Producing Fun episode 22: Chris Kingsnorth - Developer & Convention Organiser

Producing Fun episode 22: Chris Kingsnorth - Developer & Convention Organiser

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

Until recently Chris was a pediatric doctor - now he’s a full time game developer and - indeed - our very first on the show. In this episode we talk about what game developers do, working with famous game designers and organizing the UK’s first protospiel.

Protospiel Nottingham on Twitter: 

Protospiel Nottingham website (and tickets): 

10 Minute Design Chat Podcast: 

Paper Fort Games: 

Cosmoctopus Kickstarter Page:

Personal Tabletop IG Account:


Listen to the Episode: YouTubePodcast

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 Chris Kingsnorth game developer and organiser of the Nottingham Protospiel. I was keen to interview Chris for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, Chris fills a key knowledge gap the show has had for a while. We've never interviewed the game developer for despite the critical but often misunderstood role that developers play in the industry. Second Chris's story in the industry is a really interesting one, a practising paediatric doctor until very recently, and working right now on a special educational game designed to be used in a medical context, Chris has thrown himself in at the deep end of games in no time at all. In the grand scheme of things, he's pretty new to tabletop, not discovering his first modern board game till about 2015. But by 2019, he was already organising a convention for other game designers and developers. That's exactly the kind of passion we like around here. As you can imagine, we had a lot to talk about. Chris is an eloquent advocate for game developers a dream role he works full time in. He has much to say about the process of taking a game from really Good to Great, working closely as he does with Henry Audubon, designer of Smash Hit Parks on Henry's new title, Cosmoctopus, this episodes ended up being a perfect encapsulation of the game developer role, and what goes on behind the scenes at the publisher after a game is signed. If you want to understand this, and the development process better, or you want to organise a convention yourself, this episode is for you. We join just as Chris is explaining his method of finding time to get into the industry.

Chris Kingsnorth 1:57
Very much what I started doing when I didn't have much time, but I did really want to do game stuff. And it's kind of a bit less sleep. And a bit more and a bit more games this kind of approach that I took.

James 2:14
Yeah. Well, it's very difficult isn't it when you're starting out, because very few people in games actually are full time employed in games, right?

Chris Kingsnorth 2:22
Very much so and finding people to get advice from about that is difficult, because it's such a hobbyist industry kind of overall. And because so many of the people get into it by playing games first, rather than being sort of employed in it. Yeah, knowing what the route into games looks like, can be very difficult. It's like going into it, but no one's made the map yet. It's that part off the edge of the map, no one's drawn, you've got a vague idea of how people get there. But it's all hearsay, rather than actual, this is how you do it.

James 2:54
Do you think there will ever be a map?

Chris Kingsnorth 2:56
I think it's such a nebulous sort of role being whether it be a game designer, or a publisher or developer that I don't think there is. And I think it's still such a small industry that a lot of it is being in the right place at the right time. But also putting yourself in a position where opportunities present themselves. And it always makes me think of the phrase, the harder I work, the luckier I get, which I think is something that stuck with me when I heard it in the past. In that, you know, you can set yourself up for things to go well, it doesn't mean it will always happen. But doing that can set you in good stead. And that was very much kind of how I got into things I was in the right place at the right time. Having done some things in the past that set me up, which I didn't even realise was going to happen.

James 3:46
Because you're now... are you mostly employed in games now? Is this a full time gig for you? Or mostly kind of a part time thing?

Chris Kingsnorth 3:53
It's a full time for me now. So I I am now Yeah, five days a week I am developing, designing, doing bits of everything I suppose at Stone Sword and the sister company paper four, which is what I head up. So yeah, I'm full time there, which I realise is an incredibly on sort of it's it's an honour to do and a very lucky position to be in to be able to do that. So yeah.

James 4:20
Well, that I mean, that's really interesting, because I think very few people are full time developers especially. And actually, I'm sort of realised thinking back. We've not yet interviewed anyone on the show, who is primarily first and foremost a game developer, which is I feel like it's a great pity so far that we've not done this because I think this is a this is a fascinating and often poorly understood role, I think compared to a game designer. So here we've got a game designer does. People have an image of someone coming up with a concept, drawing, maybe making a few sketching out of prototypes, thinking of the play testing events, that and then eventually getting public If the dream you get the contract, your game sells 10 million units a year. And you're a millionaire. Okay, that's not very many people at all. But that at least the concept of in the ideal of a designer is quite clear. What do you understand a game developer to be?

Chris Kingsnorth 5:16
So I'm still learning what that means. And I think it means different things for different individuals, but also for different companies, depending on their size and their to use a sort of term used in business, their agility. So you know, do you have a role, which is just a developer? Or do you have a role that is developer amongst a myriad of other roles that you take on whether that be for a few minutes a day, or a few days a week, or whatever. And I'm very much in a role, because we're a very small company of, I'm a developer, in that the game I'm working on was actually signed before I joined the company. And it was given to me in a kind of, here's a game we want to publish, it's great. Take this stuff we've got and make it happen. And that's very much the kind of the starting point for this. So development of the game and sort of the additional playtesting, and working with artists to get art, project management, things like that all come under my role of development at this company. However, I know there are people, people like John Brega, for example, who they are developers, specifically, they do the development role, and then hand things back to a company to do the art and the project management, all of those kinds of things. So as we were saying, I think these roles aren't particularly well defined in the industry as a whole, and especially not when you've got small companies where lots of people are not available to do different roles.

James 6:47
Yeah. So that's interesting, isn't it that I guess your role is understandably like most small companies is one when it comes to a lot of different things. I've heard that definition as well. But people talk about the development role that also includes what you might term art direction, which obviously would have its own role in a lot, much larger organisation. Let's talk more about that developer part of it. Because I guess that that, is that your main that must be your main time, then that's the most people kind of principle thing you're doing?

Chris Kingsnorth 7:14
I'd say that's most of my time. Yes. So from a, the best way for me to tell you about is probably to kind of give you an idea of the like, how I started and the game I've been developing and how the steps that have been taken towards getting that to become a product because at the end of the day, that's, that's part of what a developer does is getting it to make it a marketable product that people enjoy. So when I came to the company, I was given the game in its prototype form,

James 7:42
And which which game is this? Can you talk about it the stage?

Chris Kingsnorth 7:44
Yeah, this is Cosmoctopus. So it's a game by Henry Audubon, the designer of Parks, people are probably known for that. And this was his lockdown design. And it's about it's about being devotees to a cute but all powerful celestial octopus. And it's a tentacle gathering engine building game,

James 8:05
A tentacle gathering game. This is, this, is this a new genre?

