Producing Fun 21: Gabe Barrett - Podcaster / Publisher

Producing Fun 21: Gabe Barrett - Podcaster / Publisher

Producing Fun is a podcast about making tabletop games from a product perspective.

As well as running what may be the most successful podcast about game design ever - the Boardgame Design Lab - Gabe Barrett has run 10 successful board game-related Kickstarter projects: including a solo-only game that raised more than $65,000. In this episode, we talk about why he started the show, why he stopped, the power of building community, and useful advice for budding creators.


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Full Transcription:

James 0:00
Hi I'm James, and this is producing fun, a podcast about making games from a product perspective.

Welcome to Producing fun. My guest this week is Gabe Barrett podcaster, game designer, publisher and creator of the Board Game Design Lab. Long before I was bitten by the podcasting bug myself, I was a regular listener to Gabe Barrett's show. Until very recently, he's put out a podcast about game design every week since 2016. He's interviewed what seems like every game designer about almost every conceivable topic in search for insights useful to the ever growing audience of people that want to make games. In the process. He's built a huge community around his podcast, with 12,000 people in his Facebook group alone. As if he weren't busy enough, he's managed 10 Kickstarter projects in the same period, including a solo only game that raised in excess of $65,000, in my view, Gabe is a true master of building a gaming community and gaining traction in a market by giving something back first. So I was very keen to understand more about his motivations, methods and unique path to making multiple successful projects. Gabe is an absolute force of nature. And this conversation was enlightening in unexpected ways. From the incredible benefits of being in a small industry, to the unpredictable but practical ways that building your own crowd can help you succeed. And sage advice about becoming a cannon waiting to explode. This episode is brimming with useful insights for all kinds of creators. We join just as Gabe is telling me what it's like being out of the podcasting saddle.

Gabe Barrett 1:58
Muscle and it just gets stronger and stronger. And what's funny, I haven't recorded actually, since May, and we're in August right now. And that's weird, because I had so many in the tank getting ready like for the end of the show, which is I knew was going to happen and like end end of June, early July. But I had recorded so much I haven't recorded in a long time, James so I'm really excited to be here man really appreciate you asking me to be on the show. My life has been absolutely bananas lately. And so this is nice just to sit down and kind of feel back in my like comfort zone really of just chatting about gaming stuff over a podcast. This is excellent. Thank you, sir.

James 2:33
You really are more than welcome. Thank you so much for accepting my invitation. It was brilliant, that you're able to be on the show. Because your podcast was probably the very first podcasts actually listened to in games. And absolutely one of my favourite gaming lessons. I think I discovered ludology later and that had some that's got some great stuff on it as well. But yeah, I can think back to quite a few episodes. Actually. You had a guy on who was really interesting from a marketing perspective. I remember he does the he has I'm trying to remember the guy's name now he's been on. I think you've made we've done a few episodes with him.

Gabe Barrett 3:04
Andrew Lowen.

James 3:06
Yes. With Angels and Demons, the kind of

Gabe Barrett 3:08
Yeah, that game. Deliverance is the game he's been working.

James 3:11

Gabe Barrett 3:11

James 3:12
That's the one. Yeah, yeah. And I remember that was brilliant, because it really made me reassess online marketing, and what it potentially could do in games. And that got me really, really intrigued. And I liked how, although you obviously tended to be more design focused, I really liked the way that from quite early on, sort of, from my perception anyway of it, that you were looking at games in the round very much.

Gabe Barrett 3:35
Yeah. And that was the goal, especially as my personal like gaming journey continued. Because, honestly, I did three hundred and one episodes, I didn't ever do a single episode that I was not excited about in some way, right. And so the way you keep that going, is to make sure you're always talking to people that are one, interesting, and two, have something to say and the other like, there's some kind of expert in some way, shape, form or fashion, but also that I had a lot of questions about. And so that turned into, alright, let's talk about publishing. Let's talk about marketing. Let's talk about package design. And let's talk about all the many things because my journey was going that direction. And so I had tonnes and tonnes of questions. And then I would just reach out to people that I personally wanted to talk to, that I thought would be an interesting person to pick their brain, and then I can turn it into content at the same time. And so it just worked out really, really well. And so that's, that's always my advice to people trying to make content is be careful about, like getting stuck doing the same thing over and over again, because eventually you're gonna get tired and you're gonna have to pivot and evolve and change. And so the best way to avoid that, you know, where you're getting just kind of burnt out on the same old thing is just go where your excitement leads. And I feel like if you have a community that's built up around you and what you're doing, there'll be most of them will be along for the ride. And that's definitely the case with board games and publishing as well. And so I just kind of go where the juice is You know, and see what happens.

James 5:01
I think that's great advice for almost every podcast I think about some of the most successful ones in the world, in any sphere, are often built on people saying how much the reason they get people on is because they're very interested in in the guests. And that's something whenever people ask like Joe Rogan about his podcast, for example, which I think is probably still the biggest buy number listenership in the world, he talks very much about, they're the people that he's genuinely wants to talk to. I think the same is true. Yeah, of lots of different podcasts. And for me, it's really interesting that you touch upon something there. That is very, very interesting, when you said that it was actually a kind of excuse to talk to these people about precisely subjects that actually are going to be really helpful. And I feel a little bit like, one of the sort of secret benefits of doing a podcast, although it can be a lot of work. Is that precisely that? Like, I feel like Oh, my God, I've learned so much from so many people already that I've got to interview. And I think, Whoa, I'm rather privileged here I have all of these amazing people to talk to who have got some really interesting wisdom to impart. And that's, that's been fantastic.

Gabe Barrett 6:04
Yeah. It's always funny too when people you have invited on the show, send you an email, and they'll say, Hey, thanks for having me here. Are you kidding? I can't believe how that you came on the show. Like, thank you, like, I'm the one benefiting here. And then the people that obviously, get to listen, and that was definitely the case early on, man, like I never ever expected to do 300 episodes, I never expected it to turn into a community and this big, bigger thing than me. Like, there's 12,000 People in the Facebook group right now, that blows my mind. Like, I never thought that would happen. And I just thought, hey, I want to do a show about games and game design. And let's see what happens and see where it goes. And then all these people just kept accepting interviews, like Jamie Stegmeier, Matt Leacock, and Rob Daviau. And all these folks, they were just like, Yeah, I'd love to be on the show. It's like, Are you kidding? Like, I'm nobody, I've literally done nothing that you would look at and go, Oh, yeah, that guy's worth talking to. And, um, and so it's just been amazing that, that people who will join you in anybody thinking about making a podcast, creating content, whatever, just got to put yourself out there. And you might be surprised like I was at how many people say yes, and then you're off to the races?

James 7:12
Yeah. I mean, it's extraordinary, isn't it? I think, do you think it's partly because the industry is quite naturally open as well. I mean, it's also benefits maybe from being a bit smaller than some industries, too.

Gabe Barrett 7:23
I think it's because I'm so handsome. And people would look it up, like, Oh, that guy. He's so attractive. Let me talk to him.

James 7:28
I can confirm this is true. We're talking on zoom right now.

Gabe Barrett 7:32
No, you're you're 100%. On point, it's definitely because our industry is very tiny compared to video games compared to movies compared to books and novels and all that kind of stuff. And so like we have, we basically have access to Steven Spielberg effectively, right. And we can reach out to the best creators, the best people in the industry, like we can reach out to them directly through BoardGameGeek. Like, they all have an account, and you can direct message them easily, right. And they check it and they respond, right. And it's easy to find people's email addresses, versus, you know, Steven Spielberg, that you'd have to talk to, like, 17 people before you ever even got a text through to him, you know, of five words, right. And so that is a huge benefit that we have, and you go to Gen Con, you can sit down and play a game, you can play the creation of the effective Steven Spielberg's of our industry. Right. And that's just, it's nuts. And it's such a joy. It's such a privilege that we have that this is the thing we're excited about. And unfortunately, that also means that our industry doesn't make near as much money as some of the other ones. Like we're not in this zillion dollar space, which kind of makes content creation a little harder to make money off of versus like the like, you can have a video game channel hit a million subscribers, and it's not that big a deal. Like there's so many of them. But if you had a million subscribers in the board game space, wow. Like you were in the next level, like top five of of channels, right? And so it's just, there's always sacrifices, there's give and take. But um, yeah, we're, we're in a great space, man, I really enjoy it.

James 9:00
Well, I mean, that's an interesting question about that, because that's one of the things I really wanted to ask you was, are you able to live from just the kind of board game design lab stuff? Or actually is the what you do? Because obviously, you make loads of games as well, on Kickstarter, kind of part of that, too.

