Designing Women: Lizzy Funkhouser

If you’re on board game social media, you’ll likely recognize Lizzy Funkhouser. The dynamic designer is also the head of one of the largest gaming groups on Facebook, Board Game Spotlight. When she’s not live streaming the latest hotness or posting the most adorable pics of baby Seb, she’s working on her latest game design.

What got you started playing board games? 

I played some mass market board games growing up, and once I met (husband) Derek I was introduced to Catan by his family. It wasn’t until 2014 when we were married and living on a isolated military post that we were introduced to hobby gaming by some friends.

Whats your current favorite game? And fave of all time?
My current favorite game… probably Metro X. We just got it in and I have really been enjoying the solo play on it. Favorite of all time is probably either 7 Wonders or Orleans, but that’s a really unfair question! There are too many great games.

To what would you attribute the popularity hobby gaming has gained over the last ten years?

I think the gaming hobby has grown because people are looking for a way to connect with friends/family in a non-digital way. Technology is great! I love being able to call and talk to my family every day even though I live several thousand miles away. But sitting in a room with friends when everyone is on their device is frustrating sometimes. Pulling out a game and having everyone engaged is something special. Gaming is perfect for meeting new people and helping to break the ice. Plus there’s so many different kinds you can always find something to please every (usually.)

How did you become interested in game design?

My interest in game design came from helping my husband with his own game designs. It was about the same  time we started gaming that he decided to design his own game. I helped him play test and develop it and that started me thinking about my own design and game ideas. We then co-designed The Walking Dead: Something to Fear which was the first published game for both of us.

What inspired your most recent design?

My most recent design is still in the early stages of development but I’m working on a WWII game from the perspective of women on the home front who have taken over running a town while the men are away at war. I wanted a game that all female characters, but I wanted to do it organically. I wanted the fact that it was all women to make complete sense and not feel purposeful. I also love history and while there are a lot of WWII games I don’t know of any that focus on women  and/or the home front as opposed to the actual war.

What’s your favorite/least favorite part of the design process?

My favorite part of game design is doing research. Its all the little details that come together to create a fully fleshed out game. My least favorite part is the balancing. It’s a fine line you have to walk to make sure its balanced and fun. This is where a lot of the changes come into play and things get cut and it usually takes a day or two for me to come to terms which cutting something even when I know it makes the game better.

Do you find the community supportive? 

As a whole I have found the community to be very supportive. I entered first on the livestreaming/reviewing side so I got to know so many people in the industry very well. They have all been so encouraging and excited for me. They have all been willing to sit down and play my games even when they were in the very early stages of prototyping.

Are you part of a local design/playtest group?

With our connection to Skybound and Druid City Games I get to playtest with all the people in the gaming department and a lot of the other designers they work with. We don’t have a dedicated playtest group here in California yet, but we took part in some of the protospiels back in Illinois.

What do you hope players get out of your game?

My hope when anyone plays a game is that they have fun. But I’m also hoping that more women will be encouraged to play games and that they feel represented by them.

When you’re not working in games, what do you do for fun?

I feel like my life is pretty much all games at this point, but when I find time for myself I love to read. I’m currently reading Origins by Dan Brown. I also enjoy watching tv shows- The Office is definitely my most watched show, but I enjoy a little bit of everything. 

What advice would you give an aspiring designer?

Start simple with your prototypes. pieces of paper and bits from other games are great, especially at the beginning. Games change and evolve and you don’t want to sink too much time/money into a prototype that may change from play to play. Spend your time on your designs and then once you have a solid game make it prettier to show to publishers etc. 

What improvements would you like to see in the industry in the next five years?

In the next 5 years I hope we see more women enter the hobby. The Board Game Spotlight is currently about 23% female and I would love to see that number grow. I hope we see more games with unique themes that appeal to those outside the hobby, like Wingspan. I want more games that speak to my other hobbies and interests. High fantasy and space are great themes and there’s always going to be room in the hobby for those types of games, but I would like to see more designers push the envelope and try ideas outside of ones we already know gamers like.