Chris Kingsnorth 8:10
Maybe it is. This could be the the birth of this new genre of engine building games we're designing perhaps. So that was the game that was given to me in very good shape. Obviously, as a developer, sometimes you'll be given games that have promised but they need a lot of work. And sometimes you'll have games that have you know, pretty much there and you're just doing the final polishing and, and sort of chamfering off the edges. And in this case, it was definitely the latter. So I was given the prototype game, and essentially then spent a fair few hours just playing it through myself play it through with Henry to just understand the game. Because the designer has spent many hours and days and months on a game and they have a certain vision for it that as a developer, when you come in, it definitely pays to try and get inside their head and understand that vision of what they why they designed the game. And when they design the game. For example, this one was during lockdown and I Henry will admit himself, you can definitely tell that he had been maybe indoors for longer than normal. It's a little bit unusual, and esoteric. And there was some bizarre things going on. And I wanted to understand that and I wanted to understand the world he'd made, because I'm going to be making changes to it. But I want them to be ones that make the game better for everybody. I don't want to be coming in gung ho and changing it to make it look, you know, work well on paper, but actually moves away too much from from his vision. But also, you've got to change things. That's the whole role of a developer that you've got to make changes so that you can get it to a place where people can actually buy it and will want to buy it and it gets out to people who are interested in it. So a lot of my time is spent playtesting and as a developer play testing, as well as changing the game balance and things like that also is a bit of market research. And it's talking to people about whether they like the look of the game and how it makes them feel when they play it. So that you can position it as a product in the marketplace, what target market, you're going for what age group, those kinds of things, which are often suggested by a designer, I think when they're designing a game, generally, you've got that in mind, it's just making sure that you then make sure it does fit with that suggested market, or you change it to fit with something that fits your company's set of games or ethos, things like that. That's a big part of it.

James 10:39
That's, I mean, that's really interesting, isn't it? Because I think a lot of people think of game development as specifically the game itself. And you can imagine that some of that makes a lot of sense, it'd be good to go into some examples, I guess, if we can go into a bit more detail kind of thing to change. But I would guess, if I think about development that we do at Naylor games, would be around things like small rules changes, optimization of explanation, it might be modifying something in a turn order, the way that bidding works, sort of small changes here and there that are designed to improve the product and to, but retain the feel and the vision of that of that thing. But you're going a little bit further there. And obviously you're telling me Well, of course, this is a very much a product podcast. So I inevitably will always use that word. But I actually think a lot of people don't think very much about that when they're thinking about game development, which is that you're actually talking about well, there are questions here about product market fit, that your job is partly to address. What what kind of product market fit questions were you addressing with Cosmoctopus? Because multiples because one of the issues there sort of a you raised is there's something maybe a little bit more esoteric than some of his previous work. And then that immediately raises questions for me about what how, where's that going to fit?

Chris Kingsnorth 11:52
Exactly. So one of the first things that had been suggested actually, before I even joined the company was that we wanted this game to stand out from other games, which might be felt to have a similar theme to this. So there are a number of games about esoteric orders of people who believe in certain beings, Cthulhu being a big example. And being you know, one of those themes that's used quite a lot through the market. We, we felt this was similar to that, but we wanted to take it in a different direction. And that's actually where we came up with the idea that this, this being this Cosmoctopus could actually not be your world ending terrifying creature, but maybe maybe more of a space toddler who's wandered off from the brood. And that was one of the early changes we made to think what how can we grab people's attention on the shelf with this product? What if this octopus and thinking of the cover in advance was kind of this cute, Dumbo octopus esque, almost Disney character, within this scene of devotees that clearly looked quite serious, poking a little bit of fun at that kind of Cthulhu mythos vibe, while also appealing to two different markets at once. Because you get the people who think, Oh, it's a cute character, what's going on there, and that draws them in. And then as they get closer, they see oh, this is a game with the some people down the bottom that look like devotees. And that's a bit strange. And all the cards have got these weird and wonderful things on. That was one of the things that we brought in and with that, we very much wanted to kind of get if this game was on someone's shelf, what makes it stand out from all the other games that's on their shelf, not only the character, but the colour palettes and things like that, which comes into art direction, of course. And that was then a really good basis as we develop the game for us to have an idea of the target market. And also, can we make this a product that someone could play with their children around the dinner table and a gamer group who wants to be a bit more mean to each other could also play? And how do we bake that in from the beginning, rather than that being a tacked on thing at the end?

James 13:54
Interesting. And that clearly evolved some sort of thematic change, was it previous so it was more Cthulhu esque at the beginning.

Chris Kingsnorth 14:01
So Cosmoctopus was very much a serious octopus, who was more towards your Cthulhu. To be fair to Henry, he'd made wonderful that there's lore in this game. That's great that you know, you don't need to know it. But if you know, it's kind of hidden in the game, and so I haven't changed very much at all, from that point of view, because it was already really good. But yeah, it was mainly that the the octopus Cosmoctopus was kind of this potentially very scary being that that lived in space.

James 14:29
Right. Okay. And so making it a lot more fun. Yeah, it's interesting in terms of that approach to thinking about market fit as well. So you're thinking primarily about people seeing the box? In what context? Are they kind of thinking about that?

Chris Kingsnorth 14:41
So I'm thinking about it from two points of view, because I think that with games as they are today, and with small companies, generally you're going to have a game that starts off on Kickstarter, and then goes into retail hopefully would be the thing. So you've got two different things there because people that buy games from Kickstarter, never see the box on a shelf, they, before they back it, they see a front cover. And you need to kind of capture them with what that front cover shows not what it looks like compared to other products because it won't sit next to those directly, but also wants to think about the fact that if I went into a boardgame cafe or a boardgame shop, and there were 100 games on the shelf, which one would stick out to me as being different or unusual enough that it would make me pick it up? And I think it's that getting someone to pick up a game and flip it over? is the key to selling games in those kinds of situations. So that's why I'm trying to think those two different kinds of situations, how can I make something that kind of grabs the attention in both domains, I suppose

James 15:42
makes sense. And well, what kind of gameplay changes did you have to make to bring all of this into light.

Chris Kingsnorth 15:46
So not very many if I'm honest with you. So the the core of the engine building, like premise that Henry had designed was very solid from from the beginning. And many of the tweaks we made were finding by playing it lots and lots of times the odd loop, which was kind of exploitive, with this kind of game where you can combo things up, finding ones where Oh, actually wait a second, if I happen to get these two cards and be able to afford them and play them at the same time, which is rare, but will happen. Now the game is broken. So just finding a couple of little things like that, which until you play it hundreds of times, you're not going to find and then trying to marry up the kind of theme and the world that Henry had created. From a gameplay point of view. We also Henry always had the idea this game from the beginning has a solo mode in it. And actually, what we've kind of done is that the character that is a small deck of cards, who makes the game a solo game, you can actually introduce into any multiplayer game, and it turns it from a competitive to a cooperative game. So means that yes, it means that you've got solo play, and you've got multiplayer play. And depending on your game group, you can pivot between whether it's you're working against each other, or you're working together. And thematically, it's a private investigator who's coming to find out what you all know about this mysterious celestial cephalopod. And you essentially are putting aside your differences, because now he's more of a threat than each of the other devotees are. And that's kind of thematically,

James 17:20
Of course, because the private investigators might put an end to your little cult,

Chris Kingsnorth 17:25

James 17:25
So that you need to you need to presumably, somehow avoid him.

Chris Kingsnorth 17:25
That's it.

James 17:30
That's the idea.

