a phrase from that book. For the life of me, I could not think of the phrase and neither could a friend of mine, so we developed a whole system of points where if you forgot a word or a name you couldn't look it up, and you had to ask the people around you for help. It's a great game to get to know the people around you or people that you might want to talk to, but it is also a game that induces a lot of shame to your life for not being able to think of things that you should be able to think of.

Patrick: For people like me who have absolutely no idea how to spell that, how do you spell that?

Jessica: It's Mua'd Div, I think.

Patrick: OK. I will have to look it up. I will try to find it, listeners, and put it in the show notes.

Jessica: We made it up. I am happy to provide any currently nonexistent rules.

How Did You Get Into Board Games and Board Game Design?

Patrick: There we go very cool. We'll talk afterwards and see what we can share. First real question is, how did you get into board games and board game design?

Jessica: Like most people, I've been playing board games with my family for most of my life, but it was a pretty traumatic experience most of the time. Again, like most families. We played a lot of Trivial Pursuit, and my family is very competitive, especially when it comes to knowledge-based activities. There was one time and one time only when I beat my dad at Trivial Pursuit, and he didn't talk to me for about a week. So, it's a real miracle that I'm here at all. I went to school for ensemble theater, and on a whim, I ended up taking a class on game design, it was the history of game design. I had gone back to school because I wanted theatrical experiences to be more playful and to be as much fun for the audience as it is for those of us, making it in the room. As soon as I took this class in game design, it was the last piece of the puzzle fit together. I've been working on those things ever since. We had to design two games for that class, and two games that I still work on came out of that class.

What is Game Theatre & Gamified Philosophy Salon?

Patrick: I think you were the first person to come into game design from a theater background, so that's pretty cool. I like that. Now I want to focus on your tabletop games. Before I get to those, I have to know. What is game theater, and what is a gamified philosophy salon?

Jessica: Yeah. There's a whole little sister world to game design that is immersive theater, and one of the terms that Celia Pearce came up with for a version of immersive theater is called “Playable theater.” It sees narrative-based experiences, these theatrical experiences that audiences don't sit through, they play through. They break the fourth wall, there is no difference between the players and the participants, and it takes all of these beautiful stories that are so well-crafted in theatrical experiences, and it adds a level of agency and interactivity to them.

Jessica: This piece, Chaos Theory, that I wrote and perform is all about chaos theory and gamifies the science and math of chaos theory. I took a bunch of aspects of chaos theory like fractals and sensitivity to initial conditions and strange attractors, and I turned them all into games using pretty traditional game design techniques. Then I wrapped that up in really elaborate narrative about what it's like to be a scientist creating chaos, creating working chaology. It ends up weaving into the world of colloquial chaos, or what it's like to feel chaos in our lives. It takes these narratives of chaos in the world and weaves them together with games.

Patrick: I think that's super interesting to come at game design from this totally other world of immersive theater, where it's almost like– For people who aren't in immersive theater, but it sounds almost like a guided game. Would that be right? I don't know. I don't even know how to talk about it.

Jessica: I think when they're done well, they're curated experiences and crafted experiences, but they're never the same twice. They're meant to be like games in that way, that there is no inevitable conclusion to them or no particular way that it will absolutely always go.

Jessica: A lot of the immersive theater out there will cast players as characters, so you walk in and like an RPG, you would get a character card, or you would come and be someone. But a lot of the work that I make almost exclusively asks people to play as themselves. Maybe there's a light layer of yourself as a particular aspect of self, but it's always you playing as you. Because I think the magic circle is stupid, and instead, we always are looking to integrate our playful selves with the rest of the lives that we lead.

Tell Me About Schrodinger's Cat

Patrick: Very cool philosophy. I did recently in the last couple months go to my first immersive theater event ever, and they brought people up on stage, and they had them play NPCs, for lack of a better word. It's cool to hear that you want people to be themselves. I don't know how, but at some point, I'll have to see one of your events and check that out. But I do want to hear a little bit more about Schrodinger's Cat. You called it a destructible card game, tell me about that. Tell me about the game first, and then I do want to probe you for any challenges you ran into later.

Jessica: Sure. Schrodinger's Cat is a little pocket-sized game. It's a destructible game, and it is an infinite tabletop game. That was part of the impetus for making it, and I was curious if you could make an infinite tabletop game.

Patrick: What does that mean?

Jessica: It can be played beyond the natural lifespan of the players, this particular game.

Patrick: What?

