The fourth installment of the “Women in Board Games” series features Suzanne Zinsli Founder of CardBoard Edison. Cardboard Edison is a wonderful website that shares great content about game design and tips on the industry. Suzanne was gracious enough to share her thoughts, experience and knowledge of the industry and I hope you find her answers valuable.
DL – What has been the biggest change in board gaming that you have seen since you starting gaming?
SZ – There are a lot more games to choose from, and it is much easier to publish a game with the invention of sites like Kickstarter.com and Indiegogo.com
DL – What has been the hardest part of the industry for you?
SZ – The hardest part has been trying to find a balance between game work and family life. I have a 5-year-old and a 3 month old, and I am a primary caregiver for other family members, so it can get quite hectic.
DL – Do you see any real issues as to why there seem to be so few women developing board games today?
SZ – I think there are a couple of reasons. One, there are so few women developing games because there are just fewer women gamers than men. That is a whole other issue that I could go on and on about, but let’s stick with the question about female developers. Second, I think women generally put their hobbies last and spend most of their time caring for those around them. This has been my biggest obstacle. If Chris was not my husband and design partner, I would never have time to work on anything. He helps out so much with our girls and household tasks, that we are able to find an hour here and there to work together on designs.
DL – What has been your greatest achievement so far in this industry to you?
SZ – Getting Tessen published. I was thrilled when we met A.J. Porfirio of Van Ryder Games and humbled when he asked to publish Tessen. It was such a great experience!
DL – How many rejections have you had to go through in your board game career?
SZ – Only a few, but it is still very early in my career, and I plan on facing a whole lot more in the future!
DL – What got you into playing and designing board games?
SZ – I’ve played games since I was a little girl. I remember sitting on my mother’s lap while she played Monopoly, playing Po-ke-no with my grandmother, and staying up late on summer nights playing everything from Battleship to Crossbows & Catapults to I Vant To Bite Your Figure (a great kids’ vampire game from the ’70s) with my brother Stan. Chris and I have always played board games, and designing them came by accident. Chris developed a computer program that produces alliterative phrases. When he showed it to me, I took some phrases, put them into the program, and made him guess what the original phrase was. We had a lot of fun doing that. One day, we had a few friends over for dinner and while it was cooking we put phrases into the program and had our friends guess. Everyone had a great time, and the game Skewphemisms was born. From there we caught the designing bug.
DL – What games have you been a part of?
SZ – In addition to Tessen, Cardboard Edison currently has several games in development. I have also playtested many, many games for fellow designers.
DL – What do you think makes a great game?
SZ – A great game to me is one that I want to play again as soon as it ends. My two favorite genres are heavy euros and hidden-identity games. Both styles lead to players getting invested in the game. If I can throw myself into a game and right away want to play again…that is a great game.
DL – How many games do you currently own?
SZ – Over 180.
DL – Where can people find out more about you?
SZ – You can follow me on Twitter @KabrtZinsli or you can friend Cardboard Edison on Facebook.
DL – What are some of the things you try to keep in mind when designing games? Does gender matter in the design process?
SZ – Currently, I am focusing a lot on balance in the design process. I think gender does matter when designing games. Women and men have different life experiences, and that comes out in anything creative that you do. One of the benefits of working with Chris is that our design process involves both the masculine and feminine touch.
DL – I know the topic of sexism is out there. Do you think there is sexism in the industry? If so, how do you recommend we combat it?
SZ – I do think there is a high level of sexism in the industry. I have felt and experienced it. I do not know how to combat it, because I feel it happens on a subconscious level. I believe very few men think of themselves or their actions as sexist, however that doesn’t mean they don’t still come across that way. There is a very public conversation in the industry now about sexism, and as more women talk about their experiences that may lead to more men being conscious about their actions in the gaming community.
DL – What board game do you wish you had designed?
SZ – I wish I designed Panic Station, that game is amazing! The mood it creates on the table is unparalleled. It’s such a cool and fun game. I love it!
DL – If you can make a change to any board game you didn’t design, what would it be and why?
SZ – I love the game Tichu, however I am not crazy about the scoring. It is a trick-taking game and you score based on a number of factors including what specific cards you have in your deck. I would have given each card a value. I think the current design leads to either randomness or intense strategy.
DL – What types of board games do you tend to gravitate to when you purchase them?
SZ – I tend to gravitate toward either heavy euros or fantasy-themed games.
DL – Where do you see the future of board game publication going? Will the Kickstarter craze be able to sustain itself and will the demand be there for so many new games coming out so often?
SZ – I think more and more adults are coming into the hobby. I think the increase in interest and demand will make it much easier for publishers to do their magic. I hope Kickstarter can sustain itself, however I do not think it will. I believe government regulations and taxes will force it out of existence.
DL – What tips do you have for a beginning board game designer?
SZ – Do not be afraid to show your design to other designers. They have been where you are now and understand your feelings. It is a scary thing, but totally worth it. Also, listen to what your playtesters are saying. Since game design is an art form, it is hard for designers to not get emotionally attached, but you need to look at your design objectively. Also, get out into the community and go to game nights and conventions. Last, play more games!
DL – What is the best piece of advice you have ever gotten about this industry?
SZ – A good friend of mine told us about his bad experience with a publisher. We had been thinking of submitting a game to them for consideration, and that talk changed our mind.
DL – What is the worst piece of advice you have ever gotten about this industry?
SZ – When we ask someone to playtest our game, we make a point to tell them to please be honest in their feedback and that we do not take it personally. We did have one playtest with an obnoxious playtester who spent the whole time just insulting us and being rude. He said he wasted two hours of his life playtesting our game. He gave no real feedback, just insults. He pretty much said we should junk the whole design. So while designers need to consider playtesters’ feedback, they also need to be able to filter out comments that are not going to be helpful.
DL – Since you design games with your husband, what are pros and cons of doing so?
SZ – the pro side, we live together so finding time is easier. Living together though is also a con because it’s hard to design when a baby is crying or the dishes need to get done. As I mentioned earlier, we each look at the game from opposite angles…his from a masculine perspective, mine from the feminine. Another pro is that we are very different players and always have different strategies. This has been invaluable in our playtests and design.
DL – Have you designed games with anyone else or plan to in the future?
SZ – I have not designed games with anyone else. I may in the future if the opportunity presents itself.
DL – How many games have you designed and scrapped because they didn’t meet your standards?
SZ – I have not really scrapped any, just put them on the back burner. I find it better to focus on one or two games at a time and then go back to other designs with a fresh perspective. I have about seven games currently on the back burner.
Follow Cardboard Edison: http://cardboardedison.tumblr.com/
Follow Cardboard Edison on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cardboardedison?fref=ts
Follow Cardboard Edison on Twitter: https://twitter.com/CardboardEdison
If you like what we bring you, please vote for us here: http://www.boardgamelinks.com/links/sites
Club Fantasci on Facebook: www.facebook.clubfantasci
Club Fantasci on Twitter: www.twitter.com/clubfantasci
Club Fantasci on Google+: Club Fantasci