Gabe Barrett 9:17
Oh, absolutely. It's all one big holistic thing, right? I think I could probably live off of BGDL, board game design lab stuff. If I if I really wanted to, like if I was putting out like two or three courses a year, if I was putting out, you know, one to two books a year, I probably could, I can probably like piece together a living off of just that. The problem with that is my brain doesn't work that way. My brain is like, ooh, shiny object over there all the time. And so I'm always like, try new things, and you know, whatever I'm excited about. And so that turns into a lot of board games and different types of games and you know, solo games. And right now, I'm doing a lot of narrative like story driven, open world kind of game stuff, which a lot of fun but also crazy and huge and so I kind of pieced together my income through a lot of different means. But also, something else to think about is like I would not, if I was going to write a book, and I go online, and I find a podcast or a course or something like that, from someone who's teaching me about it, I want to know what they've written. Like, what have you done? Right. And so that's always been a thing with me is, as I was making board game design content, I was, I tried to be careful not to kind of get above my standing, I guess, you know, and, like, not come out with a course and be like, Hey, you should do game design like this, this and this. And people are like, what games have you made? And I'm like, Well, I've got some prototypes. I, I just didn't want to do that, you know. And so like, even the books I've written, most of them have been reaching out to established designers, getting their ideas, getting their feedback, getting their answers to questions, and then like, putting all of that together, where I'm more of an editor than a writer. And I've done a lot of writing, but it's a lot of like piecing things together from other people who you should listen to more than me. Right. And so that's always a challenge, too. And so if I was only doing game design content, I don't feel like I would have near the credibility, right? I also wouldn't have the stories like on the podcast, I wouldn't be able to go okay, I'm working on this game. Here's what I'm dealing with. Here's, here's an answer, I found to a question. Here's something I'm still fighting through. Let me ask you about it. Like, I wouldn't have all the knowledge base to kind of pull from. And so that's always something to think about, as well, again, don't get too locked into the one singular thing. And so yeah, it's kind of a mixed bag. As far as like all the different things I'm doing.

James 11:29
Yeah, almost almost, you really have to make something make several games, I guess, to be able to be in that position to kind of impart that knowledge, even when you are editing and you're bringing those answers together. Being able to contextualise all of that and bring it together is going to be much easier when you actually really, really understand subject matter because you've been there done it.

Gabe Barrett 11:49

James 11:50
I actually on that note, that's something I really liked about the format to your book. And I can't remember which would have first the first one?

Gabe Barrett 11:57
Board game design advice.

James 11:58
Yes, that one with this idea of breaking it into stories from different designers. Because that's also how one of my other favourite books and board game design, which is the kobold board game design.

Gabe Barrett 12:11
Yeah, that's an old school one

James 12:12
that was really old school one. But again, the format of multiple essays. And I thought that was so useful as a way of doing this, rather than trying to construct some kind of complete how to guide, I think, in some ways, because I think that's a very good format in the same way that you know, I'm fine to just being got my to get my hands on a copy of the building blocks, tabletop game mechanics by Isaac shadow and Jeff angle. Yeah, and again, it's like, it's really useful in a slightly different way as a tool, because that's looking at building blocks, which on their own, actually, that's not gonna be not gonna be very useful. But it's a reference in the level of that thinking rather than the level of the kind of more meta problem solving level that you find in your book, for example, is a very useful way way to approach it. So I can see how for you that the podcasts, creating all of these games fit together quite organically, I guess. And to some extent, you couldn't really pull them apart entirely.

Gabe Barrett 13:08
Right? Everything informs everything else. Right. And it's just and that's, that's game design in general, honestly, like, the game I've been working on for the last two and a half years in earnest, right, of really, really designing it. When I say two and a half. I don't mean, oh, I started two and a half years ago, and then I left it for six months. And I picked it back up for a couple months, I, literally two and a half years of nearly daily working on this thing, right? It actually started six years ago, when it was a totally different idea. And it was way bigger than I could have put my arms around. And so it was so overwhelming, I put it back on the shelf. And then many years later, because of learning because of reading because of all the podcast, interviews and and talking to people, I realised how to solve the overwhelming problem that I didn't know how to solve years earlier, and then picked it back up right and then kept going. And so it's really interesting how the creative space that we're in is so much built on the wealth of knowledge, right? Because you might work on something today that turns out to be a terrible idea. It's useless. You can't figure it out. It's probably not gonna sell. Okay, fine. Five years from now, you have a totally different thing you're working on. You go Wait, what did I do five years ago, that I had, oh, that was Oh, and you go find your old prototype, your old notebook, you know that you wrote some notes in. And and you're like, oh, that's the, that's the answer. And so it's cool how we are in a space where it's just like naturally organic, right? It's always changing, evolving. And you you literally could reach back in the file from years and years ago. And it turned into something that is pretty special today. And so it's it's interesting how it all works together.

James 14:39
Yeah, completely. And I think the inspiration can often come from many unlikely sources as well. It feels like almost the more interesting the inspiration or the more tangential to it. All right, like in some ways, in my experience, some of the less interesting games I've seen sent as prototypes have often come from places of someone saying well, I just want an abstract that isn't stuff, rather than are there some particular thematic inspiration, or some need to solve a very particular problem. And one of the things that makes me immediately look at kind of your career there, in interesting ways, this recent game that you've done, this trio of solo games, because one of the things that's been interesting looking back through your Kickstarters, is that you've done a lot of projects that are really quite unusual. There, for example, lots of solo projects, the idea of going right, we're gonna do a fundraising of a trio of just solo games, I would have thought from the outside, gone. Well, okay, we've got a creator here who's primarily known more for the broader business of bringing bringing knowledge and helping people learn and understand about games, you're going to do something so focused as that I always think that's not going to raise any money. And then I look on Kickstarter and looking at the page and like, $67,000, from that, and so I'm always interested to know, where did the inspiration for example, to that come from? Because it seems like quite a bit of a left field choice.

Gabe Barrett 16:04
Yeah. So one thing I tell people all the time, is create where you are. And at the time, I was in Honduras, and I had lost my main gaming buddy, he had left we were working at a school, I was teaching English, he was teaching chemistry, he had moved back to the States. And so the main guy that I played games with that I played prototypes with, he was excellent at, like developing and helped me like answer questions and figure things out. He was gone. And so it was just me. And I was like, well, if it's just gonna be me, and my wife, usually we would play games, but she was super busy. I've got four kids, like she and I have a lot going on, okay, yeah. So late at night, you'd be like, 10 o'clock, but hey, you wanna play games, she's like, I'm going to bed, well I understand. So I just started working on solo games, because that's kind of what my life was like. And then especially because of pandemic and you couldn't go out. And so that's a lot of ways how it started, it was just like, my life is in this situation where solo games make a lot more sense. And they're a lot easier to play test and design, because I'm by myself. And so that's where it all started. And then with one of those games, a guy named Joe Clipsal. He, he designed what's called the hand of destiny. And he knew I was working on solo games, I had already published several. And he reached out and he said, Hey, I got this game. Actually, it was on the podcast, I interviewed him. And he was telling me about the game. And then after the interview, I was like, you've got to send me a prototype, I think that might be a game I might be interested in publishing. And, and he did, and it was excellent. It's this game you play in your hand. And you know, it's all kind of like Palm Island, but a dungeon crawl, basically. And it's a lot of fun. And so that was another thing that the podcast helped out with. Either, I was able to open the door to places that maybe I wouldn't have otherwise, because I had relationships. But then also people were able to open the door in with me, because now we have a relationship, right? And where they would say, Hey, I'm working on this thing. I go, Oh, let me introduce you to whoever I think they could help you. I think they might be interested in publishing the game like that. They're in your area, you should play test together, whatever. And so that's another thing to just kind of put yourself out there and relationships turn into good things.

James 17:56
what extent do you think being in Honduras influenced the podcast, because I can see how particularly the situation you're, in some extent, in the middle of pandemic, everyone's in that same situation, it's really hard to be able to play games with people, unless we're doing it on things like Tabletop Simulator, which personally I always find is like never quite the same.

Gabe Barrett 18:15
Yeah, It takes forever,

James 18:16
Right? It takes forever, move, click something grab, it makes this otherwise quite fluid experience of a tabletop game quite painful at times. What impact did that have doing the podcast there? Because it strikes me that that might have presented some some challenges?