Chris Kingsnorth 17:30
And so we brought that in, and we tightened up the kind of solo rules to really simple but we can also introduce into the multiplayer. And we also had some new ideas about well, actually, if the private investigators learning more, he's going to get more powerful because he's got more knowledge. So now why don't we have cards where when he reaches a threshold, he now becomes more powerful all of a sudden, so you have to think about if he reaches that, what's going to happen? So we added in a investigators notebook where he, as he gains tentacles himself, suddenly, he's a bit confused. But then suddenly, he has a revelation and the cards flip. And now he changes the rule of the game to to make it feel like oh, no, now he's accelerating. Now he knows what we're doing. So we added that in as well, which was a nice little additional thing, which, which just adds a bit of flavour to the game. And that sense of pressure, which in these kinds of games is quite nice. I think.

James 18:23
So how does all of that fit though, into your kind of product market fit question? Because remind me again, what you're kind of going for? So is it? Is it more of a family title? Or is it Where do you where do you see it fitting? Exactly.

Chris Kingsnorth 18:33
So I think that it fits generally in it's one of those ones that it straddles really, it straddles two different things. And the prime example of that is that at UK games Expo, we had the front cover on the banners. We also had a four metre inflatable tentacle, which does garner some attention. But essentially, people came for the poster and came for that and stayed for the game and really enjoyed it. And what was nice is you had kids coming across who saw the cute character and thinking, oh, I want to find out what this is about. But then the parents that got closer who were then like, Oh, this is unusual what's going on here, love the card art and love this kind of thing, Shall we sit down and play a game. So from a product fit point of view, adding those gameplay changes essentially means that I can play this game with my wife who's not a big gamer. And we can have you know, 14 minute two play a game that we we can blast out. But equally, I can take it to my regular gaming group who will happily play Twilight Imperium. And we can play against the private investigator on the top level of difficulty. And we can be as mean as we want to each other and that having that dial allowing people to turn means that hopefully we kind of can target it towards people who are new to games, but also people who are very like into games.

James 19:50
Makes sense. Are you at all concerned sometimes with this that it might not quite nail the experience for either of those markets? Because I can see the best of both worlds argument But I can also see the worst of both worlds argument.

Chris Kingsnorth 20:02
Of course, and there's always going to be that risk. And I think that that's why getting it out there and showing people and getting people to play it early is a really good way of doing it. And actually, it's important, especially when you're doing Kickstarter thing to explain to people why it's like that, and the fact that it does have these things that you can do to do it. And having played tested it with loads of different groups now with a young family versus four people who didn't even talk to each other, and they just wanted to beat each other, like, just absolutely blast through it. They've both got different things out of this game that they've really enjoyed. And some of the hardcore gamers have said to me, you know, this, this game, I will happily pay my gaming group and show it to my kids. And I think it's just introducing people to the idea that these games can exist, that you can have a game which can be malleable enough that you can play with different groups, which I think sometimes games try to do, and it doesn't work, because it's just as working really hard to show and to prove that it does work. And you can do it if you design things in the right way.

James 21:06
Have you had any difficulty sometimes working with Henry in terms of something that he's quite committed to? That wants to be in the game? And then you've had a so so well, that doesn't fit quite what we need to do from some of them a product perspective? What's it been like working through those issues if they indeed have occurred?

Chris Kingsnorth 21:22
So it's been brilliant working with Henry, it's always things that as a part of my job, I've come into this and my first game is getting to develop Henry Audubon's game, no pressure, but no, it's one of the things I've really enjoyed it. And he's, he's great to work with, there are always going to be things where there is a kind of meeting of minds where we think we think this direction works. And it might be different to the direction that you thought that things might end up going. And being kind of open about it is important. From a gameplay perspective. Actually, I don't think we've really ever had any problems with that we're both on the same track. With regards to the gameplay, we both understand the game well, I can see where he's going with things. And I'm also because I realised this, this is kind of a passion project for him too, taking the time to listen to why certain cards are designed a certain way and things has been a really important part of my learning process as a new developer. There are cards in the game where I was like, Oh, this game, this card should probably be a bit more expensive. It's a bit too this. And Henry tell told me Oh, it's based on this specific thing from another game. And it's a bit of an homage to that, and then making it work. So not to the detriment of the game. But me understanding that that's important. And taking that on board. When it comes to sort of the game as a product and the art and things like that. We obviously suggested changing Cosmoctopus from being this scary thing into this sort of cuter thing. And that's a very big change. That's a big change to kind of the vibe of it. But it's one of those things I think was kind of, if we're going to make the standouts, and we're going to sell it to people, we've got to go with what people like and what they're telling us and what we're getting feedback about. And there's been some to and fro about the sort of how we present that. And we're at a stage now I think we've got the balance. And we're still got time this the thing I think with Kickstarter is always one of those things, you want to get as much done as you can. And you feel like you feel like the start of the Kickstarter is the end point when actually, you know, within reason, there are small things that can be tweaked here and there afterwards. But overall, we've not had any big sort of problems from a sort of art direction point of view. It's a kind of almost like a love triangle a little because you've, you've got a developer slash art director who's me in this kind of role. You've got the designer who's designed this for months, who has a very specific vision in their head. And then you'll have a third party being the artist who has their own thoughts and techniques and things they do. And finding a way that you can bring those three things together to make something that works for everybody is a big challenge, and I think is always a big challenge. Unless you're doing something where it's your design, and you can control it. You don't need to ask anybody else what they think about it. That's different. But being in a situation where you have to get those three things in tandem can be can be tricky, but it's I like these challenges. I actually think that they teach you a lot about how to make something that works for everybody, but also about when you need to make decisions for for the game and to make the game the best experience it can be for everybody. And when you need to say this is the stage we're at now. We're going to focus on something different.

James 24:40
That must be quite difficult sometimes though, isn't it to draw that line of

Chris Kingsnorth 24:44
Very difficult.

James 24:44
Where are you going to say this is we can't take this any further. We can't afford to keep fiddling here.

Chris Kingsnorth 24:49
And it is and it's it's really tricky because I would I would in a perfect world, I think any developer any publisher would be like right we want to get this 100% Everybody loves absolutely every single little thing about this as a product as a game, that will never happen. I think that that that is a goal, which if you pursue it, will end up with people being just as unhappy, but for different reasons. And I think you have to have a point at which you're like, we've got to make a decision now, whether that be because of time constraints, or it'd be monetary, or other reasons, or you're just really convinced that you've hit the thing that you need to hit, and you just have to have faith in what people are telling you. But it makes it no easier. It's still very difficult. Because just in general, I'm, as a person I like to, you know, make people happy. And please people, I think that most people who are into games, they're generally fairly affable people who want who want to, you know, be social and be happy. And sometimes you have to step outside that persona to make decisions, which is part of the role and part of the difficulty, but also why you have a team around you. And obviously, I'm lucky here that I've got a team of the six of us in total, which for a board game companies, if you know, an indie board game company has a fair number of staff and it means that I have other people I can bounce ideas off, and that I can just check in with and just say sanity check, am I completely off the rails here? Or is what I'm saying kind of making sense? And I will happily if people say to me, no, that's, you've got that wrong. I'll be like, cool. Let me reassess. Let me find out what we're doing. Because yeah, I think that's, that's important to have other people to, to check what you're doing, rather than just going full steam ahead with your own ideas.

