Waterloo Region has had a gaming community for as long as I’ve been aware of gaming and probably longer. Unsurprisingly, this extends to the creative side of things as well. Local gaming companies have included firms like RAFM and Guardians of Order. Waterloo Region adjacent creators have included Jose Garcia, Dave Okum, and Ed Greenwood (if memory series). There are many others. I’ve been out of the field for 16 years, so I didn’t feel comfortable writing up the local gaming scene. Instead I turned to Anna Kreider of Peach Pants Press to write a piece about her work and the work of others in the region.
By complete coincidence (I first spoke to Anna about the possibility of her writing an essay for me months ago), two of her games are featured in this week’s Bundle of Holding!
Game Design in Kitchener-Waterloo
When I first moved to Kitchener-Waterloo, I had trouble connecting with the local tabletop gaming scene and felt very disconnected from the hobby. It wasn’t until several years later that I was connected by chance to a thriving local gaming scene, which has only grown more vibrant since the opening of local board game cafes like The Adventurers’ Guild, Crossroads, and Games On Tap. And while designing games isn’t quite as popular a hobby as playing them is, Kitchener has several local game designers doing interesting work.
Like me! I got into game design shortly after moving to Canada. My first published game was Thou Art But A Warrior, a game about the tragic history of Reconquista-era Iberia. Since then, I’ve written and published a number of tabletop games and LARPs, including The Starlit Kingdom – my ode to magical girls and tragic fantasy, Autonomy – a LARP that is a powerful examination of power and socialized gender roles, and Ruined Empire – a campaign setting and resource guide for GMs looking to run anime-inspired gaming campaigns.
I’ve also worked with a number of large game publishers both to publish content and to influence the production of content behind the scenes. I’ve contributed to both V20: Dark Ages and V20: Darkening Sky, by White Wolf. I also wrote a stretch goal that was included in the new edition of Blue Rose by Green Ronin, which was recently delivered to backers and is available for purchase. Additionally, several years ago I freelanced for Wizards of the Coast, in which I helped write a policy document that would guide the creation of new Dungeons and Dragons content in how to create consistently positive portrayals of female characters in D&D settings and adventure modules.
My most recent project is The Watch, a low fantasy tabletop game Powered By The Apocalypse about women and non-binary people fighting to retake their homeland from a nebulous threat called The Shadow, that has the power to take over men and turn them into monsters. Recently funded on Kickstarter, we raised more than $31,000 and are currently going through the process of having illustration and layout completed, with an expected ship date of October 2017. The community that rallied behind us to raise money for a truly awesome final product has been amazing, and I couldn’t be more happy about the illustrations that have started to roll in now that the campaign is over and the real work has started.
The Watch was co-designed with Andrew Medeiros – another local. Although Drew and I live only a few minutes from each other, we didn’t know each other until we met in Indianapolis at GenCon 2014. He’s published a number of games of his own, including Urban Shadows – an urban fantasy tabletop game designed to play stories similar to Angel or Buffy, The Forgotten – a card-based LARP about people trying to survive in a city under siege, and The Woodlands – a tabletop game about small woodland prey animals trying to protect their homes from humans and predators.
Drew and I have worked pretty closely together this past year on The Watch as we’ve shepherded the game through development, including taking it on the road and playtesting it at a number of conventions to build enthusiasm and community around the game. He’s also been the face of the game on Kickstarter, and was a driving force behind early community and playtesting of the game.
Additionally, our area is home to Daryl Andrews, a board game designer who has published five games and has an astounding number of projects in the pipeline. Daryl has worked with a variety of publishers, like Mercury Games, IDW Games, and R&R Games. And given the tech-heavy nature of this town, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there is a burgeoning video game design scene as well. I’m lucky enough to be acquainted with Eliza Grafton, who is currently killing it in Sheridan’s game design program when she’s not involved in Kitchener’s amateur theater scene.
I wouldn’t be surprised if more locals started dipping their toes into game design. I’m a regular of The Adventurer’s Guild, and I’ve witnessed so many people really get into tabletop gaming in an enthusiastic way, and really it’s not a large leap from house-ruling a game or writing a setting to writing an actual game. I should know, because setting design is how I got into game design myself!
And with the availability of crowdfunding tools like Kickstarter and Patreon, the creation of content has really been democratized in a way that wasn’t possible even five years ago, meaning that just about anyone can make and publish games that are polished and professional. (It’s something I’ve blogged about pretty extensively, and if you have any interest in reading about just how to get into tabletop game design, you can check out this series of articles on my blog here.)
[James again ]