Behind The Board Games: Steve Jackson, Steve Jackson Games

April 11, 2019 by cassn

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Steve Jackson is, put quite simply, an indisputable cornerstone of the gaming industry. With over forty years of his life decided to the pursuit of play, Steve Jackson is a designer who has witnessed first-hand the rise of the board gaming industry today.

From his first tactical combat game Ogre released in 1977, to the commercial success of the modern Munchkin, Steve Jackson has been consistently providing the board game industry with new and exciting offerings for decades. In this interview, Cass sits down with this tactical titan to talk about the past, present, and future of board gaming.

Cass: When did you first know you wanted to be a games designer?

Steve: Probably about 1976, when I first started working with Metagaming. Though I was not sure I wanted to be a 'career' game designer for some time after that.

C: Obviously, you don’t just design quality games, you also publish them under your own company - Steve Jackson Games. What made you take the decision to dual-role as both publisher and designer, and are there any challenges when trying to hold both positions simultaneously?

S: I started off designing for Metagaming, and that led to a lot of happiness but also a lot of frustration.

So I tried on my own, first by buying Space Gamer magazine (which they no longer wanted) and then with my own new titles. And it worked out!

C: Let’s talk about Ogre. Published back in 1977, the tactical combat game was your first concrete foray into the games industry. Were you ever nervous about that first game and how it would be received?

S: Of course! And I’m still nervous about new titles. There is no such thing as a sure thing.

C: What are you currently playing?

S: Last game I played was Fantasy Trip, next one will be Ogre, at FnordCon. Over the past couple of months, I’ve played more Century than anything else - it’s a great game.

C: Let’s talk interests - you’ve got some eclectic hobbies including space, lego, water gardening, dinosaurs, and even cryonics! How much do you find your other hobbies influence your game designs and projects?

S: The other hobbies come in from time to time - e.g., I did the Dino Hunt game. For the most part, though, it’s just all part of the general background. I get to do an occasional crossover, like the net-published Evil Stevie’s Pirate Game with Lego.

I’m also a train nut - maybe one day I will do a train game!

C: Steve Jackson Games has been established for over three decades now. You’ve devoted most of your life into shaping the games industry, but what has the experience taught you?

S: Playtest one more time, keep your costs low, try not to become part of the drama, and be satisfied with pleasing a lot of people, because you can never please them all.

C: Of course, we have to talk about Muchkin! The game has become a gaming household staple, and spawned more expansions than I can list! Did you ever predict that it would become so momentous?

S: Not at all. I created it on an impulse. But starting with the very first playtests, there was so much enthusiasm that I knew something special was going on.

It's now turned into one of the biggest games out there!

C: The games industry today has no shortage of new products being produced. What about Munchkin do you think made it stand out and resonate so strongly with the gaming community?

S: I wish that I were sure. It’s got to be a combination of factors. People like the humour and card combinations. Design-wise, it’s good that so many cards can be played in more than one way.

The idea of having swag, like shirts and bookmarks, have in-game benefits...that was another impulsive decision that caught on. We have been lucky in the art, first with John Kovalic and now with several artists. It all seems to have added up.

C: Do you have a favourite event/convention which you like to attend?

S: I could not pick out one favourite. I like conventions!

C: What can we expect from Steve Jackson Games in 2019?

S: More for The Fantasy Trip. More for Ogre. Some new games, both with and without dice. And - at last - the Kickstarter for the new edition of Car Wars!

And I will be a Guest of Honour at the World Science Fiction Convention in Dublin, which is a great morale boost for me and a compliment to the whole gaming hobby.

""Be satisfied with pleasing a lot of people, because you can never please them all!""

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