Jessica: It can be played by two individuals or two teams. I've probably played with upwards of 40 people at this point. It gets more complex, but it's definitely doable. It's a cooperative-ish game, and it's mostly cooperative. It takes this philosophical thought experiment of Dr. Edwin Schrodinger, who basically asked this question of whether a cat can be both alive and dead at the same time. It's exploring metaphysics. The game creates a world in which the players can have a cat that is in a super-positional space and asks them to make life or death choices for their cat. Their goal is to keep the cat alive as long as possible.

Patrick: The person who has not played this game ever, to me wouldn't– Don't you sometimes get unlucky in terms of you happen to get a dead cat and then you lose?

Jessica: No. Your choices will decide the fate of your cat. You are not gifted a cat. You have to decide what happens to your cat.

Patrick: Fascinating. But it could be in multiple states at any one time, and you find out at the very end?

Jessica: You might find out.

Patrick: This is a lot. Cool. But it's a cool little– If I remember correctly, it's a mint tin game, right? It fits in a little mint tin?

Jessica: Yeah.

What Design Challenges Did You Run Into?

Patrick: Very cool. One of my favorite questions to ask people is what sort of design challenges did you run into? Where either as an experience you're trying to create, or a mechanism, and there's some disconnect, and you had to iterate a bunch of times before you finally got it working. Or, before you finally took it out and just gave up on that aspect?

Jessica: Yeah, definitely. This is one of the first games that I ever started designing, so there were a lot of initial challenges of not knowing what materials to use. I played around with a lot of things. There is an edible version of the game that I make that uses fondant, and technically even in the non-edible version pieces are still technically edible, although they are not exactly delicious.

Jessica: That was definitely a challenge, figuring out how these pieces were going to work and how I could package them in such a way that the narrative of the piece is clear, without giving away too much too soon. Because it is very much an experience, the piece. Then there is just the idea that people would play a destructible game and become furious that they had purchased a destructible game, so that was definitely a challenge as well.

Why Make a Destructible Game?

Patrick: Why make a game destructible? What is the point in that? What is the experience you're trying to create?

Jessica: It's definitely about permanence. Our choices often have permanent or semi-permanent consequences, and it's really easy sometimes to take things that we should take lightly too seriously, and things that we should take seriously too lightly. A lot of the game is an exploration of how we decide what is valuable and what kinds of risks we're willing to take on that front. I think it's the idea that you could be consistently and always playing a game, and that the choice to stop playing a game is a very active choice was appealing to me in terms of exploring what that would look like.

Patrick: That's fascinating to me. How do a group of people decide when a game ends? I'm used to looking at the side of the box and going “This is a 30-minute game. We're going to do the 30-minute game, and then later tonight we're going to do the 2-hour game.” How does a group of players decide when a game ends?

Jessica: Yeah, it's very different every time. I've had people play the game and be done in 5 minutes. People are still playing, and I think the longest game right now is probably upwards of a year and a half. There are people who are passing the game back and forth to maintain its integrity between the two of them. One couple is choosing to end the game on their one year wedding anniversary, which I think is a bold choice. Some others are psychologically torturing their partners right now, and have been doing so periodically for probably the better part of a year. So people play in very different ways. It teaches you a lot about who you're playing with.

Patrick: Very cool. This is one of those games where I think– I love podcasts, but I think you need to see this game because right now I have no idea what it's about. Even though I've seen– I went to your website ahead of time and looked at all the pictures of it. Which by the way, I will share in the show notes, listeners. Bet even with pictures, and even with your description, I think it seems like a thing where you need to play it to get it.

Jessica: Yeah, I've often described it as “Something it takes as long to explain as it does to play.” I think playing does a better job of it, which is great because it's a game, and that means that it's in the right medium. It's in the right form for what it's supposed to be, but it does make moments like this challenging, figuring out how much to give away and what is the right amount of information to have before playing.

How Did You Design a Game for the National Park Service?

Patrick: Very cool. OK, so something else that I saw in your bio that I think is very interesting is you worked with the National Park Service to design either a game or multiple games. How did that come about? Did you walk up to Smokey the Bear and say, “I have a game idea?” How did you make this happen?

Jessica: Part of it was pure luck. I had done a couple of artist residencies in the national parks. One in the Great Smoky Mountains and one in Petrified Forest in Arizona, and those were more performance-based. I had been wanting to create a game for the parks for a while, and I sent them an application, I was like, “I would love to make this game with you.”

