Designing Women: Karen Knoblaugh

You are what you eat.

When she couldn’t find a food theme game with the depth she craved, Karen Knoblaugh turned a lifelong love of food and health into Consumption, a gorgeous, strategic game about balance.

How long have you been playing games? What’s your favorite? 

I’ve played board games my whole life, but I took a very long break from it. I dabbled in a few video games, but when a friend introduced me to the Settlers of Catan, I discovered an entirely new world of modern, strategic board games that, at least to me, seemed very cool. That was about 10 years ago, and since then, I’ve traveled deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole! I consider myself an omnigamer, so I enjoy a wide variety of games, but I think one of my all-time favorites is The Castles of Burgundy by Stefan Feld. It seems that I never tire of playing it.

When did your interest in food start and why? Why did you choose to pursue nutrition as your field of study?

I think I’ve always had an interest in food and health. I was a biology major in college and when I took a nutrition course as an elective, I learned that I really loved it, but I was so close to graduating that I didn’t want to change my major. Long story very short, I worked in the corporate world for quite a while, and through the course of several downturns in the economy, I decided to go back to school and finally get that nutrition degree. In addition to better understanding the relationship between food and health, I saw that there was a huge amount of flexibility in this career choice, which I have absolutely experienced, and I’ve never looked back.

Image courtesy of El Crosso

What prompted designing Consumption?

As a dietitian, and a food lover, I’m always looking for food games. For the most part, the games that I found were all very light, very silly, or both, and I was looking for something deeper and more strategic. I don’t recall actually making the decision to design a board game, but I do remember drawing up the initial ideas of a game that I would like to play. Once that ball got rolling, I guess I just never tried to stop it!

What do you hope players get from the game?

First and foremost, I want it to be fun. Beyond that, I want players to know that this game is really all about balance – balancing your food intake with your activities, with the end goal of getting your body’s food needs met. It is highly thematic and the gameplay is very intuitive, and it plays so differently each time you play. If you want to look a little deeper, you can find some basic information about nutrition as well.

Did you like the design process? Was there any bit in particular you really enjoyed?

I really did enjoy most of the design process because it allowed me to be as creative as I wanted, which was such a great release. There were several times, however, that I struggled with various elements of the game, and in those cases, I just stopped designing and put it away for a while. Stepping away allowed me to clear my head, and I was able to return with a fresh perspective and new ideas. Taking what you envision in your head and translating it into something that is actually playable isn’t as easy as it seems, and I think it was my passion for the project that kept pushing me through.

Do you have ideas for other games in mind?

Working on something right now, but it’s in such an alpha stage that it isn’t anything that I’m ready to reveal just yet. I will say that it isn’t a food game, but it is something still very unique and not yet seen in board game form. We will see!

Image Courtesy of El Crosso

Naomi Robinson’s art is fantastic – did you have a lot of input/agree with the art direction? What do you think it brings to the game?

Naomi Robinson’s artistic abilities are amazing, I am beyond thrilled with the visual implementation of the game. From the beginning stages of working with Kolossal Games, we both knew that the art for this needed to be more realistic in nature. We weren’t interested in a cartoon-y style, nor were we interested in using photographs. Kolossal brought Naomi into the project and I think she nailed it. It’s beautiful and it conveys the real-world nature of the theme.

Have you found some crossover between the foodie and gamer crowds (are you finding food lovers that are talking about the game or gamers that are talking about food that may ordinarily not have?)

It’s been an interesting experience to listen to the players during a game. Many comment on how their eating in the game reflects how they eat in real life, which I think is so funny. Also after the game, it’s not unusual for the players to talk about food in some way or another, whether it’s a recipe card from the game that they’d actually like to try to make at home, or about the kind of diet they were on in the game and how it is so like or unlike how they eat in real life. It begins a conversation about food, and that’s a good thing.

What advice would you give other aspiring designers?

Be passionate about your idea because as you stumble through and get frustrated, it will be that passion that will most likely keep you pushing through to the finish. Also, when you do get frustrated, take a break from your ideas. Get refreshed. There have been times when I didn’t look at the game for 4-5 months, and when I come back, everything starts flowing again.

Are you finding the gaming community supportive?

Absolutely. Between my husband, my gamer friends, my designer friends, and the many people who have played it at cons, everyone has been so encouraging and supportive. And to now have several hundred people who are financially supporting my project and saying such great things about it, my cup runneth over.

Consumption is currently on Kickstarter now! And catch up with Karen on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Consumption Images provided by El Crosso A Board Game Life.