S1: This ad free podcast is part of your Slate Plus membership.
S2: But the reason why people, I think like designing games that have character sheets dice a manual is it does create a level of familiar culture, right, like familiar vocabulary and behaviors. There is a literal manual for how to pick them up.
S1: Welcome back to working. I’m your host, June Thomas,
S3: and I’m your other host, Karen on
S1: Karen, whose voice did we hear at the top of the show?
S3: That was Jeeyon Shim. She is a game maker and multimedia artist whose work includes games such as the Snow Queen and Field Guide to Memory, for which she and co-creator Shania Encore won the Indicate Best Live Action Game award.
S1: Wow. So for those people who like me aren’t terribly informed about the world of games, what kind of games does she make? Are they video games? Are they tabletop games like Monopoly? Something else altogether?
S3: I guess I would categorize them as tabletop games in a very kind of broad sense of the word. But I feel like a lot of the work that she’s done, almost it could be described as like journaling assignments, or it’s a little more thoughtful than you would think of than a game like Monopoly. It’s a little closer to, I guess, like Dungeons and Dragons or something like that where you are a little more involved in the story. You have to kind of put a little more thought and effort into what’s going on. Wow.
S1: So why did you want to speak to Jeeyon? Are you a gamer?
S3: Yeah, I am gaming. I love games and especially I think there’s so much interesting work being done in the indie game space, both in terms of video games and tabletop games like this. There’s just so much happening that’s kind of breaking the format in some way or trying to do something new, and that’s part of why I wanted to talk to her.
S1: Wow, OK. So I am really excited to hear the interview. But first, I believe you have an extra segment that’s just for Slate Plus members. What will they hear?
S3: For this week’s Plus segment, Jeeyon and I talk a little bit about the games that she, as a game maker, loves and finds interesting. So if you want to know what someone who makes games likes in another person’s game, then that is a good segment to listen to.
S1: Wow, that is fantastic. And you know what? All you have to do to hear that is join Slate Plus. As a member, you will have an ad free listening experience on any of our podcasts. You will have unlimited reading on the slate site and also member exclusive episodes and segments from us and other shows like Culture, Gabfest and The Waves. To learn more about becoming a Slate Plus member, go to Slate.com Slash Working Plus. All right. Let’s hear Karen’s conversation with Jeeyon Shim.
S3: Hi, Jeeyon, thank you so much for coming on to the show.
S2: Thank you so much for having me. I’m really, really excited to be here.
S3: I’m so excited to talk to you as well because I think you’re the first game designer that we’ve had on. That said, I know you are a woman of many hats, so how would you describe your own yourself as in terms of job titles to our audience?
S2: That’s a great question. I am a game designer. I came to game design by way of teaching outdoor education, so I had a very unconventional path to game design. And right now, I am the founder and owner and creative director of Jeeyon Shim Games, by which I mean, I started a business and it is now a publishing company and it’s just me. So it sounds very highfalutin.
S3: But I mean, I think it is a pretty highfalutin. That’s a lot of work.
S2: It sure is. A lot of work. Yes, that is. That is absolutely true 100 percent.
S3: You mentioned this a little bit already, but about your path into game design as well. You mentioned that your background in outdoor education was kind of what put you on that path. What kind of activities, I guess, were the beginnings of game design for you?
S2: Yes, it was pretty explicit. I worked for five or six years at an outdoor education company that primarily taught youth education, and we taught what we termed traditional land skills building a fire, making a shelter, carving archery, the kind of gamut of what you might think of as wilderness survival or outdoor skills. And we had four loose departments. I guess you could say there was one that was a very standard. You’re out here to do stuff outdoors. We called it the Rangers. There was the Mariners. Well, we called them guilds, actually, rather than departments, because every
S3: game in itself.
S2: Exactly. Yeah, there was a lot of that storytelling and mythos building within a very deliberate culture setting. And some of that was through the language. So the Mariners Guild was like fishing waterways. No swimming, but kayaking. OK, there was the Wilders’ Guild, which was foraging, and what you might think of is the crafts you’d do on a homestead. Sometimes we visited farms to learn about livestock tending. And then, wow, my guild was the artisans, and that was basically the live action role playing guild. Yeah, we taught all of those skills within the framework of kids making characters in a land fantasy setting kind of Ursula Caleb, Killorglin ish, and we would create these stories every week that had a, you know, episode of the day arc plus a week arc. Mm-Hmm. And it was really eye-opening for me for a lot of reasons. Before I, I worked this job, I hadn’t even been camping before. And so the schools that taught me. I find myself using constantly in my game design work, not so much in the creative part of it, like the actual game writing and design, but everything that scaffolds, it leans very heavily on my background, facilitating group activities for children.
