Describe your latest game/project/work.
Right now, we're in the middle of playtesting Munchkin Pathfinder. The Pathfinder RPG, from Paizo, is one of the most popular fantasy role-playing games on the market, and its rules and setting provide a rich background to draw from for the next Munchkin card game. "Playtesting," for those who don't know, is the process of trying a version of a game to see what works and what doesn't. It involves playing a game over and over, with small (or not-so-small) tweaks each time, ultimately leading to a game that's much better than it could have been otherwise.
What's the strangest or most interesting job you've ever had?
Other than this one, which is both the strangest and most interesting, I'd have to go with my first-ever summer job: cleaning industrial ice cream machines at the main manufacturing plant for a Texas-based grocery chain. It taught me a lot about the dignity of doing a necessary job well, even when that job is not what most people would consider glamorous or exciting. It also taught me that I did not want to be doing that for the rest of my life.
Introduce one other game you think people should play, and suggest a good version with which to start.
"Should" is subjective, but my go-to non-Munchkin game right now is Dominion. All the players start with the same 10 cards, and who wins depends partly on the luck of the shuffle and partly on which player is best at acquiring and using resources from a shared pool of cards. The card mix changes every game, which means there's no one solid winning strategy. There are several Dominion expansions, but start with the base set and go from there.
How did the last good book you read end up in your hands, and why did you read it?
I'm reading the serial novel The Human Division by John Scalzi right now (four episodes yet to go). I'm counting it even though I'm technically not finished with the book yet. It ended up in my hands because I'm a massive Scalzi fan and this is his return to his best-known fictional universe.
How did you get started with your career?
I hated grad school and wanted out. That's the short answer. The longer answer is that I was in Victoria, BC, working on the first year of a doctorate I realized very quickly that I didn't want. Plus, being in Canada for the winter made me miss Texas. I'd been thinking about shifting from academia into editorial work of some sort for a while, and when Steve Jackson Games posted a job opening looking for a marketing writer, I used that to wedge my foot in the door.
Do you read blogs? What are some of your favorites?
I do! As you might guess, one of my favorites is John Scalzi's Whatever. Another is Wil Wheaton Dot Net. I've been very lucky to get to know Wil over the last 10 years or so; in fact, the second time I ever met him was at the Powell's annex, when he did a reading from his first book. If we're allowing webcomics as blogs, I'm addicted to xkcd and his new "What If?" feature, where he answers outlandish questions using actual physics.
In the For-All-Eternity category, what will be your final thought?
"I say, I believe that meteor is actually going to—"
I'm a student who wants a career in the game industry. What should I study?
Smart-aleck answer: Everything.
- Writing and composition. A game must have clear rules if people are going to play it, and if you cannot write clearly, your game will not be played. (It probably won't even be published.) Your writing doesn't have to be perfect — although that's something to strive for! — but it should be clean enough that an editor doesn't just rewrite you from scratch.
- Graphic design. Some game designers (and I am one) work with text almost exclusively, leaving the messy graphic decisions to others. But you'll be far more interesting to employers if you have some layout skills or illustration experience.
- Probability and statistics. Absolutely essential if you want to do anything with randomizers. Plus, you'll be grateful to have those skills anyway.
- Finance and accounting. No joke: the game industry is not a place for people who don't know their way around money. If you're just starting out with a company, you probably won't be signing the checks, but knowing your way around a budget is a vital skill no matter what your actual job is. Also, it can help keep you off ramen noodles for half the month.
Five books (or sets of books) I read as a kid that I still reread now:
Watership Down by Richard Adams
Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury
Dawn of Fear by Susan Cooper (also her series The Dark Is Rising)
Red Planet / Starship Troopers / The Star Beast by Robert A. Heinlein
The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
÷ ÷ ÷
Andrew Hackard is the Munchkin czar for Steve Jackson Games. He's the author of Munchkin Master's Screen. In his previous lives, Andrew has been a project manager, the managing editor for a major game publisher, a frustrated graduate student, and a high-school teacher, where he learned more about munchkinry from his students than in any activity before or since.
Books mentioned in this post
Andrew Hackard is the author of Munchkin Master's Screen