James 26:36
Yeah, it makes sense. With Kickstarter, you raised a really important point, I think about how the beginning of the Kickstarter, it's anything like that's the end of the process. But actually, that's just one of many stages in the process. How do you go about deciding what needs to be locked in before the Kickstarter starts, and what can still be remained a little bit kind of loosey goosey?

Chris Kingsnorth 26:58
So from my point of view, I think that gameplay needs to be very, very close to being done, like to the point that like, unless you're thinking of adding things to your Kickstarter, which are going to change the way the game plays, I would want that to be like, as much done as possible. I think there's an argument for having some wriggle room, because Kickstarter can be a collaborative process with your backers. And having that having that not set in stone and a few things, if someone suddenly suggests something amazing that no one's thought of so far, being open to that as an option is definitely still really important. But I think going in with only 50% done, and then having the other 50% be sort of designed by everybody else feels a little bit on the the difficult side. So from my point of view, gameplay needs to be like nailed to the point where I could easily make this game today, and people would play it. And they would have a great time that from my personal point of view, I think that from an art point of view, you have a little bit more wiggle room with Kickstarter, depending on the amount of money your company's got, and things like that. You want to have enough art done that you can show people, this is what the end product is going to look like. And if it's not exactly like this, this is a fair representation of what you're going to get through your letterbox at the end of the process. So I think that's important to have that. And I think that having the plan for what the product is going to be like physically is really important. I know that on Kickstarter, it can be really easy to in the in the adrenaline of it be like we're going to add to this and we're going to add this stretch goal and these bits and pieces and suddenly a box that was your average box size is now twice as heavy, or it's twice as large or now you've got three envelopes with extra stuff in. And that can be difficult because you want to give people more stuff, but especially at the moment, not locking that in can have effects on your shipping cost on how long people have to wait. And I think for me personally, I want to have the product to the point where it's almost completely done so that I know what I can get files off to printers sooner I can say to people, this is a pretty accurate representation of what you're going to get and how much it's going to cost you because I think at the moment that's even more important with how things are. And to that end from this game, we decided on the size of the box at the very beginning. And we have stuck with that. And any changes we've made I have been like this is not going over this amount of punch boards. This is not going over this amount of cards. And if we need to change things, we need to find ways to do it with the limits we've already got. And that's really important because I think it stops that sort of product creep of like oh now there's another extra this amount and that and then you suddenly realise now the box is a bit bigger and that makes it now 2.1 kilos and you're in a different bracket for shipping and all these kinds of things. So So keeping that in check has been really important, I think and something I've tried to build in from from kind of day one. And then I suppose the other thing from a game paced gameplay perspective is that you can you can approach things like solo modes and what some people see as kind of add on gameplay value as either something you baked in from the beginning, or something which you decide if there's X amount of people that would like that, whether that's through stretch goals, or whatever, we will find a way to make it work. And for me, it was really important to kind of work that from the beginning. But Henry had already done that. So I think it was it was easy for me to make that decision, because it was already a solo mode in this game, for example, I don't need to retrospectively do that.

Because that was something he wanted it from the beginning.


James 30:45
How about how did you go about signing Henry for this? What was the process by which did he come to you? Or was that it work?

Chris Kingsnorth 30:50
So it happened before I got here, but I know the story. So actually, I believe it was at PAX unplugged last year, that Henry had taken his prototype and a sell sheet. And it was seen by I think it was hungry gamer, who had contacted James, our director with a picture of the sell sheet. And he said you need to find out about this game it's great. And there was very little about it anywhere at that point, like it was there was just that photo on Facebook somewhere, I believe. But Henry had been playing it at that point. And James basically said to Henry, I want to know about this game, let's hear about it. And very quickly signed it from hearing it from having a vibe of what it is and knowing that Henry's got pedigree as a game designer as well. So it was signed fairly quickly. And then when I came on board, it was my project and was like, this is Cosmoctopus, this is your your thing to take and sail with. So yeah, that was the signing process, it was an interesting one in that it wasn't directly pitched to the company. And it was through somebody else that we ended up finding out about its existence, which is, which is nice. I think those kinds of fortuitous things are both nice for publishers to know that you can do it that way. And also nice for designers to know that obviously, the traditional route is that you do it and you go and pitch it to somebody. But if someone sees something and they think it's good, there is always a chance they will come and find it. If all the stars align, and someone recommends it to them, or they see it or whatever.

James 32:22
Yeah, or you got that recommendation as well. Which is that's pretty great. Right? When someone else

Chris Kingsnorth 32:26

James 32:27
Who knows games pretty well is able to go I think you should take a look at this. That's that's pretty good.

Chris Kingsnorth 32:32
And I think it's having people who you know, if they come to you and say this is a good game, and you know that they play similar games, or you trust their judgement on things, listening to them and taking it on board and not batting it away is really important from a publisher standpoint, because you can miss some gems I think I think there's lots of games out there that potential like amazing games, and they just don't get picked up because they never come into the into the orbit of the publishing world.

James 32:57
Yeah. Makes total sense. Yeah, that's really cool. Really, really cool. If that sounds like tremendously interesting. Being able to work on a project like that, I think especially with with a, a well known designer, who's got as you said, such a pedigree, I think is a good way to put it.

Chris Kingsnorth 33:10
Yeah, definitely I've been, as I say, it's been an honour from my point of view, it's one of those things where I, not only have I been given a game to develop by somebody, like Henry, but it's a game I actually would love, it's the kind of game I'd play. So it's not like I've been given a game as developer. And I'm like, it's not really my kind of game, but I can develop it. It's my kind of game, which gives me more passion to work on it, which I think then circles back into a better product overall, I think there's a lot to be said for developing games you're actually really interested in because you think about things in a different way. And you're willing to kind of try different things that you might not in a game style. You don't usually play for example,

James 33:48
What kind of developing work were you doing before this one, because this is the first you've been doing at Stone Sword? What were you kind of doing before that?

Chris Kingsnorth 33:56
So before this, I've mainly been doing my own stuff. So I have basically been in the right place at the right time having built some groundwork previously. So my background is that I'm actually a pediatric doctor. So I trained

James 34:11
This is this is very tangential to game design.

Chris Kingsnorth 34:14
Definitely. So I went to medical school. I've been a doctor since 2000, and fifth 2013. And I had been doing game stuff in my spare time for the past five or six years, which medicine led me to that because I was out a hospital a bit in the middle of nowhere with some colleagues and we stayed there and accommodation. And we started playing games as a way to pass the time because there was nothing else to do. Went to UK games Expo learn about play testing and then just started devouring anything that I could find about game design. So ludology, reading books, like anything I could find, started entering some BGG contests and doing some work for other people who saw my designs and said, Oh, I've got a game that like that part would work really well for Could you design this system for me for this game. And then my next kind of step towards things was that I organised a protospeil Nottingham in 2019, which kind of pulled me into the the Nottingham industry collective group who are design studios and designers in Nottingham, who were like, Who's this person we've never heard of doing an protospiel, he should come along to our meetings and find out about things. And that pulled me in. And through that event, I got the bug for designing games and doing development here and there. And essentially, when I got to the point where there was an opportunity for me to take a year out of medicine, I was like, if I don't try this, I'm going to regret it for the rest of my life. Because there's many reasons that medicine is not, you know, it, as people can imagine. It's very stressful. And there's lots of other reasons and hours and things like that are not great. But it's mainly that I suddenly realised I had a passion that I never knew existed. And looking back, like my granddad was an art teacher, and an artist. And I've got a lot of creative people in my family. And maybe, actually, that's what I was always meant to do. But I went down a certain path. So when I came over into this world, I thought maybe I should take the chance. And I made a table top CV never had to do a CV before, medicine doesn't work like that. And I sent it to James here, because I'd met him at protospiel a few years ago. And it wasn't that I was looking for a job. I just said, Would you mind looking at this, because I'm going to send out to some, to some people. And I'd like to get your feedback on it. And he was like, Oh, we just had a really successful Kickstarter. And we're going to need some more people. How would you feel about coming and working for us? And it happened to be exactly the right time and a 40 minute walk from my house. And I could not ever say, yeah, how could I ever say no to that? And that's kind of how I ended up in this where I am now. So I've definitely taken a turn from where I was. But a good one from my point of view.