S3: That’s incredible because I was about to say one of the things that I really admire about the games that you’ve designed is that they often have some kind of physical element in a way that you, I think, generally don’t find in a lot of tabletop games. Like it’s not about having like you’re bored and then your pieces, but rather like journaling. And then I believe the term as keepsake games. And I was wondering if you could explain the concept of keepsake games to our listener and also how, I guess naturally that came to you as you first were developing a game outside of that, Artisans Guild
S2: Keeps Games is a term that was coined by my friend and collaborator Shim in court. And I, when we who designed a game called Field Guide to Memory, it remains. One of my favorite games that I’ve ever worked on, I’m very proud of it, the collaborative process and co-design process fishing was amazing and as we started doing more interviews, we’re explaining the work, explaining the game to people. We kept having to spend this paragraph of explanation talking about how the process of the game creates an artifact. So the game was not published with any physical book or manual. It’s a digital PDF that runs a player through daily prompts that involve creating a journal and not just writing in it, but drawing maps, identifying local animal and plant species and trying to sketch them. There’s a lot that’s involved in the creation of what becomes a physical artifact over the course of the game, and the core gameplay revolves around the creation of that artifact. And we decided to basically put out what other creative fields I think would be understood to be an artist statement. We define this term for ourselves. We made it really clear that we weren’t the. You know, pioneers or progenitors of keeps a games, this format has existed in many other games before, but we were coining the term for our own purposes so that we could just say keepsake games and not spend a really long time explaining it. And that turned out to be very useful. For not just for us, but for a lot of people who also create games or do experience design that centers around physical objects like lovingly meaningfully created physical objects. And one of the design elements behind a keepsake game, the keepsake within the game that’s created over the course of gameplay is something that becomes meaningful enough to the player that they don’t get rid of it. They don’t throw it away. It doesn’t become a waste, which was another big reason we decided to not go with the physical book until we could find a manufacturer that prints. Book media and printed material according to standards that we both want to adhere to environmentally speaking. Yeah.
S3: I also wanted to ask about the game that you are you currently have in development slash in the backing phase called the Snow Queen. Can you tell us a little bit about the mechanics of the game and then the decision? I guess I’m spoiling it a little bit to build it around a chess board?
S2: Absolutely. The Snow Queen is a two player game. It is loosely based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale of the same name, but very loosely in aesthetics and roughly in theme. And the way that it works is each player decides between themselves who’s going to be playing the Snow Queen or the village girl and all of the chess pieces that you use in order to play the match that’s in the middle of the game structure are sort of assigned a character that is meaningful to their character. So for example, if you were playing the Snow Queen, your bishops would be two of your closest advisors, your knights would be two champions in your court and so on and so on. And every time a piece is taken, the person who takes their coat players piece gets to narrate a way in which their world stays safe and hold, and the person whose piece is taken narrates a way in which their world falls apart. And it’s funny that you said, Oh, my games don’t have boards or pieces or because I mean, it’s true. This is
S3: not in the traditional
S2: sense. Yeah, exactly. This is the first game I’ve designed that has a board pieces in it. You know, I naively thought that it would be simple because chess pieces moves are very simple. I and I have appreciated anew how
S2: complexity each game of chess is, and it’s been really nice because also I’m discovering the the reason why people, I think, like designing games that have character sheets, dice a manual that people can refer to. In common is it does create a level of familiar culture, right, like familiar vocabulary and behaviors that even if you don’t initially share, there is a literal manual for how to pick them up. And chess has provided that right. The reason I decided to. Make a game around the framework of. Yes, mechanics was because I’m not used to writing games that are scaffolded on other people’s mechanics and in my small. Niche of tabletop role playing game design, that’s fairly standard, a lot of people will make games that straight up use what they call the engines of other people’s games, so the set of mechanics that drive gameplay and create the rule sets. So this is a skill that I want to learn because I started doing game design full time and not just for this company I used to work for because of the pandemic. I, you know, it’s an outdoor education company. We’re working person. Obviously, once COVID hit, that wasn’t really possible. Yeah, well, and the company still exists. The programming has changed quite quite a lot. But for myself, I had to take furlough and the way they did that was by laying, laying me off so that I could collect unemployment benefits. So yeah, it was just a kind of sink or swim moment.
