Andrew Fischer is board and card game manager at Fantasy Flight Games and will be at GDC 2018 to present the talk ‘Mansions of Madness’ 2nd Edition: Postmortem of an App-Integrated Board game.
His Design track talk will discuss the challenges involved in integrating digital and tabletop elements in the same system. Here, Fischer gives us information about himself and what he does.
Tell us about yourself and what you do in the games industry.
My name is Andrew Fischer, and I am a Board and Card Game Manager at Fantasy Flight Games. I have been in the industry for around 8 years, during which I’ve worked as a designer on roleplaying games, miniatures games, and board games, including the app-integrated board games I’ll be talking about at the conference. Across these games, I’ve had the chance to work on big licensed properties such as Star Wars, Fallout, and Warhammer.
What inspired you to pursue your career?
I’ve never really had that singular “moment of inspiration” story like a lot of people. Games were an important part of my life growing up, from playing Avalon Hills board games with my family, to competing in Counter Strike tournaments with my friends. But for all the time I spent with games, I probably spent even more creating content with tools like the Starcraft map editor or just making up D&D campaigns for my friends.
Initially, when I went to college for computer science, game development seemed like a bit of a pipe dream. But as I started meeting people in the industry from volunteering with different teams, it became clear that this was not only a possibility, but what I wanted to be doing with my career.
Without spoiling it too much, tell us what you’ll be talking about at GDC.
I am going to be talking about app-integrated board games, specifically diving into a post-mortem of our co-op horror game Mansions of Madness 2nd edition. I’ll be talking about how our team here integrated the app and board game components together to create a unique experience, and examining what parts of that worked, and what parts didn’t.
What are some of the biggest challenges you face in your work?
There are so many challenges at different parts of the process, but personally, the biggest challenge I struggle with is the classic refrain of “test early and test often.” I don’t know what it is, but whenever I start work on a new design, I get this protective impulse to hide my work until it’s “ready” (whatever that means).
Every time, I have to remind myself of what a terrible idea keeping things secret like that is, and get my work in front of coworkers and testers as soon as possible. And, every time, it’s to the benefit of the systems. When I first started, I thought that protectiveness would fade over time, but I guess at this point it’s just something I’ll always have to watch out for.
What are the most rewarding parts of your job?
The most rewarding experience is seeing and hearing stories about people playing games I’ve worked on. One of the great things about tabletop games is how they bring people together face-to-face. When I hear stories about parents teaching their kids using one of our games, or friends who were brought together by one of our RPGs, it always brightens my day.
Do you have any advice for those aspiring to join your field someday?
Get as much experience as possible! Make games. Not just game concepts, but the games themselves, seen through to the end. It doesn’t matter whether you’re doing it on your own, at a game jam, or helping out another developer: get as much experience as you possibly can.
It has never been easier to dive into Unity or another free game engine with some YouTube tutorials and start making something. Or, if you’re interested in tabletop games, just grab a pencil and paper and some dice and get designing! I can’t tell you how much that practical experience will help you not only in an interview for a designer position, but also in the job itself.
I know this is pretty common advice, but trust me, in an interview, they can tell who has seen a project through from start to finish and who hasn’t.