James 37:04
That's fantastic. I mean, that's just absolutely well, as you said, right, right place right time. But to be fair, obviously, with all of that experience as well, organising that protospeil, you must have met so many people through that process over thought, how many? How many attendees was that first one?

Chris Kingsnorth 37:17
So the 2019 one, I think there were 45 people. So it's not huge, but it was the first one in the UK. And I've never organised anything like that before. So I was like, the only way I'm going to find out if it is viable is to just try it. So I paid the venue cost and hoped I could recoup it. And I organised it. And it went really well and protospeils are not for profit. So after I paid for all the stuff, I give all the money and we made, we made 950 quid for charity. And I thought, wow, we've done it. And people loved the day. And I was like, met lots of people. And so it was a small event then. But people wanted it to come back. And I had grand plans to bring it back in 2020. And then obviously, we couldn't. And then this year, we've finally into a situation where we can do it. And we've got a bigger venue we're doing two days, we're hoping to have 100 people per day, and hopefully raise at least twice as much for charity. So

James 37:18
and when is that again?

Chris Kingsnorth 37:19
So that is on bonfire weekend. So fifth and sixth of November this year in Nottingham, and Nottingham city centre. So yeah, that will be two days and people come for one or two. And they can come as a designer bring their own stuff, or they can come as a play tester. And the thing that is different about protospeils is generally it's lots of designers testing with lots of other designers. So not only can tell people tell you what's wrong with your game, but they might actually have a way of fixing it, which is the bonus to some other play tests. But what's great is the UK we're very lucky. We've got play test UK that do regular events, they're fantastic. We started doing a break my game one in Nottingham. So I think now what we're trying to do is the more the merrier. From my point of view, the more opportunities that there are for people to play test stuff. And if we can raise a bit of money for charity in the process, then everyone wins. So yeah, that's why I'm doing it this year, it's going to be bigger. And yeah, I'm really looking forward to it because that was my first proper foray into doing tabletop stuff. So it's got a sort of, I've got a soft spot in my heart for doing that event and for for making it special for everybody.

James 39:21
So what was the gap between sort of starting to make your own games? And then deciding that the logical step? If you've just been making a few things that you've got into quite recently, you're talking about, was it sort of like 2015? Was that kind of the kind of time you start getting into games in general?

Chris Kingsnorth 39:28

James 39:28
To thinking what I need to do now is organised effectively, a miniature game making festival.

Chris Kingsnorth 39:40
So it

James 39:41
It seems like pretty quick turnaround from that

Chris Kingsnorth 39:42
It was. Yeah, so it was about two and a half years or so I think between me kind of like starting to learn basically from me starting to play games and learn about game design to doing protospiel, and it was a bit of an accident. I remember specifically I was walking home from work one day and I was listening to The Game Crafter podcast, I'd accidentally put it from oldest to newest. And the oldest episode on that list was how to run a Protospeil. And it was aimed at the US because there are lots of Protospeils in the US. And because The Game Crafter support them, it was basically this is how you would do it.

James 40:18
It's a kind of brand, brand, isn't it? The Protospeil, it's a kind of an it's actually when presuming when you organise when you actually have to licence it, do you, Is that how it works?

Chris Kingsnorth 40:26
It's not. So it's kind of open source if you like in that you as long as you represent the ethos of Protospeil, which is not for profit, and it's reciprocal playtesting no one like owns specific parts of the play testing, you can essentially do it, I did reach out to the people that organised it. And I did ask them, and there's lots of information on various Protospeil websites about how to run your own. And so the info was there. But what wasn't there is the fact that no one's ever done one in the UK, I didn't know if anyone knew what Protospeils were, I didn't really know like, what kind of venues we'd do it in what I get the vibe that in the US there's a lot more kind of convention centres or hotels that do events where rooms to do this kind of thing are potentially cheaper or easier to find. And I think that was one of my major challenges was finding a venue to do it. That was somewhere people could get to that was accessible that had like the stuff we needed and the dates that were available. And so yeah, it kind of happened by accident. But I was like, Well, I can keep thinking about whether it's going to work or not. Or I can just try and do it and find out. And I decided to go for the latter option. So I kind of fell into it. But once I decided to do it, I decided to see it through to the end. And if it went well, great. And if it didn't, then now I know. I think I'm very much that kind of person that I'd rather try it out and find if it works rather than wonder whether it was ever going to.

James 41:48
Yeah, I mean that when it makes sense. That's the way to do it isn't it is to is to find out. I mean, that's Dare I say the soul of playtesting is that I try to have gone some try it out. Is it gonna fail or not? Right,

Chris Kingsnorth 41:59
Exactly. And maybe it's a mindset kind of thing that that I like that kind of challenge. And maybe that's what drew me to games and design and even Event Management very much that kind of vibe of you do all the preparation and hope people come, right. That's the that's the kind of way it works. So

James 42:16
Yeah, definitely with events, there's also an always inevitably some kind of On the day things. Maybe something isn't worked 100% There's an issue that you just could not have foreseen that comes up, even if you're planning is really good.

Chris Kingsnorth 42:28

James 42:29
And suddenly you're firefighting something, and there's a little bit of iteration in that process is

Chris Kingsnorth 42:33
there is yeah, that's playtesting of the event rather than a playtesting event.

James 42:38
Yes. Playtesting of the event itself. And how many people do you think, are you, dare I say obviously, you may not want to say how many people are you expecting for this Protospeil 2022?

Chris Kingsnorth 42:46
So I've got room and therefore would like 100 attendees per day. So obviously, some people might get two day tickets, so they might come and come across both days. But I would like to have a sort of like turnstile 100 attendees per day, because I think that the space can take it, that'll be a really nice atmosphere without being too chaotic. And also it means that we can essentially at the end of the day, the more people that come, the more money we can make for charity, and more play testers that can be there and more games that can get tested. So it's one of those, the more than merrier kind of vibes.

James 43:19
And how beneficial is it being located in that sort of effectively the centre of games, at least as far as tabletop wargames go in the UK and Nottingham.

