Posts Tagged ‘ Interview ’

Designer on Designer: Jason Slingerland

Sometimes, when you are interested in something a little off-center of mainstream culture, say like board games for instance, it can feel a little lonely. You spend times learning as much as you can about your exciting interest and find that when you get the nerve to share it with someone they aren’t as enthusiastic as you are. (For shame!) But then you find your tribe. The worlds gets smaller through the innovative technology and you begin to find pockets of your people spread across the world-wide-web. And occasionally you find out that some of these kindred spirits live in your own backyard. This is the case for me and my friend, Jason Slingerland. Jason is a cool dude who lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He’s into board games, too. He’s also into designing board games. He even has a cool podcast where he and another Michigander get together to talk about designing board games! As a person who is always on the lookout for opportunities to learn and grow from the experience of others’ I was able to ask Jason a few questions. We talked about his show, Building The Game, and a game he’s self-publishing with the help of Kickstarter called Water Balloon Washout. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to listen in on our conversation. He’s good people.
Hi Jason, tell me a little bit about yourself. You have a new game up on Kickstarter that you are self-publishing and you are the co-host of a lovely podcast. Tell people about that!

I’ve been playing games my whole life and in the last year and I half, I have really gotten into designing. Around that time I started doing a podcast with Rob Couch called Building the Game. On the show we discuss talk about what we have been playing, discuss mechanics and then we pitch new game ideas each week. The show started as a way to track our progress from being complete newbies at designing to hopefully experienced designers. We try on the podcast to really show the process of design from conception through publication. Some many people feel like game design is inaccessible when really it’s quite the opposite. There are so many people willing to help out new designers.

My new card game, Water Balloon Washout is now on Kickstarter through August 11. It’s a light strategy game for 2-4 players that revolves around kids having a water balloon fight. It’s a simple that only takes a couple of minutes to learn to play but as you move through the game you find that there is a good level of strategy involved and also a lot of replayability.

Here's a shot from our prototype, the artwork here is completed but the layout and backgrounds will be improved once our awesome Graphic Artist gets ahold of it.  In addition our artist is still working on another 40+ images that will be in the game.

Water Balloon Washout Prototype.

So I know in the beginning of the Building the Game Podcast you and Rob set out to document the process of becoming published game designers. How has the podcast been successful to those ends?

We are making good progress towards that goal. I sold a card game design to Hat Trick Games last fall called Gunslingin’ Ramblers and it’s due out next year. That has really given Rob and I some insight into that process of working closely with a publisher. We are constantly getting great feedback from listeners that really encourages us. Our audience has been consistently growing and we really feel like we are making a difference and helping newer designers. In the process, it’s also been very helpful to Rob and I as designers.

Now that you guys are starting to get your games out to the world, how will this change the content/concept of Building the Game?

I think overall it doesn’t change up the show all that much. Maybe having games out there gives us a little more street cred but really we have had very experienced designers telling us from the beginning that our ideas were valid. I think that goes to show how open the community is to new people. I can say for sure that our format won’t change. Just our level of experience.

Let’s talk a little bit about Water Balloon Washout. How did this game come to be? What made you decide to try this one out of all of your ideas to be the one to self-publish with the help of Kickstarter?

This game came to be when I wanted to design a game that captured a neighborhood snowball fight in a way that felt like you were really in the thick of it but still have the game be very simple and easy to learn. Over time the game changed a bit and became Water Balloon Washout. The core was still the same but the theme changed from Winter to Summer. One of the side goals that came about from designing this game was that I realized I had created something that was simple enough kids could play but it had enough strategy baked in, that adults, specifically gamers would find it fun and replayable. This is something I am really proud of about the game because I think that’s a tough thing to do. Having playtested the game with kids and also adult gamers, I have found it equally enjoyable for them yet on very different levels.
As for why I decided to self publish the game… I have always been interested in that model and this game being a 90 card deck in a tuck box seemed like a low risk way to test the waters. Also, it allowed for Rob and I to get that insider experience into publishing via Kickstarter.

What have you learned so far through the process of building a Kickstarter campaign for your game?

I knew there was a lot to be done but I figure I spent about 60 hours just working on my Kickstarter page and laying things out. I couldn’t believe it took that long. I have also learned that waiting for more backers to come on board can be nerve wracking!

I really love getting to talk to other designer’s about the design process. Everybody seems to have their own system or approach. Tell me a little bit about yours.

I am a very theme oriented person, so I generally find myself coming up with a theme and then trying to find mechanics that really mesh well with that theme. I usually take copious notes in an Excel spreadsheet trying to balance the game before making a prototype. Once I make a prototype I have a core group of people that I test with.