S3: Yeah, I actually had a question where I was going to ask about your experience as an indie game creator because I had read in a previous interview about the fact that you’d gone into game design. Not necessarily because you wanted to, even though it’s a field that you’re obviously interested in, but because it was a necessity. And I really appreciate your candor on that front because I think it’s something that a lot of people don’t really think about, like generally when people quit their jobs do something, it’s always like, I’m following my passion, I’m going to do this and not I literally have to do this in order to survive. And I do want to circle back to some more game mechanic stuff. But I was hoping you could tell us a little bit about your experience working and surviving as an indie creator.
S2: Game design as a safety net is not. I mean, it’s definitely not a safety net, right? Like any kind of any creative work is so technical and game design in particular, indie games of the kind that I make are very new. They’re really new and they tend to. Have been built on the backbone of a hobby, right, like the majority of people who play tabletop role playing, designing games that that use these kinds of designs, if they’re familiar with them at all, they think about things like Dungeons and Dragons, which is miles away from the kind of thing I make, but, you know, technically within the same category and foundation. And when you think about Gary Gygax in the history of the form, these are people who had day jobs, they had partners, they had many sources of soft landings. And so now a lot of the indie creators I talk to, there is this I wouldn’t say divide, but sort of two different sets of conversations that I find myself having a lot between people who are still in that hobby creation space where this is a passion for them. They are game designers. Absolutely the same way that writers who have partners who have well-paying jobs are still writers. Right? However, the drive between someone making games because it is their creative passion and someone like me where yes, it is a creative passion, but it is also my sole source of income. Mm-Hmm. That immediately becomes. A thing I have to clarify from the beginning, because I. Always hesitate to give advice, because if I’m talking to someone who has whatever nets they have in their life to catch them. My advice is not going to be useful for them because things like, Yeah, you have to get up and you have to put in that word count and you have to make these interviews and do this press and do this promo. That’s not. They don’t have to do that because if they need to take a sick day, they can take a sick day.
S3: And sort of, I guess, jumping off of that topic. I wanted to talk about the fact you’ve spoken about this a little already, but not on our podcast. So you’ve spoken a little already about leaving Kickstarter for the Snow Queen. You’ve kind of built your own independent like backing program. I’m not sure exactly how to term it. But I wanted to ask about very briefly what made you move away from that platform? And then also how you thought about structuring this? I can’t call it a Kickstarter anymore, but I know raising program.
S2: I know Kickstarter is a company that honestly, I really liked a lot. Up until very recently, and to this day, I still like what they do for creators. I did decide to move away from using it when they made their announcement that they wanted to move significant portions of operation to blockchain. Mm-Hmm. Blockchain technology at this point, there’s been so much written about it that I don’t think that it’s useful to really rehash any of it here, but there is a lot of credible sourcing to suggest that blockchains and it’s too kind of cousin technologies and of TS and cryptocurrency. Yeah, all have not only all kinds of destructive elements on an environmental scale, which at this tipping point in climate disaster and humanity as a species on the Earth is honestly unconscionable for me. But it also poses a lot of really intense security risks. The more I learned about blockchain, the more I felt really nervous. As someone who is not well versed in technology, having my friends who are explain it to me made me really nervous about using it. I didn’t want to have my financial information, let alone the financial information of over a thousand backers. Sometimes, yeah, even with the reassurance that the blockchain operations might not be what I’m using in the U.S., it still isn’t comforting to know because the way that Kickstarter not only announced the move, but also then engaged with creators who were very, very upset about it, suggested an opacity in communication that made it really hard as one of those creatives to trust that when they said, Oh, but your game or project or whatever isn’t going to be compromised because it’s not going to be on the blockchain, I don’t trust that, right, because of the way that they’ve communicated in the past. Mm hmm. The thing I really liked about making my own website, though, was it also opened up creative possibilities because with the platform, you’re beholden to their format. Often it’s fairly constrained, uses fonts that you don’t really like. It might be laid out in a way that feels clunky to you, and you just sort of get used to it because that’s what is on offer. But we’re right making my own site. I realized that I could format it however I want it, so I actually cut out a lot of the chaff, right? And I got to the things that interest me as a creator and also as a project backer. And I also put in some interactive elements, more creative elements. Essentially, the keepsake at the heart of the Snow Queen is the creation of a fiction anthology of fiction in our anthology. But this is again, it’s like something that’s hard to explain in a pithy way. And I’ve always been someone who had to do something several times before I could explain it or teach it in a way that only took up a sentence. And so on my crowdfunding site, I actually have a demo. I have a page called the Keepsake Campaign, or maybe it’s the campaign keepsake. And essentially, every time a $1000 or $2000 mark is hit in the crowdfunding goal, I write a short story based on a board prompt the same way that a player would. It’s digital, right? It’s not like a handwritten thing the way it will be for them, but you can see exactly how it works. And you can see, for example, that the stories are short. I tried to keep them to about 100 words because on a journal page, that’s about what you can fit with, you know, reasonably sized handwriting. I. Made it very clear which character each prompt is attached to. I used really evocative sensory details to kind of sink people into the world that they’re playing in very quickly. And so that kind of creative element is not present on crowdfunding platforms because there’s no room that’s made for it. You’re just talking about the project and putting up graphic assets and trying to get people to support the project.