Jessica: It was their 100 year anniversary, and this is a park up in Vermont called the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Park. Their whole raison d'être is to create a space that talks about the conservation movement and climate change. They are very dedicated to this cause. It was their 100 year anniversary, and they're like “Why not? I guess we'll take a risk and bring up a game designer instead of a painter.” So they got me, and that's how it came about.

Jessica: They've been absolutely amazing. They gave me tons of resources and a studio, and I sat down with everyone who would talk to me and asked them a ton of questions. But the biggest one was, “What do you want the public to know about climate change that they don't already know?” Then it was just a matter of crafting games around what they wanted the world to know about climate change.

Patrick: Did you make multiple games, or is it one big game?

Jessica: Multiple games, yeah. There's a board game in the works, but it is too complex to be the kind of game that should be played at the park. For them, because there are people who are coming and going, and they want to go on hikes and tours, and they're not there to sit down and play board games there are a series of lobby games that can be played throughout the park or while they're waiting for a tour.

Jessica: You can take them in the car with you, and they are conversation-based games. They're all about breaking down the structures of what makes it difficult to talk about climate change, and coming at it from a different angle so that we're looking at otherness in a different way, of “What is it like to take on these views of someone who feels very differently than you do about climate change?” Or, “How do we look at it without getting defensive or feeling apathetic and sad?” They're very much agency games.

Patrick: Those sound fantastic, and also very useful life skills. “How to not get defensive about something you care about.”

Jessica: Yes.

Does Working for Someone Else Provide New Opportunities?

Patrick: I'm just debating if I want to talk a little more about that. I think it's cool to work with an institute like that. Does it further your game design cred? Does that make sense? Does this provide you more opportunities down the road, do you think?

Jessica: Yeah, it definitely gives me something to ground my work in. When I'm talking about these weird games, or I'm like, “How much information can I give you about this weird thing that I'm making?” I can also say that I'm working on this very well-established thing with an organization that's been around for a long time. It helps people feel better about trusting me, or trusting me when I say, “You should play this game without knowing anything about it.”

Patrick: Very cool. I have to know, what is one fun– Not fun. What is one climate change fact that I don't know already?

Jessica: OK, earthworms. They are an invasive species.

Patrick: I did not know that.

Jessica: I guess I should say non-native, “Invasive” is very aggressive. It's not their fault that they're invasive. It is 100% our fault as human beings that they're here. They travel very slowly also, so they would never be able to infest a region if it weren't for human beings getting their eggs stuck to our shoes and our tractors and then tracking them all the way around the world. They will churn out the soil in such a way that it makes it difficult for saplings to grow. So they're great for gardens, but they're really bad for forests.

How Many Hours Do You Spend on Games?

Patrick: Fascinating. I'm sure there's a million factoids like that, that I don't know. I'll have to play one of your games and then learn a bunch about it. Before the show, we were talking about how you design games. I'd love to know how many hours do you spend working on games in general?

Jessica: It depends on the month. In January of 2018, I decided that I needed to restructure my life a little bit. I started looking into New Year's resolutions, and I was reading up online, and the internet was like “Don't do it. You will fail. If you must do it, set the bar so low you could trip over it.” So I was like “Alright, internet. Challenge accepted.” I set like 9,000 goals for myself for 2018. Probably closer to 400, but then I just set about achieving all of them. Part of that was doing a game a day, creating a game a day for probably three months of the year.

Patrick: What?

Jessica: I have to trick myself into doing these things because sometimes, commitment scares me. I will set myself monthly goals or daily goals, and then they grow from there. There's a lot of– My game work gets put into these structures of “This month, I spend two hours a day bare minimum on a game. Last month, I did a game a day. This month it's at least an hour of game time work on a particular project,” but it's usually more than that. Much more than that.

How Do You Design a Game A Day?

Patrick: OK, wait. I have to know more about a game a day. How does that even work?

Jessica: I don't have to make the whole thing, but I have to conceptualize it, and I have to prototype a certain number of them and play test them. Last month it was 20, I prototyped and playtested about 20 games. Every day I have to look at something and notice it and create a game.

Patrick: That is a very cool idea, and I absolutely love it. I don't know when, but at some point, I'm going to steal that for myself. Because the idea of– A lot of ideation for, you said you had to make 20 prototypes?

Jessica: Yes.