Gabe Barrett 18:32
Oh of course, I mean, I was there for a little less than eight years. And so basically, the entire the entire time I was doing the podcast. And actually, so I got into game design, in my early 20s. But just as a hobby, just something every now and then I would have an idea. And I would write some notes, and it would turn into like a complete mess. And it would be awful and I'd be like ah who cares. And I would leave and I would come back and leave and come back, whatever. When I was in Honduras, I started listening to podcasts. I was listening to the Plaid Hat Games podcast, I was listening to Ludology, I was listening to a lot of them. And I just got more and more into game design. And I was doing I was working at an orphanage down there for a while. And my schedule was crazy. It was three weeks on one day off. And I was just losing my mind, right, because I was working 6am to five or 6pm. So 12 hours a day, three weeks straight. And just dealing with kids all day long, right. And these are not like typical kids. These are kids coming out of very, very broken situations. And, and so it was just very, very demanding of all my mental energy, my bandwidth, my spiritual bandwidth, everything was just poured out all day. And so I started really leaning into game design as a way to escape and just kind of have a way to like get my brain off of reality and go mess around with some game idea and some problem. I'm trying to solve some mechanism to make this theme come to life, whatever. And then out of that, I was like, Well, I really want to kind of get more into the industry like what does it look like to lean into this? And that was around the same time my wife and I my family we had left the orphanage We were working with an organisation to help kids transition out of orphanages, and kind of get real world skills and learn how to get jobs and go to college and stuff like that. And we were working with that organisation. And then I had more time, I wasn't working three weeks on one day off 12 hours a day. And so it was like, Okay, what if? What if I created a YouTube channel that Well, I don't think there's no game stores in Honduras. It's not like, I'm gonna go review board games. And I was just trying to, like, think through like what I want to do. I was like, what if I created a podcast, I was like, okay, and I just moved to a place that had a decent enough internet connection, where I could do that, right? And there was no video, really, it was a lot of audio stuff. And power would go out randomly, because reasons. And the internet connection would be awful sometimes. And so it all started there, right? And created a lot of challenges. But yes, it's just kind of crazy. Again, I never expected it to take off. I literally sent I think, like, 12 emails out early on. And I said, Hey, you know, sending out to different people I thought would be really cool to have on the show and people way above my paygrade. And I was like, Hey, I'm starting the show. This is what it's about. I love to have you on, you know, on for an interview to talk about this topic. And I think 10 out of 12 said yes. And just like, Okay, I guess we're doing this. I thought maybe Maybe one, maybe I could get one of those. And then 10 out of 12. And so

James 21:13
hang on. So you've sent these out before you'd done your first episode, right?

Gabe Barrett 21:18

James 21:19
So you didn't really even know if you actually even really enjoyed the process at this point.

Gabe Barrett 21:23
No clue. Going on a whim and a hope and dadgum Jamie's Stegmeier was the first person to say yes, he was on there for the first show. And it just, and I think that's nothing. That's really good. That's a good point. I never thought about this. Him being my first guest. Probably set me up to continue doing it because it was so much fun. And he was so cool to talk to. And so when engaging, and he not only had good answers, but he also came back with good questions and put things back on me. And so that was just a really fun first episode. And then you get done. You go, Okay, I think I can do this. Can I do it for a long, long time? I don't know. But I can at least do it for the other nine people who've already said yes. And then we'll just see what happens. And as we were talking about before we hit hit record, like the average podcast doesn't make it past eight episodes. So if you can get to nine, you're already in like the top echelon, percentage wise of like, shows that exist. And so right from the get go, I already had nine episodes. I was like, Okay, that's cool. And then it just became scheduling and like staying consistent and making sure that a show came out every single Wednesday, and it did for 300 Wednesdays in a row. So it was yeah, a lot of fun. Man.

James 22:36
What year was that? The first one then?

Gabe Barrett 22:38

James 22:39
2016. So actually, already by that point, point, it's not like Jamie Stegmeier wasn't already pretty big name right?

Gabe Barrett 22:46
Oh he was somebody.

James 22:49
isn't that after Scythe came out. Right? Like we're about that time.

Gabe Barrett 22:52

James 22:52
Yeah. So fantastic. I mean, again, as you said, how awesome is it that we live in an industry where that's, that's a possibility, right? That someone is kind of big as him. I mean, famously, he is he's friendly and whenever I've spoken to him on like social media or chat. He's always brilliant. So at some point, I need to invite him on, because we'd love to have him as a guest on producing fun to talk about,

Gabe Barrett 23:13
he is the best. Like he's the best of us, as far as people in this industry. Like, it doesn't get any better than him. He's thoughtful. He's empathetic, he's engaging. He's kind. He's charismatic, like he, if we were going to have a person to go on the Joe Rogan podcast and represent all of us, I would elect him to go and chat. And so yeah, he's awesome.

James 23:32
Well, yeah, he's a great ambassador isn't he for the entire industry. Because he's, he managed to fuse being such a great guy, but also so successful financially as well. Like, if I look at how successful Stonemaier have been at making things that people really love, at scale, and turning over 10s of millions of dollars. Yeah, that's a kind of pretty, pretty unique achievement.

Gabe Barrett 23:54
Yeah, and he's brought so many new folks into the hobby, wingspan, did it, Scythe has done it like so many people, they see that thing. And they go, Oh, that looks interesting. And then, you know, next thing, you know, they bought 100 other games. And so we all benefit as publishers as people in the industry, from the work he's done. And there's a lot of other publishers out there too, that have done such a great job of bringing in new people, and then the rising tide lifts us all up.

James 24:18
Yeah, well, that's the thing, isn't it? I think that that's something is very much not a zero sum game, which explains why, I guess these podcasts if you're, if you're persistent, you are as energetic as you are with guests, keeping everyone you know, keep the thing moving all the time, can actually be very successful, because actually, people are quite happy to share knowledge to explore how to make things better, right? They're not they're not like, everything's a trade secret. We're going to be super guarded about it. And so in my experience, most of the people I meet who tend to have that more very trade secret orientated approach, actually don't tend to be that successful in the game industry either because I think they're not learning from other people either and just sharing it is more valuable than trying to hoard the knowledge. Like it's like it's sort of treasure or something, right?

Gabe Barrett 25:07
Yeah, absolutely. One thing I learned long time ago was, it's better to be a ladder builder than a ladder climber. And you end up in a much better place when you try to build ladders for other people, than just constantly like trying to commit yourself and keep them down and make sure you're ahead and push them down your foot while you're going up, whatever. And people see that and they reciprocate, there's a lot of kindness. But also we are privileged that we're in a industry, that people aren't just going to buy one thing. So if I'm selling cars, and I work at a Toyota dealership, I need to sell somebody a Toyota, because if they go buy a Honda, they're not gonna go buy a Toyota the next day, it's not like they're not gonna buy another car for like, three to seven years, you know, maybe 10, maybe 15. So, like, I have to make sure that my company is the one you buy. With board games, it's the complete opposite. If I can get you to buy my game, and it's good, and you enjoy it, you're gonna go, I want more of these today. And you're gonna go buy more, and you're not, you know, me, hopefully, you're gonna buy more from me, but also, you're gonna go out and find other games that you like, and you're gonna, your taste is gonna change, you're gonna get to a deeper where you don't want to go like heavier Euro. Or maybe you've got some kids that come along, right? Okay, let's get a bunch of family games. And so it makes sense for us to work together. Because we all benefit, right? Bringing more people in makes makes us all more money, we get it all make more cool projects and cool games and have cooler licenced IP's and stuff like that. So it just makes sense.

James 26:28
Do you think that's partly the property of the fact that I mean, generally, maybe unlike some segments of the market, it's one in which you have people who are, by their nature interested in such a wide variety of things, they're going to be from a wide variety of publishers, if I think about compared to adjacent stuff, like, for example, let's take Warhammer for example, Games Workshop, when people tend to buy into that they tend to buy into that company's products like very entirely, or the same thing with TCGs. Right, like Magic the Gathering as well. It's like they get into magic the gathering. And then obviously, they're much more alike than the general population to also be interested in board games. But they're probably not likely to collect all the TCGs because they decide that's my jam. They only buy a huge pile of Honda Civics. I've got no other way to compare it really. But with your analogy,

Gabe Barrett 27:18
I think you're I think you're dead on.

James 27:20

Gabe Barrett 27:20
I think you're exactly right. Because if I'm going to do Warhammer, then I'm not going to do another miniatures based war game. Like it one is too expensive, two. It's a lot of rules. It's a lot to learn as a whole system to figure out versus Alright, I'm going to learn five different systems like no, it's, it's just too much. And also your community typically is surrounded, surrounding that one specific game, those armies, the way the point system works, the way the movement and all that like, that's what that's the vocabulary, that's the jargon you're using around that one game. Same with magic, right? If I'm playing Magic a lot, I'm probably not going to go out and spend more money on a different TCG. Maybe maybe a living card game, but probably not a TCG, because I'm already invested. I've already got my community I'm already go into tournaments, whatever, like that's where my focus is. Whereas board games, it's not. It's just not like that, right? I don't, I don't buy a one game from a company and go yep, this is my company. This is all I'm never gonna play these games. One because so many companies are making similar games, right? You can go out and find very similar like Scratch the same kind of itch games from tonnes of different places. But two typically we just don't get into the hobby in that mode, like you do with Wargaming, or collectible card games. And so I think I think my Toyota dealership, analogy stands firm right there. Because if someone buys magic, that's it. And so if I'm the magic seller, you know, I'm trying to get them on that one thing, because then then I'm going to make more money versus them spread things out.