S1: We’ll be back with more of Karen’s conversation with Jeeyon Shim. Listeners, we want to hear from you, whether it’s to ask us for advice on a creative problem. Tell us the guess you’d like to hear on the show or share your own creative triumphs. Drop us a line at working at Slate.com or give us a ring at three or four 933 W o r k. And if you’re enjoying this episode, don’t forget to subscribe to working wherever you listen to podcasts. Now, let’s return to Karen’s conversation with Jeeyon Shim.
S3: One of the things that I find interesting is that you’re your background in education kind of means that you’re dealing, I assume, with a lot of quote unquote players at one time. But a lot of the games that you design are generally built for one or two people. Was that a conscious decision going into those games? Or I guess what is it that makes that particular making a small place it, I guess, as it were an appealing thing to you.
S2: The number of players that I choose is. Deliberate now, it wasn’t it when I started. The reason I started writing solo player games was because I didn’t have a lot of experience writing group games for people who aren’t outside. Oh yeah. Designing for things outside is very different than designing something that is an experience that is understood to be indoors. Priebus and Terry, you’re not moving around a lot. You’re also relying on conventions of communication that are very different. And so group games and their design is something I’m learning to do kind of now. It’s not that I haven’t made group games before on my Patreon. There are several group games that are not well tested and that I haven’t released more publicly because of that, because I’m not sure if they work yet. But I really like solo player games because it spares me that design headache. I don’t have to think about group interaction because it’s just the player, but also because facilitating one person’s internal experience is really rewarding. And I have had that design mission. Validated many times by people sharing their work online, because often with the keepsake names, we also have a caller the type of game that she and I coined called connected pack games where there is a social sharing element. We used social media hashtags, but I’m sure there are other ways that you can do it where people, even though they’re playing solo games, they don’t have cool players. In a sense, they have hundreds of code players because there’s all these other people who are playing the same game and making their own versions of the story. But the story is a shared one, and so it’s really cool if you’re playing one of those games to see other people and how they approached a prompt. Mm-Hmm. And the nice thing about solo games, too, is the self-consciousness around make-believe tends to dissolve more quickly as well. And I think the most charming example of that. Is when people write to me to thank me because they started playing the game and then their kid came up and asked them what they were doing and they started. And this happens pretty often and it makes me really happy and it makes me really happy. During the days of the pandemic, when no one really knew what was going on with schooling, and so kids were suddenly thrust into being at home all the time, if parents were lucky enough to work from home, that meant they also had to work and be in that space, and I think it really created. A very different set of dynamics between parent child interaction were imaginative, play isn’t always a priority. And so it made me really happy to know that there were. These families that were playing mind games, and even though the kid wasn’t having the same experience, so to speak, they also are making a journal. They also are talking about their characters. A lot of the parents with them connect to their characters, story to their kids, characters, stories, and so they would weave these experiences together in a way that felt organic and was entirely voluntary. And I don’t know if that’s possible for me to design yet. In a very formal like you are now sitting down to a family board game with your kid like that is a design skill set that I don’t have. But making room for people, too? Yeah, no, I can’t. I can’t design Yahtzee like I’m not there. That’s a completely different set of skills. But I am good at making room for people to do the things that they need to do to feel fulfilled.
S3: And I guess sort of also on the topic of like multiple or solo endeavors, you’ve worked on other game designers, as you’ve mentioned on some of the games that you’ve made, such as, of course, field guide to memory. How do you decide when you’re going to work on something on your own versus whether it’s going to be something that you do as a more collaborative effort?