Patrick: So that's like two a month. If you think all month on game design, you come up with 31 ideas, and you have to make two of them, that seems pretty reasonable. Very cool. Let me follow up on that, of all these 20 games that you made prototypes of, are some of them still in the works or did they get made into fully functional games?

Jessica: They're still in the works. Last month was specifically these philosophy games because I'm doing this philosophy piece next month that opens on September 5th. It was taking a look at all of these different philosophers and philosophies and turning those into games. The 20 prototypes were all last month, and it was seeing if I could test those out to see if they would be worthy of being a part of a larger exploration of philosophy and games.

Patrick: That is fascinating. I don't know anyone else who has come up with 365 game ideas in a year.

Jessica: I should be very clear that most of them are very bad. Very bad.

Patrick: Yes, I'm sure that's– This is going to sound weird. I'm sure that's the case, but when you make 365, if 99% of them are bad you still have four great games, right?

Jessica: Yeah.

Patrick: Which is more than most game designers. I think a lot of game designers, our ideas are our babies and we don't want to hurt them or even test them. If you could make that many ideas [inaudible]–

Jessica: That was part of the idea, is that I also have a tendency to be too precious about things, so I've very much been adopting the mantra of “Fail faster.” This has been a part of that. “Just keep making things, just keep pushing past the awful feeling that everything is terrible.” Because it's going to be terrible for a while before it gets good, so getting comfortable with that has been a big part of this process.

What Type of Games Do You Like to Design?

Patrick: Very cool. Speaking of which, tell me what type of games do you like to design? What is it you're trying to achieve with your games?

Jessica: I like making particularly magic circle breaking games, things that get people talking to each other, especially strangers. I enjoy talking to strangers. I'm a social introvert, but there's something really beautiful about meeting new people and finding out what other humans are like.

Jessica: I like making games that will give people an opportunity to get to know people that they wouldn't otherwise know. It's a lot of unconventional party games, and that's a lot of what immersive and playable theater does, is put people in the same space so that they can craft and develop this intimacy through a game structure that allows them the freedom to talk to each other openly.

What Is the Magic Circle?

Patrick: “The magic circle” doesn't come up too much on the show, can you define it? Then give us a little bit more about why is it important to break outside of the magic circle sometimes.

Jessica: I think it can be a really useful idea, but the idea of the magic circle is that what happens in a game doesn't affect the rest of your life. That it is only in this game world. That's a basic idea that would be if we're playing D&D and I kill you, and I'm not killing you in real life. We're still friends. But I think that it gets overused, this idea that we are entering into fantasy worlds all of the time. Sometimes that's amazing and beautiful, and the absolute best, and a great way to explore ourselves, but I like the idea that games can also be deeply integrated into our everyday lives and how we think about the world and how we make choices and have meaningful consequences to those choices in our lives. It can be done playfully.

What is Your White Whale of Game Design?

Patrick: I love it. Is there something that you've been working on that you haven't been able to crack yet? Is there an aspect of game design, a mechanism, a theme, something that you've tried so hard to get it to work, and you just haven't been able to crack it yet?

Jessica: Probably a million things. The thing that is the most challenging right now is play testing with large groups of people. If I want to test something out for 25 or 30 people, I have amazing friends. But there's only so many times that I can call on them to try things out, so they are incredible. They show up for everything. It's a part of being a part of a great community, which is the tabletop game community. In terms of a long term strategy for play testing large experiences, it's really hard to figure out how to do that. I have not figured out a sustainable way to test things out when things are bad and are still in their early phases.

Patrick: Yes. I hear you. You know, a friend of mine Heather Newton, she is trying to develop a murder mystery. At a game design event, she basically– Normally these game design events are very improv. You say, “Sit down and play mine, I'll play yours.” Very chill and nothing is scheduled, but because she needed– A murder mystery, you all had to be there for the start and the end, she got together 30 or 40 people. But that does take a lot of, what's the right word here? “Social capital.” You can only ask people to play your game like that so many times.

Jessica: That's good to know. I'll keep that in mind for conferences and things. I could probably set something up.

What Games Inspire You?

Patrick: I'm happy to put you two in touch, and we can figure out a way to make it happen, but I think maybe you have to do it at game design events, or something like that. I'm not sure. What sort of games out there inspire you? What games out there are making you want to do more and better things?

Jessica: My favorite game is Pancakes or Waffles, which I throw out there because I have not been able to find the origin of this game. I have tracked it down to a weird encrypted website in the Middlebury College campus, and I don't know where this game comes from.

Patrick: What?