James 28:44
Yeah, that's really interesting. So that makes me think about how you go about then your strategy for selling things as your business on I couldn't. So interesting, because when I think about this, I know you as Gabe and as the Board Game Design Lab, I don't think of you as a publishing brand exactly. Even though you've published a lot of stuff. So there's also think we're interesting is at the same time, it feels like there's kind of a bit of a family resemblance between a lot of your games, and not just because you've done maybe quite a few more solo and puzzle things. Because if you know, if I think back to some of the slightly earlier products, like Final Flicktier here, for example, like that's really different, it seems to what you've been doing recently, it's not like button shy or something like that, where it's just like so completely, perfectly, like targeted at a very precise kind of experience. There's very, very narrow in what it's trying to achieve in just trying to do that one very narrow slice very well. Is there a kind of broad brand thinking to what you're what you're doing? I'm always kind of curious.

Gabe Barrett 29:50
Yeah. So early on, it was literally what am I excited about? And let's make that game and that's fine.

James 29:56
Why not? I think we're all like that. Right?

Gabe Barrett 29:58
But from a business standpoint,

James 29:59
yeah. especially the beginning.

Gabe Barrett 30:00
Yeah, absolutely and, and pitching games to bunch of different companies, that works really well. Because then you can go out to different people that design and publish different things for different player counts and different themes on and it works out really well. But when you're doing it yourself, and that's one thing I've just kinda learned in my adventure here, is you do want to find your people, right? Who is your audience. And if you keep doing things that are very, very different, people aren't really going to know who you are like, what do you what are you doing, alright, then it's gonna be confusing. And if you confuse people, if you confuse you lose as good of a marketing term. And so it's something to be aware of. And as my journey has kind of continued, that's why I'm getting more and more into, okay, I make solo games. Sometimes I'll make a two player, like a one to two player thing, but I'm not gonna go out, you're not gonna see three player games from me. Now, maybe a passion project, one, one day down the road of some game I've really just wanted to bring to life. But typically, it's one to two players, very thematic, I typically hire the same artists and graphic designers for my games. So if you see one, you're like, oh, that's, that's from Bayer publishing. Right? looking, you know, it's almost like Coca Cola. Like, if you see the colours with the red and the white, you see that swirl, you don't have to see Coca Cola, you know it's them. And so that's another thing I've really thought about is using similar artists to really make things similar, I guess it would have been, that way, when someone sees it on Kickstarter, or they see it on a shelf somewhere, they know where it's from, they know it's one of my things, even if they don't see the name on the box, or anything like that. And so I think that's something to think about from a product standpoint, and now a lot of companies, they they produce a tonne of stuff, you know, C mon and WizKids, and stuff like that, like, they're not gonna hire the same artist, you're not gonna have the same style for everything. And that's, of course, but if you're an indie publisher, you're doing just a couple, one to three projects a year like I do, then it's something to think about. Because one, the artists you hire, can they have enough bandwidth? Probably to work on that many projects in a year, they probably would like the consistent work as well not have to wonder, where am I gonna get my paycheck next month. And so if you can kind of keep them hired on and keep them working on stuff, that's good. But also, it just kind of keeps your brand similar enough where people see it and go, Oh, okay. Yeah, I bet this is something I would like, because I liked the last one that was like this. So yeah.

James 32:21
Yeah. I mean, it's notable to me that when I looked at the realm of shadows, particularly red and white made me think of the red and white in your Board Game Design Lab logo. Was that deliberate? Or is that?

Gabe Barrett 32:34
That was not, that was, I just told the artists, hey, I want black, white and red. And literally, that's what he, that's what he came up with. And I was like hey that works out. And that's another thing, hire really good people that are better than you at things. And because Jorge, he does a lot of my cover art. And he is phenomenal. Like just a wonderful artists, one of the best I've ever seen, let alone worked with. And so yeah, his guy was just like, hey, here's what I'm thinking. You run with that? And that's what he came up with. And it was excellent.

James 33:02
I mean, yeah, I'm very impressed by the art execution on these things. Always looks, the pages look really great on Kickstarter. And they have that ebb and I wonder then how much of your customer base overlaps with that incredible audience that you've been able to build out for the show people who just want to learn about how to make games? Is it quite a strong overlap? Or is it actually not as much as you'd expect? This is what I'm really curious about when I think about people's different approaches to marketing. I've met some people who say, I don't do any specific community building at all. I focus purely on the product. And then I pay for an absolute mega tonne of ads. And I just dump money into a Facebook, Google Ad machine. And then massive Kickstarter fundraisers pop out. And they do like no social media at all. And then I know other people who were like, No, it's all about the community. And in some ways, it feels like, you know, you would be one of the biggest figures of advocates of what incredible things can be done with communities. So yeah, I'd like to know more more about that, if you can.

Gabe Barrett 34:06
Yeah, so as far as like the overlap of my folks, it's an interesting. Hybrid. So when you're designing solo games, you're losing the majority of the market right off the bat. Right? The vast majority of people don't care. Like they're not playing a solo game, they play games, because they want to go to game night and have a whole bunch of friends or they've got their spouse or whatever. Like they're playing games to interact with other human beings. And that's amazing. And I love that I prefer at the moment to design and play solo games. And so from getting from the get go, I'm already being like, Alright, 90% of y'all have fun. So there's that I if I was going to really step back and do this purely from a business standpoint, I would design a game about designing board games and manufacturing board game, like I would lean into this whole thing and I've even I even played around with it and I just couldn't get it to work. I tried that. But I also wasn't super excited about it. I was like, I don't know this feels it's feels like I'm just trying to make money. And there's nothing necessarily wrong with that. But there's so many other things I was excited about that I was like really passionate about, like wanting to bring to life, I was like, I'll just, I don't I don't do something else, I'll see if I can get some ads or sponsors, or if I'm gonna just try to make money off this. So there's that. So but it's interesting overlap because I, every single campaign I run, I will receive messages from people that they say, hey, just want to let you know, this game is not for me. I'm not a solo gamer. You know, I don't like the theme. I don't like the mechanism whatever. But I really appreciate all the content you've put out. I really love the podcast, I've gotten a lot of value out of the show, I've got a lot of value out of the community. And so I'm going to support you because of that, and I'm going to send it to my brother, my cousin, whatever, because I think they'll really like it. Or they'll just throw $1 in as a support, right? Just to say, hey, I don't like this, I don't care. I don't want to be in the pledge manager. But here's a here's a few bucks. And so there's that right where people they want they want to give back even though they don't want the product. They want to basically donate to the cause. And I appreciate that, right? So there's that. But then there's also the overlap, not of people buying stuff, but of people wanting to help, right? Like so many people in the community will reach out and go, Hey, you know, it's not really my kind of game. But I would love to edit the rulebook. Like proofread the rulebook? Sure, I'll send them a link, Hey, throw some comments on there, you know. And I've had people reach out and say that they were trying to get into rulebook editing or proofreading or something like that, would they? Would I be willing to let them do it? And and I'll put their name in the rulebook at the end as a person who did it. And then they can point to that and go, Hey, you know, I'm working on getting, turning this into a job. And these are the rule books I've worked on. My name is in the back. Like, okay, yeah, I'd love to help with that. You know, now, most of the time when people reach out with services, and they're really good, I pay 'em, you know, I don't I don't, I feel weird about just do so for free. And so, but that's also led to, like my graphic designer, a guy named Drew, who has worked on almost every single one of my projects. He reached out to me years ago, as a guy trying to get into the industry. He's a phenomenal graphic designer, but he was working in insurance, like he builds insurance websites, you know, not exactly a super riveting creative field.

James 37:07
like compared to being able to work in games.