S2: I tend to default to working on my own because at this point. My bad habits are set. I, you know, like I work goblin hours, I tend to have pretty irregular sleep schedule, which is something I’m working on, but it’s going to be a work in progress. And so what that means is if I’m on a team, it has to be in a role where it’s OK that maybe they don’t get that email at three o’clock in the afternoon, they’ll get it at 3:00 in the morning, the next day. Yeah. And so when I collaborate with people, what I found and I collaborated with a fair number of people, I would say that at this point, my number one collaborator is my friend Shim, because we tend to work in similar ways because our communication is very compatible and because we also have very similar artistic missions. And that actually, I think, is the biggest decider if I work with someone and they’re a really cool game designer, but it becomes clear that that. You know, alchemy of personal value and artistic value and creative drive is often some way then I can still love their games, but it’s not going to be as fruitful collaboration and certainly not as a collaboration. So it’s actually, at this point, somewhat rare for me to collaborate in a long term way, which is what she and I do. But smaller projects, if I think it would just be fun, just a fun time, then I’ll do that. So for example, there’s a game designer named Grant Howitt, who he is one of the designers at Rowan, Rook and Descartes. They wrote a game called Hart. And he’s also well known for these like, really goofy one page games. I think maybe his most well-known game is Honey Heist, where you’re a bunch of bears trying to steal something together. Yeah, it’s really fun. It’s really fun. And so he reached out to ask if we’d like to make a small game together. And I said, Yeah, yeah, and it’s fun. It is. It is absolutely meaningless. There is nothing substantial or emotionally rewarding about it. I mean, it’s just it’s just goofy. And that game is fun, but it’s not going to net me an income stream. And so when someone wants to collaborate with me and it’s clear the scope of their project is that big income scope, then I think about it more critically, to be honest of like, if my time is my most finite asset as a person and a business owner like I need to be really practical about, is this a going to be a fruitful use of my time?
S3: I mean, I think that it ties back to sort of to one of the things that we were talking about earlier, where it’s like when you don’t have a net, you need to be way more kind of cold is not the right word, but it’s definitely sort of the kind of sentiment you have to be more careful about thinking about
S2: this kind of thing. I say practical or material to write like there is material desire and immaterial desire, and they they both meld together a lot in creative work. But at the end of the day, I have to pay my rent. Yeah, yeah. It’s not like you can completely plan for things. I still really believed the the right project to do is the project that you really want to do, right? Because I think that if you try to chase a marketing trend or whatever, it’s going to not only ring hollow, but you’re not going to have fun or be happy or rewarded, making that thing right. So I always only make projects that I really, really want to on my own steam. And at this point, I think like after a few years of working in game design, I can kind of get a bead on educated guesses about what will bring in what no right like the ballpark. Mm hmm. So that that is something I have to be really conscientious about for my own sake and my own energy expenditure.
S3: I wanted to ask, I guess, a sort of philosophical question as well. You’ve said that a lot of your games don’t really have quote unquote lose conditions, which I think is pretty novel in games in general, which are usually defined by whether you win or lose it. And I was hoping you could talk a little bit about your decision to build your games in that way.
S2: Absolutely. Structurally, a solo game is hard to lose. I think a great player, you know, because the experience, you’re building it for yourself. And I even wrote, it’s not a competition. Exactly. And I hesitate to even say, like, if you have to put it aside, then you lose because I don’t think that’s losing. I think that’s you meeting the needs of your life, right? Yeah. And you know, what’s interesting is the smoking absolutely has loose conditions. It’s a two player game. It’s around a chess match. One of you loses on if he doesn’t, but you’re both still making the keepsake. You’re both still creating this very intricate story that is interwoven with each other, but also very specific to you and your character. And. I think that. By thinking of a game experience as something beyond whether you win, according to the rules, say it is really nice because it allows people to take their own meaning out of an experience instead of defining it by whether or not they won or lost whatever game they were playing. And that being said, I actually with a group games, for example, there are these conditions now in most of the games that I make for more than one person because that does create urgency. There is there is nothing bad about these conditions per se in terms of like it’s not going to create a less desirable experience. And one of the useful things about lose conditions is a design tool is a creates urgency that people understand immediately, and that is something that is less useful in a solo game. But once there’s more than one person, it becomes extremely useful. So my suspicion is that my group games will always have a lose condition. But sure, you know how easily met that lose condition is. That’s where the difference between reward and frustration sets. And I think
S3: if there was a circumstance in which you had unlimited time and unlimited resources, is there a kind of a dream project that you have that you would pursue?