Chris Kingsnorth 43:31
So it is a great place to do it. Nottingham is an interesting place from a tabletop perspective, because it used to be known as the lead belt, because it was where Games Workshop started. And so you have lots of either current or past employees of Games Workshop who either have splintered off and done their own game design things, or they are doing it as well as working for Games Workshop. What's interesting is we didn't have any regular playtesting events until about six months ago in Nottingham. And it's one of those things that when I joined and I was doing Protospeil, I was like, oh, people aren't doing this kind of thing in Nottingham, which is interesting. From a being central point of view. It's great for travel for people because that's the great thing. We're in the middle of the country, right? So it's it's further up than Birmingham. So if you're a bit further up than that, it's easy to get to and it's pretty much central easy to get to from London things I do realise it's not easy for people to come down from Scotland, I do feel like they sometimes do get short shrift if you come from Scotland because there's only certain events for that. But obviously it made sense for me to organise it here because it's where I live and it means I can physically go and look at venues and find out things and I know the town and I know the transport links to be able to recommend to people and I couldn't have done Protospeil, the first one, without the Nottingham tabletop industry collective. So there's lots of different people involved in that there's needy cat games. So James Hewitt and Sophie and they were so kind to invite me to that not knowing who I was, and saying, Do you want to come along to this, you might meet some people who know some stuff. Because I didn't know anything back then I was very naive, but but had an idea of what I could do. And with their support and the support of other people I met through that I've been able to do loads of stuff. So doing it in Nottingham for me, had I never done it in Nottingham and never done Protospeil, I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing now. So it's one of those things that I it's lots of things that fall into place that I could never have controlled that brought me to this point, I suppose.

James 45:33
Yeah. Make sense? What was the first tabletop collective event that you attended, then? Because I've been once I think so far, obviously, it's a little bit further for me, because I'm down based in South London. So,

Chris Kingsnorth 45:44
Of course.

James 45:45
As a little a little bit more complicated for me. But yeah, what's the first one you went to?

Chris Kingsnorth 45:49
I think it was one of their breakfasts. So they tended to, pre COVID, They did like an industry collective breakfast. And it was usually about half, eight, nine o'clock on like a Wednesday morning until 10. Ish. And then they also do ones in the evening. And it was one of the breakfasts that I managed to get to, because back then I was doing over to medicine. So my shift times were like all over the place. So being able to do something on a certain day was tricky. But also I did have days where I knew I wasn't at work. So I could go to those kinds of things. And I just happened to have one day that I went and I sort of went, and they did a nice thing, where at the start, they generally get people just introduce themselves and say a little something. And that kind of kicked it off. And people were interested, and they wanted to hear more about the ideas I had for it. And yeah, it was lovely. There were some local companies that supported sponsoring the event for banners and things like that. And again, all those little things added up to me being able to do that event, which I would never be able to do like just me as a as a silo. So yeah, doing at Nottingham is one of those things that it feels like it's the natural place to do it. But actually from playtesting events until recently, Nottingham has actually been not the the hub of that compared to other cities by the looks of it. But we're we're slowly making changes to that and improving that situation.

James 47:05
Well, yeah, I mean, that's really interesting. I find this quite surprising, because it is such a central place in in the United Kingdom for this kind of game development, I guess, I guess. But I guess with the skew towards war games, and miniatures and those kind of pieces. It's a bit different, right. Like they feel like the explosion recently in designing games, there's been a lot more about designing board games than it's been about designing war games, which I think it's, it's sort of hobby heyday was probably more like the 70s and 80s. To be honest,

Chris Kingsnorth 47:34
I feel like it's, that's definitely a part of it. And I think that the Venn diagram of war gamers and board gamers, obviously, there is some crossover. But the Venn diagram of war gamers, and board gamers who would be interested in coming to a playtesting event for board games is a much smaller sliver,

James 47:51
yes, by definition, that's an even tighter circle, isn't it? Well, it's more than that.

Chris Kingsnorth 47:55
And so I feel that that's probably why those worlds didn't meet for Protospeil specifically, but there are people who came to it, who also do loads of Wargaming. And I think having the option to bring those two worlds together in Nottingham is a really unique sort of situation that you don't get in other cities. And we're currently trying to kind of bring those worlds together with kind of the companies that are coming out of Nottingham and the fact that Games Workshop are here and yeah, trying to work together with local companies to do those kinds of things and make it more of a hub for both, well, just tabletop games in general. So whether that be war, board, card, RPGs, whatever you cast under that umbrella.

James 48:36
Well, certainly, you know, I've met quite a lot people there, for example, who are artists and graphic designers who specialise in the game space because of Games Workshop and other companies. So you can see that there's like a lot of related skills there. But I still find that fact they hadn't done in places recently, quite fascinating, because I think about in here in Croydon, in South London, we have a play test event that happens every single week. And it's one that we do that has sometimes up to 15 people attend it. And then you know, we're getting that week in week out. And I think well we have that Nottingham doesn't until recently have something like that. It's kind of quite extraordinary in some ways. I think maybe partly we have such a fantastic resource in eluded quest here in Croydon as well, which makes an enormous difference in terms of having like a what, literally the world's best board game Cafe according to Gama, at least. So that definitely is wonderful to have that here. That's really fantastic. Now you I just said you actually also been working on a game that has a bit more of a kind of, dare I say utilitarian and practical role to play.

Chris Kingsnorth 49:36
Therapeutic. Yeah. So therapeutic. I would probably say.

James 49:40
Yeah, absolutely. Yes. So So tell me more about that. That sounds like a really curious concept when I was reading about it.

Chris Kingsnorth 49:46
So this is something that I thought about when I was working as a pediatrician because most of my day sadly involved me making kids sad because I had to take blood from them or they had to go for a scan that was loud and scary. Or we had to do some other procedure that involves them being in a situation that's unfamiliar for them, and therefore scary. And we have absolutely fantastic play therapists who are trained to help us prepare children for procedures. And they're trained in, you know, aspects of child play and child psychology. And if I was to say to one of the play therapists, I'm going to take blood from this patient at four o'clock, would you mind going and have a chat with them, then at two o'clock, they'd go, and they'd take materials with them to help prepare that child for the procedure that was going to happen. And that would involve some play, and some sort of explanation of the procedure that was going to happen and things like that. The problem is, as with many things in the NHS, sadly, there are only a limited number of play specialists, and they're not always available. And in my head, I was thinking this is such a valuable resource. Is there a way we can have like an alternative if the play therapists aren't available? And what if parents could do a bit of this preparatory work themselves, that wasn't just reading a leaflet, which is often what people get given when their child's coming in, your child's coming in for, you know, blood to be taken, here's what's going to happen. And it's generally focused at the adults, there might be some stuff about the child, but it's generally a leaflet or something. There's lots of stuff being done with videos and exciting things like that for kids, which is great. But I was like, what if, could we make it about play? And the idea I had was, in the back of my mind, I was thinking about button shy games and the concept of 18 card decks and the fact that you can do loads of those. And I wondered, could we make preparation decks that were basically a game, a tool to teach kids about the procedure they were going to have. And they also worked as a distraction technique during the procedure themselves. So the idea will be that on one side of the cards, there will be a cartoon version of this is what's going to happen. So someone will clean your hand, and then someone will do this. And they'll do that in steps. And it will be accompanied by a thing that the parents can read out. And basically, the plan would be the child would put them in order and talk about it with their parents, and two of the cards will be different. And one would be a little certificate card that they can fill in at the end when they've had the procedure. And one is, one is a How am I feeling card. So it lets them they talk through and they can explain, they can point to the thing about how they're feeling about it. And then the cards flip over. And there are essentially like many Where's Wally's so that when you're in the procedure, they can be held by the parent so they can be looking for things in these pictures while someone's doing a procedure. Where's Wally books are very well used in pediatrics for this exact reason.