Gabe Barrett 37:09
Exactly. And so he reached out, he's like, hey, you know, this, what I want to do? Do you have any prototypes that I could just like, work on the graphic design, and just send those back in and just trying to get he's just trying to get better just trying to get into the industry, trying to learn? And so, you know, I've got people, people send me stuff like that all the time. I don't put a lot of like expectation, I don't put a lot of necessarily, hope that they're going to be amazing. So I'm like, Sure, man, I'm working. I was working on this little like one v one street fighter or combat game at the time, I sent him the ideas and sent him kind of like, what I was looking for a card layout, stuff like that, and what he sent back was phenomenal. Like, it was so good. And I sent him an email, I was like, Hey, man, I've got this other project that I'm gonna publish, like, it's gonna be a real thing, not just a prototype. I need you to work on that, like you, you are hired if you want the job. And and so that was another just excellent thing that came out of the show, right came out a person that heard the podcast and was like, Okay, I want to be part of this in some way. And then he's worked on close to 10 projects. He did the layout for all the books, he's done the graphic design for the cards. For all my hunted games, he did the graphic design for room of shadows, he's done a lot of graphic design for RoboMon, that's about the the old game found like, again, they came out of the overlap of people in the community. And so there's more to it than just people supporting you financially. Obviously, it's helpful, obviously, it's necessary to make money that so that then you can make more content, right. But there's been so many amazing relationships that have come out of that, as well. It's just been a lot of fun.

James 38:32
Yeah, that's really interesting thinking about it an alternative way, because as you said, I can imagine that if you were making games that were much more broadly applicable to a very wide market of gamers, because the thing is, in reality was we said this is a small industry, and hobbyists are already a pretty small segment of that. And then solo hobbyists are an even more small segment. So you couldn't really rely on even with you know, for example, that that incredible Facebook group you've built out on that audience of people. And it's very interesting how when I put the call out for questions for the show, some guests, I don't get many questions for because I think there are people that I think are fascinating and have some really interesting cool things to say, but they're maybe not quite as well known as other people. I think you're you've got the record for for a number of listener questions. I put out one tweet earlier today. And immediately, it's like, Oh, what was it about this? What's his favourite VAT? Like so many people really wanted to ask you questions. So one of the things that I've not been brilliant at recently is making sure all of those listener questions get worked in. So today, I'm going to make sure that all of those questions, we're going to go through all of them, because they're actually all great questions as well. I think I'm very fortunate and my followers have really interesting things to ask about as well. So, so we'd be really good to that. So yeah, so it makes total sense that actually, there's the audience. For some people, a community strategy might be like, well, it's quite directly related to the subject area. But actually for you, it's not like So there's this tremendous value here of just being in this network of people who want to help each other out. And actually, you end up getting lots of interesting inbounds that someone who was coming at it from a very more straightforwardly commercial perspective, where they're thinking purely of like ad spend, because I can measure that and then just benchmark against outcomes would have to go through a more conventional hiring and search process for that talent, you've kind of benefited by all this inbound interest, which is, again, I think, is I guess, that's another characteristic difference of that kind of approach. Because it really interests me at the moment because, you know, I spent a lot of time thinking about the benefit that I can bring to the industry and things I can do, and try to work out where I fit in that because I think some people so you come across as being a naturally very extroverted person, that, would that be fair to say that?

Gabe Barrett 40:50
Yeah, it's it's weird. I am an introvert that presents as an extrovert. Ah, but you put me on camera, you put me on stage, I am in my element. And then after it's done, I am exhausted. I gotta go be mom be by myself for a while y'all leave me alone. I gotta recharge. And so it's, it's interesting. But yeah, I definitely present extrovert.

James 41:07
Well, that's interesting is that because actually, if I think if I think about that one even more deeply for a second, you are also a passionate about closing solo games. And that wouldn't be a classic extrovert trait really, would it? In terms of thinking, thinking from that perspective, maybe you'd be off making party games, perhaps things like that instead. So that's, that that's a really, really important, you've got that kind of natural energy and passion and ability to engage people in conversations kind of perform as well. And I guess that means that fits quite naturally into into what you're doing. And so that's the question I asked myself, when I talked to people as well, it was starting out and like, well, sometimes it's worth maybe thinking a bit more deeply about what your unique skills are. Because it might be that the cookie cutter approach wouldn't work for you, right? Like some people go well Jamey Stegmaier did a really successful series of blog posts from like, 2013 about Kickstarter. So if I do a set of blog posts about Kickstarter, that will work for me, and it's sort of like, well, a that was almost 10 years ago now. And, and b, that's not going to probably work for you because you're not Jamie Stegmeier, only he is.

Gabe Barrett 42:12
Yeah, I was watching a YouTube video the other day. And a guy was breaking down Mr. Beast, and all his success. And he's like, Alright, here's what I'm gonna try break things down and deconstruct some things and share with you as YouTube creators, what you can learn and how you can impact your channel. But right off the bat, I just want you understand, you are not Mr. Beast. You're not that guy, like, you're not gonna be able to reach that level of success, doing it the way he's done it, because he's already done it, you know, like, you gotta go find your own path and your path 99.9% chance is not going to lead to the same success his path has led to it is lightning in a bottle. It is so much based on luck and chance, and just being in the right place at the right time meeting the right person, whatever, you never know what kind of funding someone had, that you have none. And they had all this extra, you know, they they started the game, a lap ahead, like you just never know, right? And so you just have to do do your thing and try to help people along the way, hope for the best and work really hard, and good things happen. But um, yeah, don't try to be somebody else to try to be the best version of you that you can.

James 43:13
Yeah, I got that's very much, I think, a very strong piece of advice in general, I think and particularly, I feel when you're trying to forge your own your own path on that. How do you advise if someone is wanting to do at least do a podcast because they feel like they can contribute a bit there? What's the best way to listen to people?

Gabe Barrett 43:31
The best advice for listening, that I have received was to realise that listening is not just waiting on your turn to talk. You're not just sitting there. If you're interviewing somebody, you're not just looking at your next question, because that's very obvious, right? When someone says something, and the listener goes, Oh, that that deserves a follow up, that deserves something to dive a little deeper. What does that mean? You know, whatever. And then you're just right on to the next question. You're not listening. And it's obvious to people, right? Versus you going oh, that's it. Okay. That's, that's an interesting angle. What have you thought about, you know, follow up question. Because people can tell, you're actually engaged. You're not just sitting there thinking about the next thing, you're gonna say that's gonna get them, or that's going to be super interesting. And people go, Oh, they're so smart. Like, you're actually literally listening. And it takes a lot of practice, man. And one thing I was really fortunate of. So I spent many years working for the church, and doing a lot of youth ministry and helping teenagers overcome obstacles, overcome problems, and teenagers are a mess. And so if you're not like really listening, you're gonna miss some kind of like, really important detail that they don't even think is important, right? They're just gonna throw it out there and you're like, Whoa, hold on. I think that's the heart of our issue. And then I transitioned, I was working a lot with people that were experiencing homelessness in Atlanta, and I've been doing that for 12 years. And so much of that is you just sit down, and maybe you're sharing a meal together, whatever, but you're just listening. Because what I found, especially in Atlanta, food was not scarce. There's too much food and a lot of ways. A lot of people in Atlanta eat too much that are on the street and there's a scarcity, psycho psychological scarcity. But there's not a literal scarcity of food. And so, you know, when you're getting really getting into the actual needs, conversation was one of the biggest things, people were invisible, they would stand on the street corner, and no one would ever make eye contact, people would walk by and pretend that they were just a, you know, a shrub, or a fire hydrant. Like they're part of the scenery, right? They're not a real human, and to sit down and look, somebody's face to face eye to eye, and go, how's it going? How about the Falcons this year? I know, they're terrible. They're always terrible. You know, it's been raining a lot. You've been strange, whatever, and but you're just having a conversation, and that but then out of that, you can start picking little details, and figuring out ways to actually help somebody. Because what they really need is not food. It was the conversation to realise that they just didn't know where to go, to get their social security card to be or to get an ID to be able to get a job. Whatever it is, right? You start playing the clue. You're Sherlock Holmes, you're you're trying to figure out okay, what, how do all these things fit together? But you can't do that, if you don't really, truly intently listen. And so I've benefited greatly from coming out of those those worlds, where that was just what you had to do. And so then I get into this podcasting interview space. Well, I've already been doing this, I just haven't been doing it. While recording, I haven't been doing it about game design. But it was the exact same skill set that I could bring over into. And so that's another thing I tell people all the time is what are what are the skill sets you've picked up in your day job in your teenage years, going to college, whatever, then you can apply to this new world that we're living in? That is so content driven? It's a story driven, you know, TikTok driven, or whatever? And how can you kind of use your preparation? To then do some cool stuff. Now you didn't realise you're preparing? You didn't realise you spent 10 years learning how to do something that's gonna help you now, but you did? And what are those things? And how do you leverage it?

James 46:49
Yeah, and I guess it's quite difficult for people to do often because they tend to have a very categorical view of experience. So it's like, well, I was working, let's take the graphic designer, like, well, I work in insurance. And then well, they didn't really think about games. But of course, actually, the skill, the real skills there, that's a job title, it's slightly easier to see it. But the real skills there overlap. I think, for me, for example, I used to run a newspaper. And I think from that's been quite helpful in terms of thinking about editorial content, bringing kind of like a proposition together. And that plus my experience in software coming into making games was like, well, actually on a lot of credit, project management, crafting a product thinking about marketing and things that I've already done, even though this seems like a big,

Gabe Barrett 47:35
making clickable headlines.