S2: Yeah, yeah. I mean, I’ve thought about this before I. Mm-Hmm. You know, in a world is my oyster. There is limitless time, limitless energy, limitless money. I would love to run a live action, role playing game that is also a long term camp camping trip where you.
S3: Oh, that’s amazing,
S2: because there are camping sites that are basically like little villages, you know, they have cabins and often they even have like really luxe items like running water, sometimes electricity. And so you could live there for a while and the idea of playing a game that takes place over a week and a half because then you have time to ease into it. You wouldn’t be playing the game the whole time. But when you are playing, you would have that shared experience of building up relationships in and out of world, and that creates such beautiful experiences. And I’ve been able to create games like this for kids. I would love to do it for adults. Yeah, and there’s
S3: definitely a market out there,
S2: there is the logistics of running something like this is a nightmare, even if you had, you know, even if you had Jeff Bezos money, you still have to talk to the land management and the parks different. You know, short of having private ownership of a piece of land, there’s going to be a lot of work going into just setting it up. So that’s where the infinite energy and time comes in because, you know, you’re not just on your own schedule, you’re on other people’s schedules, but were the stars to align. I would. I would really love to do that.
S3: Thank you so, so much for coming on the show and for your incredibly thoughtful answers.
S2: Thank you so much for having me. I love chatting with you.
S1: Karen, I got so much of that interview, Jeeyon is an amazing ambassador for the world of game playing and game creation. Mm-Hmm. And I have to say I’ve always sort of avoided games because I am a hermit. I’m selfish with my time. See, there are just so many channels on the TV, but Jeeyon did a really good job of highlighting the creative aspects which could be, you know, as she described making a concrete object in a keepsake game or the less tangible thing you could invent by making up stories in a game like the Snow Queen. Can you talk about some of the things you like about gaming and playing games?
S3: I think that one of the things that I really like about this kind of particular genre of games is that these games are often a lot more direct about forging a connection between you and the other players. Like, I talk about Dungeons and Dragons in our shows intro, and for instance, that’s a huge example of that. You have to build this team rapport with the other people that you’re playing with. And even in Jeeyon case, where some of the games that she’s created are for solo players or just one or two people, you have to kind of really take the time to assess you and your perception of things in order to really create the story well and thoughtfully. It’s also such a growing medium. Creators can do so many different things and tell so many different kinds of stories that it’s exciting to see people take it in a new direction. Like at the beginning of the show, you’re like, What kind of tabletop game is this? Is it like Monopoly? And that is a tabletop game, but there’s so much more stuff out there. And I mean, that is one of the reasons I wanted to talk to Jeeyon because like I would never in a million years think to create games like this, and that’s what’s so exciting to me.
S1: Yeah, and it just seems so radical. I mean, like Jenga, you build it. So we know what that is. But using that as the engine for another game, I mean, it’s so creative. It’s revolutionary. I was also really fascinated by the concept of solo games. I love the idea of a series of prompts or stepping stones that are designed to help people tell stories or make things. I really see a lot of desire for that kind of support for solo creation. You know, things like in October, December, Daly’s making gratitude journals in November, like, I think a lot of the reason that people take part in these projects is that it’s kind of a group project, but it’s something that you can do on your own and somebody is giving you ideas of things you can write about or draw or document.
S3: Yeah, I totally agree. I really like having the choice, and I think that’s kind of a valuable part of these games, sort of, as Jeeyon mentions, because you’re allowed to keep it to yourself. You don’t have to share what you’ve created with anybody, or you can show them off if you want to. And it creates the sense of community that I think is really special because, as you say, it’s something that you’re working on by yourself and sometimes that can feel very isolating and lonely. But in this case, it does feel more communal. And I think it also tackles one of the kind of tougher things about games in general, especially as an adult, where it’s hard sometimes to get more than one person to sit down and do something. But this is a creative game that you can sit down and play by yourself.
S1: Yeah, that’s amazing. It’s interesting to to hear how different the challenges are in designing the game, depending on how many people they’re designed to involve. Like asking me to sit at home on my own and come up with a story is a different kind of request from asking me to come up with something on the fly when I’m with four or five friends, you know, just in terms of how daunting that is and and how how much I’m going to be able to just make something up on the spot. Hmm. Do you have a favorite setting for games, solo duo group play?