James 53:00
Is it because it's it's taking attention away of that primarily?

Chris Kingsnorth 53:03
Yes, exactly. And they're looking for something specifically. And that really helps with the stress, it's a distraction technique, essentially. But sometimes the books are locked away, or they get tatty, or we don't have them or whatever, or they're bulky and you can't carry like a Where's Wally book in your pocket. So the idea will be then use these and each deck will be for a different procedure. So it might be I'm having a plaster cast of my arm, and maybe I'm going down for a CT scan those kinds of things. And my plan would be we'll have these, and parents will be able to get them. So they can do like preparation for kids in advance of coming to hospital. And they be a really like cheap, easy thing to buy, because it's an 18 card deck. And also the hospitals to be able to have them on hand so that the people doing the procedure can go and get the deck and take it to the child and say, Why don't you have a little look through this while I'm getting all this stuff ready for those times when the play therapist isn't there. And it's never going to be a replacement for them ever. But it will hopefully bridge a gap where there's a need when we don't have that and allow parents and children to kind of take a bit more agency over the things themselves because it can be a parent with child thing without another person necessarily getting involved at the early stages, which I think can be really powerful.

James 54:17
Yeah, and presumably these would be because they contain a certificate for the child. These will be like a disposable item that you could just produce quite cheap, fairly cheap quality card, I'm guessing

Chris Kingsnorth 54:26

James 54:27
And they're kind of just wrapped up in some cheap way that you can then just give it to the child and they take it away with them presumably.

Chris Kingsnorth 54:34
Yes, the dream would be if we could find a plastic card material that can stand up to being wiped with disinfectant wipes, difficult with cards, that you would essentially you could also you could have those ones but you could also have ones in like a chest on the ward and it'd be all the procedures and it would be

James 54:52

Chris Kingsnorth 54:53
and you also then have a stack of the certificate cards and you go and you give the these wiper ones to the kids they do all the stuff they use them, then they all get disinfected and return. So you've always on hand got that. nailing that down is the thing that's going to make the difference. But it's one of those things that once we've kind of finished with the game during the moment, that's something that we're going to be moving forward with. And taking forward to, to the NHS and charities to try and make into it a thing.

James 55:22
And is this a product you're developing effectively at Stone Sword? Or is this a separate separate kind of thing? We're doing

Chris Kingsnorth 55:27
We're doing it we're doing it under kind of the umbrella of stone sword as it but I think it will probably end up being something that's another like parallel company or another parallel thing eventually. So that it's very much kind of the therapeutic arm of stone sword games, if you like.

James 55:43
Yes, and indeed makes a lot of sense. I mean, I think, yeah, it's a very different market. It's

Chris Kingsnorth 55:49
Yeah, definitely

James 55:50
I mean, we're talking here, complete chalk and cheese, I mean, the the goals of what you're trying to achieve in play might be the medium. But you've got very different goals there with incredibly different market. So that.

Chris Kingsnorth 56:00
But it's one of those products, that the, to be able to make a product like that you have to have a fairly specific set of skills. And I feel like I have that set of skills in that I have the knowledge to do the medical bits, and I have the game design knowledge and the ability because of where I'm working. That puts us in a really good position to do that. And I think it's going to be a really exciting thing moving forward, which can hopefully bring some good to situations that aren't pleasant for people.

James 56:27
Yeah, well, I would say, how many people who are game developers, employers, gainers were also paediatricians, that's, that's quite a unique cross section. So

Chris Kingsnorth 56:39
I don't think there's many of us,

James 56:40
They're are probably not too many. So I suspect, you're quite safe there, you're not about to be suddenly drowned in 100, different competitors, as good as that would be for the children, though. It would certainly be something where I suspect you will be working on that one as a focus at some point. That's great. That's really cool. I think that's a it's a, again, such an imaginative, powerful use of that. And again, using play to do that, I think it's just such a such a cool idea. And it seems like an eminently practical one as well, even in the more disposable form of it, that, you know, you can just produce those, give them out. That's great.

Chris Kingsnorth 57:17
I think it's one of those things, it could be used as a promotional item, it could be used by charities so that it actually can be adapted to their colours and their logos and those kinds of things. So that's kind of what we're going to go for and making it making it something that's very malleable, has the same end effect, but can be used for raising awareness of certain things.

James 57:38
Absolutely brilliant idea. And have you got other kinds of ideas in your in your kind of your pipeline, so to speak of things, you're thinking that other applications for this kind of thing and play in the medical context?

Chris Kingsnorth 57:49
So we do, I think that it's one of those things that it's a tricky world. Because if you are being factual about something, and you're explaining what's going to happen, that's different when you get into the world of using it as a more therapeutic tool, things like diagnostics, or teaching somebody how to do a procedure that suddenly goes into the world of medical devices. And so you've got to be really careful. Because what we're making here is not a medical device, it's no different to a leaflet, it just happens to be a game. Whereas if I was there making a thing that was like, Oh, we're now going to give the 18 card decks to medical students to teach them how to take blood from somebody. That's a whole different like sphere of research and regulation that you would need to go through. So as much as I would love for that to be a thing. I think, especially for a small company, that's just not a viable, viable thing for us to do. Now, if we, if this product took off, and we had people that were interested in developing that who did have those, those links, then that will be something I'd be very interested in. Because I've always been interested in teaching medical students and nursing students and allied health healthcare professionals say, Well, that would be another potential but not for us at the moment, I don't think,

James 59:00
Yeah, makes total sense. To be honest, I mean that I have a friend who works in the medical device space. And he's working on a really fascinating project, which has to do with treating people with epilepsy using music,

Chris Kingsnorth 59:14
Very exciting,

James 59:15
And it turns out that they're able to outperform quite a lot of drugs, using music that's calibrated to their brainwaves. It's really fascinating stuff.

Chris Kingsnorth 59:24
That's cool. That's really cool.

James 59:26
It's really, really cool. But the problem is, is that even though it's just scan, a scan, and then music, that's still classed as a medical device. So there, there's a huge amount of of bureaucracy to navigate to make that work, even though the possible risks of it, I mean, compared to drugs are incredibly low. So I've really, really liked astronomically low. So it's really interesting to think again, as soon as you're in that space, you've got to start navigating that issue. So probably best just to stick to the kind of leaflet replacement At least for now, yeah,

Chris Kingsnorth 1:00:01
That's it, we do so in the pipeline as well, parallel again to that product is, watch this space. If anybody's interested in gardening, there's going to be an 18 card, gardening product coming your way from from us as well, in the very near future.

James 1:00:17
Oh, interesting. I'll have to keep an eye on that one. That sounds that sounds gonna be like, That's very, very interesting that you'll just have to tease us with that for now.

Chris Kingsnorth 1:00:25
I will for now.