James 47:37
Yeah. Right. Like that, that's a good example of a very, very specific layer of that. So it sounds like when you're listening, then you're almost building up a little bit of a map of that person's life. And and who they are. Which is I guess is, is that really what's prompting the interesting follow up questions?

Gabe Barrett 47:58
Yeah. So one thing I've learned over the years, is that I don't think I've ever met an uninteresting person. Like even the people that are quote, unquote, boring. You just haven't found the right question. You haven't found the right line to get into. And I'll give an example. This was over let's see, this was back in the spring, I was with a friend of mine guy that I was working with down in Honduras, we were working for a school and we were on a recruiting trip trying to recruit more teachers to come down to the school. And we were eating lunch with some of his family members. Like they invited us over, we were in the area and i Hey, should come join us for lunch, like cool. And so we went over there. And his brother in law, on the surface is one of the most boring human beings you'll ever meet. He doesn't talk much. He's very quiet. You ask him a question. He's like, yes. And that's all you get, like, he just doesn't give you anything. And so it's like, okay, so I almost I looked at it, this is a challenge, because I know there's a cool, interesting person in there somewhere. But there's, you know, for whatever reason, he just doesn't present as anything that you would ever know. And so come to find out, he was working for a software company that works with law enforcement, and the FBI, and all sorts of stuff. And so he was really deep into, like, figuring out, crimes based on like people's internet usage and stuff like that, and has written all this code for algorithms to like, so like, you have a person that you think has committed a crime, but you're trying to like piece together the clues. And he basically is working on software that can go into people's Facebook and Twitter and all that stuff and like piece together stuff, and then present it as a report in data form. So you're gonna have to spend, you know, 10s and 10s, and hundreds of hours doing it yourself. The software just bloop and then pull stuff out. Which is kind of scary. In some ways. If We're gonna be honest, yeah, no, absolutely. Yeah, a little bit freaky. But at the same time, super interesting. And I would just ask, like, how does this work and how does that work? And I get we get into like, the ethics and the morals of it and he was like, super passionate about Yeah, like we need to regulate this stuff. We got Make sure people aren't using this for evil, like he was like very on board with, you know, we got to make sure there's like oversight. And there's people like making, you know, making sure these law enforcement agencies aren't, you know, doing this just because they're mad at their girlfriend or some like that. And so he was on both sides of like, this is super helpful to society to find a murderer is helpful to society, but then also to make sure that, that people aren't being abused with this technology is also super important. And so, but again, that turned into an incredible conversation with morals and ethics involved, and new technology and all this stuff from a guy that on the surface seem so boring. I just had to find the right question. And then because because once I figured out the questions to ask, I didn't have to talk anymore. Like he was so passionate and so excited about it, that the answers went from Yes. To Yes, Let me tell you about this, and this and that. And the other thing was everything we used to try, we should do it this way. And all that, like it turned into an amazing conversation. And so it just, everybody's got that you just have to kind of get in there and find it.

James 50:56
Exactly like, from as you said, one word answers to something quite so fascinating. That I think is a subject which we're all interested in. And we're all actually have a stake in as well, like that's a really one as critical technological questions. So obviously, as someone who's very passionate about talking to people, and you've got a great skill for finding out what's the real question, because you said you've had to do that. In lots of contexts in different different work, particularly youth work leading up to this point. What why did you end the podcast?

Gabe Barrett 51:23
That's a great question. One I've learned from Barry Sanders, which was one of the all time great football players in NFL to retire, while you still got something left in the tank. Always leave people wanting more. It's something I've always thought about. And so that that played into it, because I was not at a place where I was burned out, I was at a place where I was done, where I didn't think they were more interesting conversations to have. You know, to be fair, I think I've talked about every topic you can imagine, at this point, you know, there's there's very few stones left unturned, although I'm sure I can find some. And we could get even more like very specific about topics. And we can tell, you know, do some episodes about that. But at the same time, I wanted to do something new, I wanted to do something different. I wanted to kind of change things up and try something else. And like I said, in the final episode is like, I don't know that this is the final episode period, you know, I might get the itch again. And a year from now we'll come back. And let's do episode 302. And let's, let's get the show back on board. And we'll go to 500. I don't know. But transitioning right now, one I was transitioning back to the States. And so back in March, I moved to, back to Alabama. So I was in Honduras for eight years, I moved back home closer to where I grew up in Alabama. And so that was a big transition, I knew a lot was going to be happening. I knew the job I was working at the school was going to be ending in July. So it just ended a couple of weeks ago, I knew the mission stuff I've been doing in Atlanta for 12 years with the homeless, I knew I was I was basically handing that off to a very good friend of mine who's going to keep it going and keep doing some really cool stuff. He's excited about it, I was passing it on to him. So I'm in this interesting place right now where I'm kind of re establishing my entire life. And the podcast was just part of that. It's like I'm gonna, I'm gonna wipe the slate clean. And we're gonna do some new things, I want to lean into publishing, I want to I've got this massive project I've been working on for a long time, I'm gonna lean into that properly, I had my focus split on so many other things, and go, Okay, we're gonna focus on this thing. And then I want to as far as like content creation, and that kind of thing, I'm still excited about that. I just want to try a different method. So I'm working right now on a YouTube channel, which I was hoping to launch this month looking more like September. But I'm really excited about that. I've been working on videos and like, learning how to edit and doing other things and Robo Mon this game we're working on has actually been great, because I've been making videos for that and having to figure out okay, how do you do these things? How do you set up the camera just right? Where do you put the microphone that is close enough to your face, that the sound is good. And then you're gonna editing and figuring out thumbnails and headlines and all that kind of stuff. So that's another thing. I'm really excited about learning all these new skills. And yeah, so that's just kind of where I'm at. It wasn't like any negative thing. It wasn't like, oh, I don't enjoy this, or I'm tired of this. It was like, no, let's go try something else. Something new, and now's the right time to do it.

James 54:06
Yeah. Do you think you'll still be doing some interviews on YouTube? Or do you think it's going to be more kind of you're broadcasting out things or it's gonna be more about the game, like how to play type things, what kind of things what kind of things can we expect from you in the future?

Gabe Barrett 54:17
Yeah, so it's a little bit of a pivot, where it's not just going to be board game design stuff. I'm trying to go like one step up the ladder. And let's talk about creativity. Alright, let's talk about scheduling. Let's talk about productivity. Let's talk about how to get the most out of a small amount of time, which definitely applies to game designers, but also writers and movie makers and whoever, right, really just trying to go okay, if you are a creative person, the world needs your your thing, whatever the thing is in your head, we gotta get out of your head and out into the world because I believe that it can help people in some way, maybe it's just entertainment. Maybe your story is powerful enough to affect somebody who's also going through something traumatic that you went through and you can get to help them get on the other side of it, whatever it is, right? And so just trying to help creative people and Game Designers will be able to fall right into that, like, I don't think I'm going to do anything that they're like, oh, this doesn't apply to me. Like, we all need to learn how to be more disciplined with our creative time, or whatever it is, right. And so that's another thing. I'm just excited about kind of exploring. A Bigger Picture, right. And I've got all these these ideas, I'm working on all these different scripts, about creativity, and stories and things like that. And it'll probably involve interviews, and I can, you know, obviously reach out to people that I have really good relationships I would loved to have Peter C. Hayward, and Jamie Stegmeier, you know, two of my favourite people that have been on my podcast like this, let's sit down, let's do a YouTube interview. And let's let me cut it up. Right, let me make it more YouTube friendly, and kind of have these different topics per video out of this, you know, 30 minute conversation, as opposed to just the long form thing like a podcast would be right. And so yeah, lots of different ideas as far as so good.

James 55:45
Yeah. Oh, that sounds really great. Well, I'm sure particularly I mean, Jamie must have a huge, huge amount to balance. I mean, they're still quite a small team on standby. So

Gabe Barrett 55:52
Oh, yeah,

James 55:53
balancing all of that stuff out. I'm sure there's a lot of very valuable productivity tips there. Well, as promised, I want to make sure I also go through some of these listener questions because we don't have all the time in the world. And I want to try to at least

Gabe Barrett 56:03
Yeah, I'll try to stop talking so much

James 56:07
Please, please don't apologise. It's absolutely fascinating. And I feel like it's classically one of those conversations where we could just keep talking forever, pretty much. So the first question I've got is from Leon green. And his question is, what's your favourite board game mechanic and why? That sounds like a real stinker to me,

Gabe Barrett 56:23
That is is a hard question, man. It's not deck building. I don't know what it is. I can talk about deck building for days about all the things that don't enjoy about it. That's like one of the main mechanisms that people love, and I'm just like, oh, another deck building game?