Jessica: So if anyone knows, please hit me up. But it's this weird, dark anti-party game that you can play with a group that basically destroys the world. You build this world up and then it's never ended well. I've never had a game that doesn't end in existential angst, which is just fascinating to me. That game inspires me because it is a philosophy and social game, but it is not necessarily fun or uplifting.

Jessica: I think about that game a lot, and Undertale has inspired me. This idea that you could do a really pacifist game and really subvert expectations and not necessarily even really tell people you're doing it is really exciting to me. I have an amazing Dungeons and Dragons crew that I play with, and that inspires me, this narrative and watching my friends who aren't gamers take on roles has been really exciting. I just officiated two of their weddings. Or, one wedding for two of them in June. Also, this idea that these kinds of games can deeply bring people together has been inspiring and provided a lot of moments of thinking about how games integrate into real life.

Patrick: Very cool. I'm looking at Undertale now. Is it a solo RPG kind of thing?

Jessica: It is. You play as this little character going through the world, and if you haven't played it yet, mini-spoiler I think. I knew this going into the game, and I think it helped, but otherwise, close your ears for 10 seconds. You can play a pacifist run. You can kill nothing. Knowing you could do that, that you could go to this game that is asking you to fight all of the time and you could do it without fighting, was so delightful and so unexpected. I'd never seen anything like it before. Also, one of the first video games I ever played as an adult. So that left a really strong impression.

What's A Resource You'd Recommend?

Patrick: Very cool. We're going to start moving towards the end here. I always like to ask people, what are some resources that you can recommend to another indie game designer? I'm going to modify your question a little bit into two parts. Number one, what is a good game design resource? Also, for people who want to know a little bit more about your immersive theater, what is a good resource for that?

Jessica: If you want to know more about immersive, I would suggest an organization called No Proscenium. They are doing an amazing job of gathering all of the immersive work that's going on in the country and structuring it into regions, and giving people a chance to find out what's going on, and doing their best to highlight the people who are making things. They're definitely worth checking out. In terms of a game design resource, I would say setting aside time for big-picture thinking or unstructured thinking, whatever that means. Free writing or taking a walk, the feeling that we have to be productive at all times is so prevalent. So I think taking some time to play with your own mind is exciting and valuable.

Patrick: I love that. I'm wondering if–? Let me ask you a question from my life. When I walk to a coffee shop, I usually have my headphones on listening to a podcast. But every once in a while when I go running, I will run without my headphones and let my mind wander. Do you think it's worth scheduling unscheduled time if that makes sense?

Jessica: Yeah. You're talking to a person with a deeply color-coded calendar. So, yes. For me, it certainly is. It's helpful to know, not exactly what time I have to do something, but that it has to happen during the course of this particular day. I think it can be really useful, especially if you're not used to doing it. It's uncomfortable being bored or giving yourself a space to let your mind wander, but that's where creativity comes from. If all of our problems were already solved, we wouldn't need creative solutions to anything. When we're bored, or thinking about troubles, that's where the real fun stuff is.

What's The Best Money You've Spent?

Patrick: Love it. I'm a frugal person, so I try not spend money when I don't have to, but some things are worth every single cent that you paid for them. What is something that was worth every single cent that you paid for?

Jessica: Conventions. 100%. Every single convention that I've been to and I only went to my first one probably 10 months ago, so it's still pretty new. But being able to meet people and see what the community is like, and seeing how much innovation there is and what a supportive network. The supportive network that exists in the tabletop community and getting feedback from folks was has been absolutely invaluable.

Patrick: Any specific conventions?

Jessica: I'd say Pax Unplugged was a big one and IndieCade. I met a lot of people at IndieCade giving a talk and showing games, and they also have a great set up for having games set up so that people can come play them. You don't even have to be a presenter. Those are the two big ones, I think.

Patrick: Very cool. Yeah, I'm looking at all these. So what did you think of– Just while we're looking at this, what did you think of Gen Con? How would that rank with Pax Unplugged and IndieCade?

Jessica: I had a great time at Gen Con. It's so big that again it introduced me to a bunch of people that I hadn't met before. It definitely highlighted, for me, how beautiful the fabric of the game design community is, and also that there are still some bad players that are very active in this world. I think that was also a big part of it for me, was thinking about “What is my role in really supporting this community? How and when am I able to speak up against those actions, and how do I support the people who aren't necessarily being supported?” It's still a very predominantly white male industry, as I'm sure you know quite well.