James 1:00:28
So, before we kind of wrap up, I want a couple of things. I think the first question I would ask is, is, if someone's to get into being a game developer, obviously, you've had quite a unique path. But what can you take from your unique path that you could recommend others if they really want to get into more the development side of things,

Chris Kingsnorth 1:00:44
A huge amount of getting into this industry is getting stuck in and being kind. And honestly, I think if you can keep those two things in your mind, when you approach anything with trying to get into the industry, you're not going to go far wrong. What I would say is, my first thing was that I was like, Oh, this looks like a cool thing. But no one's ever done it here, let's give it a go. If you can find something, anything that's like, Oh, this is a bit different. And you're like, Oh, no one's ever done it, don't just instantly think it's been tried. And it failed. It could just be no one's ever done it before. And that can be anything that could be like, you know, a certain design project you want to do, or it could be an event like I did. And I think that like looking for those opportunities. And getting stuck into them is really important, because you'll meet people through that, that then in a few years down the road, they like they might have a link that you never even realised. And it's such a small industry, that by meeting people and doing it in like a genuine way, not literally like not networking, per se, obviously, that's important, but more just being enthusiastic about the things you enjoy, and showing genuine interest in other people's, what they're doing, will stand you in great stead, because they'll remember that. And if you're genuinely passionate about it, it might be they've got a tiny project you need a hand with and you're like, Oh, I could spare an hour a week to do that. Yeah, I'll get involved in that. And then next time, they need someone to do it. Now it's two hours a week. And it might be a gradual introduction into the into the industry, which is very much the more normal route into tabletop games. I've been very lucky. And I every day, I realised that I have been very fortunate to get to where I am now. And it's, as I say, it's timing. It's lots of other things. So don't be disheartened. If you are trying to do these things. And that hasn't yet happened. Doesn't mean you're doing anything wrong necessarily. It just means that the opportunity's still out there for you. It's just not shown itself yet. So yeah, be kind, be passionate, be honest. And like, just do it because you'd love it. And I know that sounds a little bit pie in the sky, perhaps. But I honestly think that's what makes people take notice of what it is you're doing or want to do.

James 1:03:06
Well, I think people can sense whether it's genuine or not most of the time, I guess unless you're a complete psychopath. And you're very good at giving off a sense of authenticity that isn't there. For most people, they will only be able to know that people will be able to sense whether something is authentic or not. I mean, this is a strong sense I have whenever I meet people, if they're coming into tabletop, and they are thinking maybe it's just a money opportunity or something, which is a terrible plan in general. But we're thinking that that could often sense pretty quickly, that they don't really have that genuine interest, or they have they have a kind of slightly, slightly more selfish approach to it. And I've found that as well, if you're prepared to kind of give to get involved, to be passionate, offer your, offer help. That's really the best way to do it in whatever way and then everyone's path, it does tend to be very weird. Mine very much from a kind of formal product management background is, for example, very different to yours. So it is this just extraordinary variety. But that commonality of passion, and genuine interest, I think is seems to be something that's consistently coming up across many of these conversations.

Chris Kingsnorth 1:04:13
And it's one of the things that makes the tabletop industry so interesting, because there's no single route in everybody is so different. And this is the thing about like, I don't know if you found it with your previous work, but in medicine, every person I was in medicine with for the past 12 years, we've all done the same thing. We've literally done almost the same thing to the to the point where we've all done the same exams, and we've all done the same thing. Whereas in tabletop gaming, you will come in and you'll meet people who've done things that you would never have imagined and they'll have great stories and you'll have a great time just like if you're a people person and you enjoy learning about people. It's such a wonderful way to do it, while also getting to do some games stuff like is the dream right?

James 1:04:57
Certainly that's one of the really cool things I think about the industry in general is the number of characters that you meet to have very, very wide ranging backstories. I mean, I think for me, interestingly, product management is also another of those disciplines where you get people from quite a wide variety of

Chris Kingsnorth 1:05:13

James 1:05:14
Yeah. But again, I would however, say if you were the industry I was in before, which was advertising is very much an industry where people who, again, have a somewhat similar background, are moving between all the same companies, it's probably not quite as regimented as that very, very strict path that exists in medicine is, but nonetheless is more common. Games are definitely a kind of collection of renegades very much is kind of how I certainly I see the games industry,

Chris Kingsnorth 1:05:45
But I think that's what gives it the life it has. And that's what makes it really interesting. And I love that. And that's why I love going to conventions and playtesting and stuff, you just get to meet people. And that's one of the most I think, personally, I think it's one of the most rewarding things you can do in your life is to find out about the people and to, to just learn cool stuff about them. So

James 1:06:05
100% 100% indeed? And what should we be looking for from you coming up soon? What What should we be our own should be and keeping an eye on PrEP decks? Is it what the new sort of the Cosmoctopus Kickstarter, that's gonna happen soon?

Chris Kingsnorth 1:06:18
Yep. So Cosmoctopus Kickstarter will kick off on the 25th of October. And so that'll be running for three weeks. So please watch out for that the preview page is already up because you Google it. And then after that we're going to be focusing on from a kind of parallel point of view, the prep decks are definitely the next thing, and then maybe the gardening thing. But also, we are currently trying to get hold of a couple of IPs for games, which we may well be announcing next year, if that goes well. And also next year, hopefully, we're bringing out one of my own games, which the team felt was worthy of being being published. So that'll probably be towards the tail end of of next year. So Cosmo is the main, the main thing we're aiming for at the moment. And it's all all speed ahead on that. And they're very excited to get out there in the world,

You're gonna be a very busy man, it sounds like over the next the next few months and year plus from the sound of it.

Definitely, I definitely am going to be in that situation. And then obviously, on top in the spare time, we've got Protospiel coming up in November.

James 1:07:25
Yes, let's not forget the convention as well, which will have significantly multiplied in size, as well.

Chris Kingsnorth 1:07:31
Yeah, hopefully. And we'll hopefully have some speakers coming to that as well, which would be nice. And yep being supported by Panda this year, kindly. And The Game Crafter is sending us a big box of bits again, as they did last time. So there'll be lots of things to play with. And you know, might even be able to make it whole game during the weekend and get it played tested. Who knows.

James 1:07:52
Oh, wow. That's really cool. Well, I mean, I to be honest, I was planning to come anyway. But I think 100% I'll come along now like That sounds really cool.

Chris Kingsnorth 1:07:59
I think it'd be cool to have a game jam within the convention with a something like that, which I'm trying to plan. So just a simple kind of in your downtime, if you want to make a game, why not? Let's all see what we can make. Yeah,

James 1:08:10
Definitely. That sounds absolutely fantastic.

Chris Kingsnorth 1:08:12
Yeah. So really looking forward to that. And it's, as I say, that's all the combination of things I love games, getting to meet people and doing an event so yeah, looking forward to that a lot.

James 1:08:21
Wonderful. Well, Chris, thank you so much for this conversation. It's been a real pleasure, I think particularly great to give people more insight into how developing works and some of the really cool stuff you're working on.

Chris Kingsnorth 1:08:33
Great. Thank you very much for having me. Really, really appreciate it.

James 1:08:45
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 NaylorJames and write me an email James at Naylor Until next time.



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