James 56:37
What is it about deck building that you're not keen on?

Gabe Barrett 56:39
I think

James 56:40
Some people like love it. And I must admit,

Gabe Barrett 56:42
oh, man,

James 56:43
I'm a pretty big fan.

Gabe Barrett 56:44
Some people that's all they buy. That's That's all. Yeah, man. I had a friend in Honduras that was like that, like he would play any game as long as it had deck building, but nothing else is like, we are not going to be compatible as gaming friends. Star Realms, his favourite game in the world, I think partially, in my brain. I am not overall good at engine building games in general. And deck builders are engine builders, I guess it's naturally what they are here, you're starting off with basically nothing and you're over the course the game trying to build up to have this engine where your cards all work together. And you've gotten rid of a bunch of bad cards and got all the cool cards. I dont know, my brain just doesn't work that way. And so I want to blow stuff up and shoot aliens with a shotgun and run around and throw some dice. And so I love I love anything that like gives, give me a dice pool. As far as like mechanisms I love. Give me a dice pool. Let me roll some dice. So just random chance. And then let me make some decisions. Right? Less Oh, of like, I'm gonna roll with see what happens. More and more. I'm like, Okay, let me let me have some control. But then also, I love dexterity style games. Like, give me a thematic game with some dexterity elements. Right, the game I created years ago hunted mining colony 4...415? 514? What? I can't even remember the name of my own game, anyway, the alien game that I made a long time ago, you've got these tokens and you're tossing them into a box. There's an alien print, and you have to landed on the alien to get hit, right. And so like I literally win or lose based on my personal ability to toss these tokens. Like it's all on me. It's like a sport.

James 58:14

Gabe Barrett 58:14
Yeah. Right. It's like playing basketball like you win or lose being or being able to throw the ball in the hoop. And there's there's no random chance. It's just like your skill. And so I love I love dexterity games in that way. Because like, I want to know that I won not that the dice made me win. Or vice versa. The dice made me lose like no, I lost because I wasn't good enough. And so I love dice pools and I love dexterity would be my my answer to that.

James 58:36
Yeah. So I guess it's about designing a game with all of those elements.

Gabe Barrett 58:41
Almost as if I have

James 58:42
Yeah, it's almost like you have

Gabe Barrett 58:45
With robot combat thrown in. Yeah.

James 58:48
So I've got another question from Tony Boydell. Who asks, What game do you wish you designed that you haven't designed as in a published game that you said, God, I wish I'd been the designer of that game.

Gabe Barrett 59:00
Oh, I mean, Catan just because, you know, be sitting on a fat stack of money, right? Same thing with Ticket to Ride or monopoly,

James 59:08
any of those really?

Gabe Barrett 59:10
Although I think the person who designed monopoly never really get paid off.

James 59:14
Yes, I think that was I certainly think the landlord's games. Maggie Lizer? Is that the name of?

Gabe Barrett 59:20
I know it was a lady that did it.

James 59:21
Yeah, who designed the landlord's game, and she didn't get anything for that.

Gabe Barrett 59:24
Ironic. Isn't it ironic?

James 59:26
It sounds like well, the whole thing but I think it was the whole point was it was an educational thing about like the dangers of property ownership. And then and then it's like someone goes hmm it would be a lot more fun if there were no tenants in this game and everyone was a landlord. Let's rewrite that and it becomes Monopoly!

Gabe Barrett 59:42
I don't know if there's anything more ironic than that situation right there like I don't think you could I don't think you could create anything like out of your head like make it up and it'd be more ridiculous than the way that situation played out. I don't think anybody would believe it if it wasn't true,

James 59:55
and then it goes on to become like the most successful board game of all time as well, which is quite extraordinary.

Gabe Barrett 1:00:01
It monopolises the industry anyway, game I wish I had created. That is a good question. I don't know, maybe pandemic, because what I love about pandemic, what I love about what Matt Leacock is doing, especially now is who knew that that system was so flexible? Right, that you could not only do a game about the world ending because of disease, which not exactly a big-time seller at the moment, not a lot of people are like, No, thank you. But the fact that he's been able to turn it into a Cthulhu version, and a Roman like Romans versus barbarians version and a stop the flooding of Scandinavia version and Cthulhu, Warcraft, I'm trying to think all the different versions that are out now, like that system is so dynamic and so flexible. Like, I wish, I wish I could design, if not pandemic itself, like just a system with that flexibility that you can keep coming back to it. And you know it really well you're comfortable in the system. But you can do a million things with it. And they all sell great. It's not just like random niche things, but it's things that are actually going to the market. And selling copies and so I think I mean, I'll go with that one.

James 1:01:11
Well, it's a bit like Catan, isn't it? It's, it's become a kind of brand of itself. And but it works because this isn't so flexible. I mean, also Pandemic Legacy season one is like the first good legacy game that was created. Really, really good one. And I think so, as you said, it shows itself to be an extraordinary system, and very easy to apply. So there's a thing

Gabe Barrett 1:01:32
Yeah, like you say, like that game had a really cool story. Like who knew that you could have a pandemic game but also have a really cool narrative underneath? And like have like these pivotal moments where people have an emotional responses, like there's certain months in the game, you're like, oh, my gosh, you just like sit back. You go. Oh,

James 1:01:47
Yeah. Oh, yeah. You suddenly thought I punched in the face like, Oh, God, no, how are we going to deal with this challenge? We've lost or something like that. Right? Like, definitely has that without without giving any spoilers, it has some really like, jaw drop moments really and in that game, but it's very impressive. So I guess on the same somewhat similar theme, then Arcana Profitia, which I don't think is their real name, asks, What's Gabe's comfort game the one he reaches out to, without even realising.

Gabe Barrett 1:02:17
So it probably something with my kids, it's probably

James 1:02:19
guessing it's not a pandemic.

Gabe Barrett 1:02:20
Not pandemic, definitely not. Especially not in Honduras, man, Honduras was so locked down, like you can't imagine, like, given example. You can only leave your house once every two weeks, based on your ID number. So if you were like the final digit in your number, so like I had my residency card, and I think the last number is like four. And so that would be Mondays were ones Tuesdays were twos, Wednesdays three, there's a fourth, I could go out on a Thursday, but the following Thursday was for eights, so I would have to wait another week. And then I could go grocery shopping or go do whatever. And that was just one example of how just ridiculously locked down Honduras was. And so Wow, yeah, I didn't really leave my house at all, um, for a long time. And luckily, the delivery industry in Honduras really started to boom. And so if you needed stuff, you can just use an app basically, like Uber, Uber Eats, but it's called Ugo. And people just bring you stuff. And so that worked out pretty well. And anyway, I don't want to play any pandemic games. But

James 1:03:21
I felt the same way. We were actually funnily enough, it was Christmas, New Year's Eve 2019, that a friend of mine and I, we started playing Pandemic Legacy season one, I think we were playing it we we've got the third or fourth game. And then by the time we could meet up again, I think it was going to be like the 20th of March 2020. at just the point, the UK first went into lockdown. And it was just like the example of just just Oh, yeah, and then we came back to it a lot later. And to be honest, the shine had come off it. So I'm what as a game, I think particularly as I was going around just being like, oh, then I quarantine this city. It was like, not really felt like I'm having such fun anymore. Like he was just one of those ones. So I could definitely make it. I think for a lot of people very reasonably, that would be the opposite of comfort game. I was very surprised when I read that there had been this boom in sales of pandemic early in the pandemic. And I was like, are you sure about that.

Gabe Barrett 1:04:24
Again, it was the hero fantasy man, people wanting to be the hero and stop it and save the day. And then, you know, a year and a half went by and we're still dealing with stuff and like I just want to play a party game.

James 1:04:36
Yeah, exactly. That's a very astute. Yeah, I think you're right. Like in the beginning. It's more like a hero, we can get good deals like

Gabe Barrett 1:04:43
two weeks, two weeks to stop the spread.

James 1:04:47
That was nice and exciting bit upon

Gabe Barrett 1:04:48
a year into our two week anniversary, it's like oh.

James 1:04:51
It's just not not quite not quite so entertaining a prospect anymore playing that.

