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How unfettered creative freedom took one dev from iOS to board games

Zach Gage is best known for the iOS hit SpellTower. In an interview with Shut Up & Sit Down, he describes why he took a shot at making a board game -- a process he knew next to nothing about.

Kris Ligman, Blogger

August 14, 2013

3 Min Read

"Until we can plug into each other with Game Boy link cables in our ears, my best shot is trying to express myself through whatever craft my brain wants to work on, and right now that's games."

- Guts for Glory developer Zach Gage, speaking with Shut Up & Sit Down. Zach Gage makes games. He is perhaps best known for his iOS word puzzle title SpellTower, although his oeuvre is quite diverse, with titles ranging from Blackjack variants to lose/lose, a PC game that deletes files off you hard drive when you gun down enemies. Lately, Gage has turned his attention to board games. He developed Guts for Glory as a commission from the New York University Game Center, which dared him to "do something [he] wouldn't normally do." Following a prototype, Gage went to Kickstarter and successfully funded a first run for the new game, which is currently available for preorder. Speaking with Shut Up & Sit Down, Gage describes why he pursued a project so far afield of his usual pursuits:

"SpellTower had just blown up and the commission money, while important to me, didn't -- for once -- have to go right into groceries and rent. I spent a long time thinking about how to do something with the money that I'd always wanted to do but couldn't now do, and the more I thought about it, the more I realized I should spend the money to make something that I had no idea how to market, probably couldn't produce en mass, was in a field I had little to no understanding of, and more than likely wouldn't result in any money no matter how I looked at it... With video games, you can make something in a few weeks and put it out and see if people like it, and if they do, you keep working on it. With board games it's a lot harder at first. We've put in more time on [Guts of Glory] than perhaps all the other games I've made combined, if you can believe that. On the other hand, board game work is very front-loaded... It feels like making board games is much more like building a brand or a console than releasing a game."

Gage and interviewer Quintin Smith also discuss what draws Gage to card games, compared to computer games:

Smith: "You mentioned in your Wired Game|Life profile last year that you felt anxious spending time on video games, as they couldn't produce the kind of "wonderful, spiritual moments" you experienced at an art gallery. As a video gamer who's shifted into board games, I've found myself most aware of the hobby's holy nature when I'm sat at a table with a group of friends. I've found my anxiety release valve, is what I'm saying. Are you still looking for yours? Gage: "While I do love it, it's certainly different than how great paintings make you feel. I think in some ways [Cardboard Computer's] Kentucky Route Zero made me feel how paintings make me feel, so in that way, things are balancing out... I think if we're taking anxiety release valves, mine is trying to make things that convey the ineffable things that I find beautiful and exciting from my brain into your brain, and until we can plug into each other with GameBoy link cables in our ears, my best shot is trying to express myself through whatever craft my brain wants to work on, and right now that's games."

The entire interview serves as a great discussion of unfettered game design and the different styles of expressiveness Gage finds in card games and electronic media. Give it a read over at Shut Up & Sit Down.

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