Like most designers, Hannah Mullins enjoys game conventions and playing with her family. The biggest difference is that she’s fitting game design around a 3rd grade schedule.
No exaggeration, some of the best demos I participated in at PaxU last year were conducted by the dynamic 8 year old. I met Hannah at the Button Shy booth, where she walked me through several games before introducing me to Launchtime – her first published game. (I’m the very proud owner of a signed copy.)
This month for Designing Women she talked to us about what she’s working on and how her love of games inspired making them.
How long have you been playing games?
I have been playing games my whole life. Since my dad loves games so much, he plays them with our whole family.
How did you come up with Launchtime?
We came up with Launchtime when we were at a restaurant. We were waiting for our food, and I asked my dad, “Can we make a game?” Of course he said yes. So he took a bunch of sugar packets out, and we started tossing them, sliding them, stuff like that. And it was my idea to use one packet to flip another packet. Then we tried to flip them onto targets, and we kind of had our idea.
When we went home, we got out all Dad’s blank cards and made some animals, and we had them collecting gems. We decided that was kind of weird so we changed the gems to food. And I came up with two of the animal special abilities and Dad did the other two.
Whats your favorite game?
I can’t pick just one, so how about three? I love Exploding Kittens, Rescue Polar Bears: Data & Temperature, and In Vino Morte.
What did you like most about designing Launchtime?
I liked that Launchtime uses a physical skill. Trying to figure out how to flip cards was a lot of fun.
Do you enjoy going to game conventions? What do you like most?
I don’t like conventions – I love them! I really like being able to help my dad at the Button Shy booth. It’s fun to help people pick a game, and to sometimes do demos to see how the game works.
What else are you working on?
I have four games that I have made since Launchtime. Two of them are easier games. Lucky Guess is kind of a silly one about guessing the right numbers, and Elements to the End is a card game that Dad calls “fancy War”.
The other two are pretty big games, actually. Scientific is a cooperative game where you are a team of scientists trying to stop an alien invasion. I think that people will really like it when we finish all the playtesting. Then there’s Elementis, where you move around a board that has the four elements on it and use cards to attack your opponent, and if your cards match your element space you can do extra damage.
Do you like designing the mechanic or picking the theme first when you start working on a game?
I usually design the mechanic. With Launchtime, we just started flipping cards, not thinking about what the theme would be. Some of the later decisions, like the animal abilities, we tried to stick really close to the theme, like the kangaroo fitting an extra card in its pouch. My newest idea, Slide It, started with an empty duct tape roll. I was rolling it back and forth, then I started sliding it, and then I thought it would be cool to slide it between players with a bunch of chips or cubes inside.
(Slide It was literally invented yesterday. She attached some parchment paper to the bottom of an empty duct tape roll, and filled it with colored cubes. In the game, your opponent slides you the container, and you can look and try to plan your turn before closing your eyes and drawing cubes that give either points, extra draws, or both. – Hannah’s Dad, Mike)
Did you do a lot of playtesting with Launchtime? How did you like that process?
We didn’t do all that much playtesting, because it was pretty straightforward. We had to change some things, such as changing from earning points to feeding the animals, or fixing the animal abilities. Dad also did some testing with Jason (Tagmire) to make sure everything worked. I do like testing though, because you actually get to play the game!
What advice would you have for aspiring designers?
I think that the most important part of designing is getting to know the base of the game. Once you have that, you can start tweaking all of the rest of the details. Getting a game to work might take a lot of tries, and a lot of playtesting, but you can still make a pretty good game, so stick with it.