Patrick: What?

Jessica: Yeah, I know, wild. So being able to support people of color and females and non-binary human beings in the space is huge, so I've been doing a lot of thinking about that. There are some people doing amazing work there too, and I want to be supporting and uplifting them as well.

How Many Games Are You Working On?

Patrick: Very cool. I'm sorry, there's one question at the end here I forgot to ask you. You've been doing immersive stuff for a while, but it sounds like game design has been somewhat new. How many unpublished and half-finished games do you have?

Jessica: With a game a day, a lot. I'm definitely upwards of 100, maybe closer to 200. Last month I probably made close to 60 philosophy games. There's many games that end up morphing into other games, and the ghosts of those games come back in other ways. But yeah, tons and tons.

What Does Success Look Like?

Patrick: One of my favorite questions is, what does success in the board game world– Actually for you, I'm going to say “In the game world” look like to you?

Jessica: Yeah, thanks. I appreciate that adjustment that definitely feels more right to me. I'd say it's twofold. Part of it would be living a fairly medium agnostic life as a game designer, that I would be able to have a life there. I can be supporting and creating playful experiences that explore complex systems, systems of thought, systems of action in the world that are digital and tabletop and performative and speaking engagements, and whatever else comes up. The other thing that I think would be is also being an actively supportive member of this community, helping to contribute meaningfully both artistically and as a human being to the game design community.

Overrated / Underrated

Patrick: Fantastic. I love hearing everyone's different responses to this question because they're all so different. I like to end with a silly little game called Overrated/Underrated. Have you heard about it?

Jessica: No, this is new to me.

Patrick: I'm going to give you a word or phrase, and you need to tell me if it is overrated or underrated. If I said “Game of Thrones,” you might say “Overrated, everyone's into it. It wasn't that good of an ending, whatever.” Something like that. First one, BoardGameGeeks logo redesign. Overrated, underrated, or “I don't know what you're talking about?”

Jessica: Are we talking about the design itself, or the controversy around the design?

Patrick: The design itself.

Jessica: Overrated? Yeah.

Patrick: Not that good? OK. You can add a one-sentence reason why.

Jessica: OK. I think that it does look a little Trumpian, and I think that it also reminds me of the old school games that I thought that I couldn't play as a kid. It has that same aesthetic of “Boy games” when I was little. There's this little bit of me that's like “That's not for you.”

Patrick: Interesting. That's a very cool answer. Also, I hadn't thought of it being Trumpian. I'll have to think on that. How about– OK, I wrote this before we started talking and this one might be too easy for you now. But immersive theater, overrated or underrated?

Jessica: Deeply underrated. It's fantastic. Not that I'm biased at all, but yeah. I think that it's a really exciting way to explore the world and to have game design and play be a tactile and communicative experience.

Patrick: How about Boston FIG? For those we don't know what that is, it's the Boston Festival of Indie Games. Overrated or underrated?

Jessica: Underrated, it was my first game conference that changed the whole way that I think about design and community. It's huge, and you can do anything and wander around. I also have a soft spot for it because I never left my table. It taught me that I need to bring help because I was standing there for probably 12 hours and had to pee.

Patrick: Yes. Community is important just for bathroom breaks alone.

Jessica: Yes.

Patrick: The last one. Fidget cubes, overrated or underrated?

Jessica: I've never played with one, but overrated?

Patrick: OK, cool.

Wrap Up

Overrated. Yeah.

Love it. So, that's it. Thank you for being on the show, Jessica.

Jessica: My pleasure, thank you for having me.

Patrick: Where can people find you online?

Jessica: Everywhere. You can find me at my website, which is I'm the same handle at all social media. Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, which is @ikantkoan. Which is a deep cut philosophy pun, so I apologize in advance for that, but I also don't apologize. I hope you like it.

Patrick: Awesome. Listeners, if you like this podcast, please leave us a review on iTunes or wherever you listen to this. If you leave a review, Jessica said that she would tell you what your cat needs. That's a free little bonus. You can visit the site, You can follow me on Twitter, and I am @BFTrick. Until next time everyone, happy designing. Bye-bye.

2 comments on “#89 – Jessica Creane

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  1. Undertale is great! It does a lot of strong storytelling using very simple mechanics and art (and excellent music). By the end you have a very strong understanding of the characters. The story is interesting and surprising at times.

    I’d recommend it for anyone with a passing interest in PC games, and at least a little patience to play through a 3-6 hour long story.

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