S3: It depends on the game, but generally I do really love to be able to play with at least one other person. This is actually one of my kind of biggest gripes about the modern video game landscape is that there aren’t that many games that allow you to do what’s called couch co-op, which means you can just play with the people who are sitting next to you on the couch. There’s a lot of online multiplayer options, which has been like a really valuable source of connection, especially during the pandemic. But sometimes I just want to be in the same room with my friends and be able to play without all having to be on different monitors in order to do it. Yeah, and being able to share that kind of experience is so fun. It’s like going through a haunted house together, except you’re all also like leveling up and becoming more powerful and capable of taking on those monsters. That said, I will say that one of the demands of playing in a group setting, especially in tabletop, is having someone who’s willing to take on a lot of the responsibility as the quote unquote game master, because there has to be someone to steward or shepherd you through the game and be able to kind of form that narrative in a. Engaging manner and also be willing to sacrifice having their own character to go through this thing.
S1: Yeah, I hadn’t thought about that. It’s interesting, though, no, after you mentioned couch co-op, I’m thinking two of I watched Twitch for stationary streams, but I know that most people. That’s amazing. Yeah. You know, most people watch people play games, and I think, you know, that whole chat aspect of it were, you’re also participating by talking about it or, you know, giving tips or coming up with ideas.
S3: That’s another way that you know, what is your favorite stationary twitch?
S1: The pen addict. OK, he he streams like at least twice a week, often three times a week. And it’s like. In some ways, it’s almost the definition of like what you would say if you were trying to say something boring, like he will, he will sort of swatch inks which literally are watching paint dry, but it is absolutely fascinating. He has a lot of cool stuff. The chat is amazing, like the amount of knowledge in the chat and, you know, the exchange of ideas and just really, really like it’s it’s a great thing to do and I actually am not able to watch live. But you know, as with, I think a lot of similar kind of streams, they get put up on YouTube after the fact. So, you know, I can’t take part in the giveaways, but I can still watch after the fact, and it’s still super interesting.
S3: That’s very funny. I haven’t heard of him, so I will go look him up right after this recording session. Awesome.
S1: Awesome. I really appreciated John’s straight talk about this being the way she makes her living, and therefore she has to be very rational about how she uses her time. I think this is one of the central tensions of the creative process, and it’s something that comes up again and again on this show. We sometimes get letters from listeners saying, Why does the creative process have to be efficient? And I want to be clear, it absolutely does not. Efficiency is not necessarily a part of the creative equation. But if you know you have a limited time to do something because you have a deadline or you have bills to pay, you know, if you do, you have to be practical. So I just think it’s good to know where you fall on that calculus, right?
S3: Yeah, I completely agree. And I do feel like it’s something that we don’t talk about enough as a part of the creative process, which again is part of why I really appreciated Jeeyon candidness about it. And I think it kind of ties into the larger kind of freelancer mentality where we don’t like to talk about rates. We there’s a huge argument around salary transparency. No one wants to talk about money, but the fact that it’s a huge part of almost all of our lives, if you’re not born into, like, insane wealth, then it is always something that you have to think about. How much money am I going to get for this assignment? How long is it going to take me in relation to that? It’s just something you have to keep thinking about, and I know that I certainly have in my career as a writer, and I just appreciate straightforwardness about it in that respect.
S1: Here, here, I am now obsessed with Jen’s concept of a long term live action, role playing game that is also a camping trip. I know you were a slit employee during the remote period, so we didn’t have any magazine wide retreats. I’m sorry about that in so many ways, but that would have been an amazing way of doing a corporate retreat, right? Or it could be a TV reality show. It’s genius.
S3: I am also so obsessed with it because I think it’s not something that you really get to do a lot as an adult because once you grow up, it kind of takes more time, more resources, more forethought and just becomes kind of cumbersome in a way. Yeah. And I do think this is part of why I’m also so obsessed with Korean variety shows because it’s not as intense as live action, role playing or anything like that, but it is watching a group of adults go off and just totally engage in a game that’s like solving puzzles, completing challenges, traveling around to like, look for clues, which is just not something you really get to do on a daily basis as an adult. It’s so fun and it’s like, I want to do that. I want to go out and like, do these weird challenges in the world and feel like this entire world is like a big game for me to go play or a puzzle to solve?
S1: Oh God, that sounds so great. So lightning round. What is your all time favorite game? Mine was mentioned in the interview, I think, and it’s Yahtzee. If there were a pro Yahtzee circuit, I would have dropped out of school to try to buy it.
S3: That’s incredible. I’m also now like I, it’s hard for me to believe that there isn’t some kind of pro Yahtzee. So my god,
S1: I got a break in. Yeah, I mean, you, if I’m not here, the next two weeks is because I’ll be like, you know, looking for it’s funny to this sounds so pretentious, but I first learned to play Yahtzee in Germany. So even though I don’t speak German, I still think of like Kleiner Strasser, gross stress. Wow. Yeah.
