KEITH MEYERS: An Interview with an Industry Insider
Petrie’s is excited to bring you face-to-face with the folks who bring you your favorite game titles. Before attending GameFest March 11-13, we wanted to give you the time to get to know this year’s special guests. This time we have Keith Meyers of Iello Games and the soon to be opened Board Game Republic.
I think it’s very hard to teach game design – it really only comes from playing tons of games. And I also think a good game means different things to different people, so you’re never really sure whether you’ve hit the mark. So I’ve focused, as my book title suggests, on the business of game design, i.e. what is the best process to get published, what are the pitfalls of getting published or publishing yourself and what to expect from that process.
What do you do to inspire your creation process?
For me it’s never really been a ‘process’ – I’ve been instinctually creative my entire life. But I do think there are certain habits that help breed creativity, such as striving to be ever-curious (always ask yourself ‘why’), to be observant and open (inspiration can strike from any direction – be ready for it), and to break routines (just try driving home from work a different way and see what new things you will notice).
What’s the first thing you do when a new game idea occurs to you?
Take the time to jot down the kernel of the idea. Ideas can hit you at the most inopportune moments so by the time you are in game design mode, you may have forgotten all about your great idea.
You’ve experienced just about every aspect of the gaming industry. Which aspect do you think has given you the greatest insight into game design?
Truthfully, none of my jobs have contributed more than my childhood spent playing games. I played games all the time in my teen years, and I soon got the feel of good and bad games. I would tinker with the bad games by testing alternate play, adding pieces, and rewriting rules. At that time, it never dawned on me that games were invented by someone – I just knew what the play experience was and was just trying to make it better.
How have things changed in the gaming industry since you started in it almost 30 years ago?
What I find particularly fascinating is that the game industry, made up of games, which are basically a set of rules, is constantly pushed forward and redefined by games that break the current, existing rules of the industry. Some of these rule-breakers include: Trivial Pursuit which broke the $25 price point; Dungeons and Dragons which created a fully customizable play experience; How to Host a Murder which had success as a single-play game; and Magic: The Gathering which introduced the game industry to collection and trading as a business model.
Pitching a game design can take thick skin. What are your best strategies for dealing with rejection?
Be a pragmatist – all companies are different: different in their process, different in their market, and thus different in the games they publish, so it’s natural to get a fair number of no’s before you get a yes. Get to know as many companies as possible and the types of games they publish – this will reduce the number of no’s and the amount of time spent contacting different companies.
What’s your next big goal?
Opening Denver’s premiere board game cafe & pub, Board Game Republic. I’ve been trying to bring this project to life for about 3 years – and we’re now about 3 months out from it becoming a reality. I am passionate about the abilities of board games to bring about social change, i.e. making players better people, through face-to-face social interaction. So I’ve devoted my career to getting board games into the hands of as many people as possible. Board Game Republic is a perfect fit for me – a venue whose sole purpose is to bring people around the table and get them interacting with each other.