Designing Women: Estefania Rodriguez

What do you get when you cross arcade style fighters with cats? Estefania Rodriguez knows, and she’s created the CUTEST game based on this cool combination.

What got you started playing board games?

I’m an only child, so playing board games and card games was what I would do most of the time while growing up. I would play games that were not solo, but I would just play all for all of the players, so I suppose what really got me started on them was the need to be entertained when I was alone in my room, haha.

What’s new on the design front?
I am currently redesigning the gameplay of PopCats Fighter while trying to stay true to the essence of what we want the game to be. Obviously, a redesign in the gameplay means we have to re-design the cards, which has been very fun but challenging. We’re excited to show off what we have worked on for the past few months next month.

Why cats and fighting games?

Cats because I feel like the pins are endless, and the Artist, Arnel Baluyot, had been drawing these PopCat Character stuff for a few years now. He even has a book called PopCats, and his illustrations are super fun. Fighting games because we both grew up playing video games, and fighting games in the arcade. I find it fascinating trying to translate the feelings, emotions and experience from a video game platform to a tabletop platform. 

What are your thoughts on the design process?

I think the design part of making a game, is the best part about making a game. It’s when all of your ideas can flow, and you can build this whole thing, that may not make total sense yet, but it’s very fun for me being emerged in that part of the process. Playtesting is the most important part of making the game! It can be frustrating at times if you’re not playing with the correct audience for that game, because not every game is for everyone so even if you have an amazing game, but you’re playing with the wrong crowd then their lack of interest in your game can be influential to you in the wrong way. With that being said, play testing with the correct audience can be amazing. Not because everything turns out perfect and they love it, but because those people can give you real constructive feedback on how to make the game better. They can help you think of things you never had before, therefore making the you AND the game better for it. You just have to keep an open mind to constructive criticism, emphasis on constructive. 

Are you finding the community supportive?

For the most part yes. I really wish I could say “Absolutely! Everyone has be AWESOME, and I’ve had nothing but great experiences with people!”, but the truth is that I have encountered some people who may not believe in my ability to do what I’m doing because this is my first time, and because I’m in a male dominated industry. Thankfully though I’ve had the great support of my husband, friends(who are game designers themselves), and family that have helped me move forward with my work.

Any challenges?

Absolutely. I’ve noticed when I’m demoing the game with people, or play testing, the shock on their faces when they would find out that I designed the game instead of the dude (my husband) sitting next to me. It’s unfortunate, but I think female game designers just aren’t taken as seriously as their male counterparts yet. Things are changing, but we still have a long way to go.

Do you have other hobbies that tie into design? What are you other hobbies?

Yes, and no I suppose. I enjoy doing creative things in general, but not necessarily that tie into game design. For example I like to sew, make plushies, packaging design, graphic design, and playing video games, but I don’t have one hobby in particular.

What advice would you give other designers?
I would tell other designers to not only try to balance out your games, but find balance within yourself. Always follow your gut, but you also have to keep an open mind when people give you advise. Not all of the advice will always be useful, but try to put your feeling aside, and be honest with yourself. Don’t be scared to make changes, and go down the unknown road. Mistakes need to happen in order for you and your game to come out on top!

What game (if any) have you played recently that made you think about design in a different way?
I’ve been playing lots of party tabletop games which has helped me realize the kind of feel I want, need to have for our game.

Favorite game of 2019?

I don’t have one game that comes to mind right now, but I’ve definitely been into party games lately, unlike my previous obsession which was mystery games. I’m sure in six months or so I will have to change my answer again though, haha.

Where would you like to see the industry and community in five years?
Personally, I would like for the community to be more accepting of new and inexperienced gamers. For the industry, I would like for new designers, especially female designers, to be seen as equal and just as capable to the male counterparts as supposed to like how it seems now. Female designers are just as imaginative, capable and creative as male designers, yet when I tell people I am a game designer they act like it’s so rare as if I am the only one they have ever seen.

Keep up with Estefania and PopCats on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook