Designing Women: Stephanie Kwok

VFX artist Stephanie Kwok is a co-founder of Vancouver based Fish First Games and the designer of upcoming Ducks in Tow.

What got you started playing board games?

It was actually a group of friends who I used to play video games with that first introduced me to Settlers of Catan and Dominion. Then I got together with my current partner who already had a large collection of board games before we got together.

What do you like/dislike about the design process?

Designing a game is supposed to be fun. If it’s not fun, you’re doing something wrong. As an artist, I enjoy coming up with a theme for a game, I imagine how it might look and how I could possible think of mechanics to blend well with the theme. Playtesting is a grueling task but very necessary. I enjoy hearing what others say about their experience when playing my game. As long as they had fun, I did something right.

Any challenges?

Not personally, though I do hear of some discrimination and misogyny in the industry, but the support is that much stronger and can overcome the unnecessary childish behaviors.

What can you tell us a little about Ducks in Tow?

This game is a passion project of mine. I have collected all things ‘duck’ for as long as I can remember. Some friends call me Ducky. This game is actually based on a bird sanctuary that I visit local to me. You can buy seeds at the front entrance, then walk around the park feeding ducks and other birds.

In the game, you are walking around the park feeding ducks, when you feed them, they follow you and you must take them to their favourite locations in the park.

What else are you working on now?

After Ducks in Tow, we have a few of our own designs on the go. The next big thing we want to tackle is building a world in which we can have multiple games within this world. Hopefully we will be showing off some of this world to the public soon.

We are also in talks with a few other designers to hopefully have them design games for us.

What games give you the most insight into design?   

This is a weird one. The games I enjoy most are heavy strategy games, but the games I’m designing are not heavy at all. Or at least I end up shifting the designs so they are simpler in order to fit the themes we choose. The problem we have when designing is that we choose theme first. This makes it very restricting, but we don’t really work any other way, since we are artists and we work very visually.

Whats the most surprising success you’ve had since you started designing?  

I think most people are trying to come up with new unique mechanisms or components during their design process. I think Ducks in Tow has completed this goal for me, as I’m very happy with the game’s mechanisms, and also the unique component I don’t think I’ve seen in other games yet.

Whats the toughest part of the process for you?

I find I always end up choosing a light theme, and the first few iterations of the design are way too complex to fit the theme. The hardest part is trying to simplify over and over again to make it so the level of strategy and mix of mechanisms work well for the theme.

Whats your favorite game and why?  

Lord of Xidit is my favourite game. The best way to play the game is the way I play most games, really paying attention to what other players are doing. This game has pre-programming movements so if you’re not paying attention to everything that’s going on, whether it be the monsters you need to fight or what the other players might be aiming for, you’re going to end up wasting actions by going to places a turn too late because another player programmed their movement to reach there first.

What advice would you give new designers?

Don’t get discouraged. Be willing and accepting of feedback, as most people are only trying to help make your game the best it can be.