S3: Well, that’s awesome. I really I can’t wait to see you reborn into your second life. As a pro Yahtzee player, I will have all the June Thomas merch. I will be every match cheering you on.
S1: And what about you? What’s your favorite game?
S3: That’s so tough because there are so many games that I really love, like there’s the cop out answer of like Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time, but also maybe if I had to really point one out, I would say maybe Kentucky Route zero. It’s a recent video game developed by a group of guys who call themselves cardboard computer, and it’s just a point and click game. Or for those of you who don’t know, that term basically means the extent of your interaction with what’s going on is to. Click on a place, click on a thing, and it’s not like a first person shooter or anything like that, it’s not as involved, but the way that they style, the visuals, the love that’s in the music and the incredible storytelling like, I really think it’s one of the best games ever. It’s so good. And it’s I think it’s very welcoming also to people who are not like gamers like me because it’s structured so simply and told in such an engaging way. Highly, highly recommend. And I think it’s available on most platforms at this point.
S1: Wow. All right. We’ve got a lot to do. Listeners, please join me in joining the DC Circuit and trying to figure out how to play Kentucky Route zero.
S3: Every working listener must join me as part of the June Thomas Yahtzee Fan Club.
S1: We hope you’ve enjoyed the show, if you have remember to subscribe wherever you get your podcasts, then you’ll never miss an episode and just a reminder that by joining Slate Plus, you’ll get ad free podcasts, extra segments on shows like the Waves and Culture Gabfest, and you’ll never hit a paywall on the slate site. To learn more, go to Slate.com. Slush working plus.
S3: Thank you so much to Jeeyon Shim and to our fabulous producer Cameron Drews. We’ll be back next week with June’s conversation with Julia Cameron, the author of The Artist’s Way and many other books. Until then, get back to work. Hi, Slate, plus, listeners, thank you so much, as always, for subscribing here is our Slate Plus segment for this week. As a game designer, I’m really curious. Well, not me as a game designer with you, as a game designer, I’m curious to know. Are there games that you really enjoy playing? Are there games that the design that you really, really admire?
S2: Absolutely. Like, yeah, this is an art form I like because I like to participate in it, right? There are some games that I adore playing where just someone saying, I want to run this game. I’m like, Yes, I’m there. One of them is monster hearts or monster hearts to buy my friend Avery older. It is a game about a group of young people, usually teenagers or very young adults, who all are supernatural in some ways. So every one of the characters leans on that. Coming of age, supernatural melodrama, types of things like Buffy the Vampire Slayer or, you know, there’s like a werewolf and a vampire, a ghost, and it’s just so fun. I love. I’m a sucker for that genre. It’s so much fun to play. Often really meaningful stories are great, but also it’s just it’s fun to be a werewolf. It’s just fun to make believe your world. So that game is fun. I also, from a design perspective, there is a slightly older game called Dredd, which is a horror game by a man named Epidural Vishal that uses a Jenga tower as its primary mechanic. Wow, dude, it’s so good we should play at some point in person because the the use of a Jenga tower to create tension in the context of a horror setting is like so effective and so fun. And like legitimately, my heart raced at times playing this game, pulling those little blocks out. Yeah, and then that structure has also been used in other games. My friend Alex wrote a two player game called Star-Crossed, where it’s about forbidden love and the Jenga tower is about when you get in or whether you give in. So like, that tension is very fun. And again, it’s like tangible. It’s material, it’s tactile. I really like games that have tactile elements to them, and which brings me to a third game, which is a solo game by Xing called Amending, which is about you as your character had been summoned by an old friend who you haven’t spoken to in a long time, and the game is a map that you embroider. So there’s all these cards. Oh yes. Cool. So there’s all these cards you pull that have different prompts on them, and depending on what the prompt is, you embroider your journey in certain ways until it concludes It’s really. And then again, it’s a keepsake game. You have this artifact that you’ve created. Being quote good at embroidery is not important to playing this game, and it’s so beautiful. It’s a beautiful story. It’s a beautiful game. And then you have a beautiful object at the end, too, which I really love. So those are three games that I always, you know, I would play the drop of a hat in almost any context. Mm hmm. Yeah.
S3: That’s it for this week’s Slate Plus segment. Thank you so much for your support. We’ll see you next week. So.