Gabe Barrett 1:04:56
But back to your question. Yeah. So there's a My kids and I, we play pretty regularly called the fuzzies. And it is basically a new version of Jenga, where you have this tower, but there's all these little fuzzy balls that kind of stick together in really interesting ways. And you have to like pull a ball from the bottom or the middle, you have to stack it on top. And there's cards that tell you like, what colour to pick. And then there's like rules. If you, if you're knock one down, you have to like, use your left hand, your off hand, pick up the next one, like there's an interesting little like twist to it. So it's not just a Jenga remake. But it is so much fun. And I also love it because everybody's equal. Like most of the time, when I play a game with my kids, I'm going to dominate them, I'm going to beat them. And I'm not going to feel bad about it, like I'm going to let them know, you're going to lose. One, one day, you will beat me and you will know you earned it, and it will be a good day. But it ain't today. And so that's most games. But that game, everybody's equal, because I probably have lost that game more than I've won. Because of just the nature of it, right? It's also dexterity which I love. But I'm the moment that I put the little ball on the tower, and it's in the wrong place. And the whole tower collapses, that that moment where my kids go ohhhh! And they get so excited because dad lost and they win. You know, it's just, it's just fun. And it takes like five minutes to play. And so if I just want to sit down, play a quick game before bed with my kids and just have some fun, where they're just as likely to win as I am. I think that's the game I'll go to the fuzzies.

James 1:06:24
Yeah, the fuzzies is great. I must try it out sometime. It sounds like a lot of fun.

Gabe Barrett 1:06:27
Oh, it's a tonne of fun.

James 1:06:29
And then a last question today was from Jan Rutishauser, which I hope I pronounced correctly and haven't accidentally butcher their surname. What's the and I think this is a very appropriate question to end on. What's the one thing you've learned interviewing other designers that you now use, in your own design practice very consistently. And I'm guessing based on our earlier conversation, that might actually be difficult, because there could be a lot of things there.

Gabe Barrett 1:06:53
There's a million things. And it's also situational. Like, I would reach out to designers and publishers, you know, throughout the history of the show, that had already done things or had already had a good bit of success with something that I was in the moment working on. Right. So early on, when I'm trying to get into publishing, I reached out to a lot of publishers, a lot of people that did marketing, a lot of people that had run Kickstarter campaigns successfully, and to pick their brains about those things, fulfilment. A guy named Toby came on the show, and had just one of the most informational shows I've ever done. And it was all about shipping and how to save $1 on your shipping, because when you're shipping 5000 copies, that's $5,000. Right. And so that, you know, there's so many, so it's, it's kind of hard to say, because it was very much in the moment, situational. What I've learned Overall, though, if I was just gonna speak, in general, is one thing to always remember is that your taste comes before your your skill, or before being good. And what I mean by that is, you're going to know what's good long before you can create what's good. You can you can go give an example from the art world, you can go to a museum of art, and look at the paintings on the wall and go, that is amazing. Like that creates an emotional response in me, that is phenomenal. The line work, the paint, the colour, everything is perfect. When long before you could sit down and even draw a stick figure. And so never forget that, because you're going to look at other people that are really good and have a lot of success. And you're going to have a tendency to compare yourself to them, when it makes no sense because you're not you're not seeing the 10 years of stuff they threw in the trash. You're not seeing all the edits, you're not seeing the first drafts that were trashed, they're awful, you're not seeing any of that all you're seeing is the final product that probably took a team of people to bring together and you're looking at that, and then you're comparing it to your prototype and going, mine's not any good. And you're right. You're absolutely right. But just keep going. Right there thing wasn't any good at 1.2. And so keep fighting, keep putting time in keep putting effort in. Keep just trying to be the best version of you that you can stop comparing yourself to other people to waste time. That's you're not running a race against anybody else. Anyway, the race is with yourself. And then the question is, can I be better today than I was yesterday? Right. And so realising that thing that you know that you're going to know what's good long before you can create what's good, but just keep going. I just don't give up. Because all the people that we look at today, is like the all time greats are really just a bunch of people that didn't stop. They kept working, and they got better. And they grew and they learned and they made a lot of mistakes and they figured things out along the way. And now we look at them and go wow, they're amazing. Yeah, but it wasn't overnight, right? Like they were there they were 10 years. It took 10 years to become an overnight success you know and it's of those things and I had a guy tell me one time to to live like a loaded cannon which is really interesting concept right where every day you're trying to do something to quote unquote, load the cannon, right that you're trying to be ready, right you're you're gaining knowledge you're getting in skill, you're figuring things out, you're overcoming obstacles and problems and, you know, making mistakes and getting better. Loading the cannon and that way when the light shows up when the when the catalyst to light the fuse happens, boom, it was already loaded, the cannon was loaded the whole time, right. And you can apply that to a lot of a lot of things in life, but definitely with creativity, that you're constantly trying to figure out how to load the cannon that way when that quote unquote overnight success opportunity happens. It's a massive explosion, right? Because you're ready.

James 1:10:20
Yeah, I think that's an absolutely fantastic advice for anyone. Because those things are, nothing happens until suddenly it happens. And that's where you want to be ready for it. Right? Absolutely. What brilliant advice be a loaded cannon? I like that a lot. So what can we look forward to coming soon, from Gabe Barrett, what should we be on the lookout for?

Gabe Barrett 1:10:42
Yeah, so RoboMon is a kind of Pokemon / Megaman inspired game I've been working on for a long time. If you'd like sleeping gods in this kind of like open world, go explore, do cool stuff, have some battles, you know, enjoy interesting story narrative. I think it's again, you might my like, it's a one to two players, it's gonna be on Gamefound, starting on August 22, it'll run through kind of mid September, and it has been overwhelming and a tonne of fun to work on. For the last two and a half years, it's got another probably eight to nine months of finishing it out after after the campaign. But um, it is, it's a huge project man. Like even when talking about going to a new end of the spectrum, like I've historically been designing solo games that were about $20 and took you about 20 minutes to play. Now I've got a game that's on Gamefound it's gonna be $79. So massive change in price, but it's gonna take it's like 30 hours of content. And you can sit down and play for 20 minutes if you want to, like I've set up the game where you can play for as short or as long as you want, you can dive right in, you can step right back out really, really easily. Setup takes about two minutes. teardown takes about three minutes, like it's a very, very quick game to get to the table and play. And at the same time, it's got a lot, it's got a lot going on. But yeah,

James 1:11:59
suddenly gone from Yes, you said like a 20 minute solo game to suddenly your own kind of version of seven continents.

Gabe Barrett 1:12:08
Literally, I mean, it's very similar, it plays differently. It doesn't use cards, it uses this map book, where you're turning the pages, and you're going to different locations in this world. And you've got this adventure book full of stories and skill checks and combat and, and puzzles. And we've done a lot of like graphic design, like graphic novels kind of stuff, like a lot of the cutscenes. I think all the cutscenes are comic book pages. And so it's more than just sit down and read a block of text. It's like no, no, here's a really cool visual, as well, we can kind of see the characters you see in talking to each other. And you see some like little easter eggs go on in the background. And it's a massive undertaking, but I got a great team of people working on it with me. And again, it's just been a tonne of fun. And the other thing about working with a lot of people is you get to, you get to be surprised, right? So often when I'm working by myself, I am designing the surprises, like I am creating the thing, but I don't ever get to be surprised, right, I created it. But with this project, there's so much going on, that I've had to hire other people to do, whether it's you know, some of the writing all of the all of the art and whatnot, like I can't draw to save my life, the puzzle design, whatever. And so people will send me these things. And it's like, oh, man, like I get to experience them for the first time. I get to figure out how to crack this puzzle for the first time. And so it's been a tonne of fun to work on on the project, and I hope other people will check it out. And yeah, consider backing it. I think it's gonna be kind of a new way to look at board games. In the same way seven continent was it's like, oh, I didn't know you could do that. So I guess I'm, I'm gonna try to put this game in some replacer it's like, oh, who gives me some ideas, I can kind of inspire the next round of narrative story driven game.

James 1:13:41
Fantastic, Gabe, that sounds absolutely excellent. I look very much forward to the Kickstarter campaign. I'm massively gonna check out that sounds really interesting. The idea of cutscenes sounds super cool. Thank you so much for joining me today. It's been a real pleasure talking to you. I knew this would be a good one that we'd have a lot of really great things to talk about. And it's been absolutely great.

Gabe Barrett 1:14:01
Yeah, really appreciate you have me on the show. Again, it's good to get back. It's fun to get back into the behind the microphone to dust the dust the dust, knock the dust off my microphone, but it's been a lot of fun. I really appreciate you having me on the show.

James 1:14:20
Producing fun is produced by Naylor Games if you enjoyed the show, follow us on Spotify, Stitcher or other major podcasting platforms. Remember, producing fun is also a product and it thrives on feedback. So please leave a review wherever possible, or simply send me your feedback directly. You can message me on Twitter at Naylor James or write me an email James at Naylor Until next time,

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