You live in my home state, the lovely mitten; Michigan! What is your favorite game shop or gaming event in Michigan?

Game shop is definitely Fanfare in Kalamazoo where I live. As for favorite gaming event, I would be after this year it will be GrandCon.

How about a little more in general; what is your favorite thing about living in Michigan?

Michigan is a beautiful state with 4 full seasons and so many different landscapes to see. I love camping and nature so this is a good place for it.

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer a few questions. I wish you much success with your Kickstarter campaign, the podcast, and your upcoming game Gunslingin’ Ramblers. Is there anything else you’d like to mention before we wrap this up?

Thanks for chatting with me. If anyone would like to contact me about the show or the Kickstarter the best places are @JASlingerland on twitter or email me at

Thanks so much man! This was fun!
You can back Water Balloon Washout on Kickstarter right here!



I spent a few minutes talking with Scott Atkinson of the Flint Journal about the re-opening of the Flint Local 432. Flint Local 432 is the all ages concert space where I have spent nearly a third of all of my weekends on this earth. This place is important for our city and I’m so glad I had the chance to be a part of the conversation surrounding the club’s re-opening this year. Here’s what I had to say:

Jason Kotarski, 32, is an associate pastor for Wildwind Community Church in Flint Township and said when he was younger, the Local gave him a place to fit in.

“I didn’t really feel like I had a place, and the local gave me that. They were just normal guys playing guitars making music of their own and that was really compelling to me,” he said.

Kotarski now volunteers on Saturdays, cleaning the place to help Whitcomb and other workers keep making progress.

“It just really made a difference in my life and I think it’s affected me in such a huge way that I wanted to make sure that other kids like me have a place to go in their spare time,” he said.

You can read the rest of the article and learn more about Flint Local 432 here.


First, let me say that I am not a big reader of fiction, aside from the occasional graphic novel. But when I ran into one of my old middle school English teachers at a local art fair, I decided to take a chance and pick up one of his books.  I started reading Skeleton Key, by Jeff LaFerney, one afternoon and I found myself sneaking away to steal moments here and there until I finished it the next day. My wife was impressed with my focus since I am usually found reading 5 or 10 various church books and memoirs all at the same time. I found the story compelling and characters interesting. I didn’t want to put it down. When I was done I immediately went to the Kindle store and bought Jeff’s first book, Loving The Rain. He recently signed a deal to re-release his first two books with World Castle Publishing and is hard at work on the third. I’m always glad when I have the chance to share a little space on my blog with great local artists. In this interview, Jeff shares a bit of his story and some of the inspiration behind his work. It is my hope that after taking a glimpse, you’ll find a new companion to spend a few afternoons with during this dreary, Michigan winter.

1.Can you talk a little bit about how your journey from teacher and basketball coach evolved into author of fiction books?

My journey started when I began building a classroom library for my students.  I started reading junior high level award books (like Newberry Awards), assuming they were the best and I would begin to learn to recommend books to my students.  Instead, I read so many books that I didn’t think were very good that I found myself thinking that I could do better.  Eventually that thinking spilled over into adult books, some New York Times best sellers.  I found that several of those were poorly written too.  But I didn’t have a topic, time, or motivation, so the idea of writing just kind of ruminated in my mind.  My son then transferred schools his senior year, resulting in my losing my basketball coaching job.  I’d had a very successful career but was a bit frustrated when I was unable to get another job.  During this frustrating time, I got an idea for a book.  Then my son graduated, and because I wasn’t coaching in the summer and I didn’t have all of his activities, I found that I actually had time on my hands.  Then I was rejected once again for a job and instead of fretting about it, I got motivated.  I had found the three things I needed and Loving the Rain just simply flowed from my mind onto paper.  It was amazing .

2. How would you explain the heart of your books to someone who has never read them?

Clay and Tanner Thomas (father and son) have parapsychological abilities.  I wanted them to be as normal as possible, so I gave a medical reason for their abilities and I made them ordinary people with ordinary lives.  Tanner is a star athlete.  Clay is a college teacher and coach.  Both are genuinely good people.  Clay spends the first book dealing with the consequences of the few times he actually used his powers in an attempt to fend off a criminal.  In the second book, he decides to use his powers for good.  Except for mind-control that they share, they otherwise have completely different abilities, so they need each other and depend upon each other.

3. Where do you find your inspiration to write?

Unbelievably to me, I find that I’m quite creative.  The ideas haven’t been hard to come so far.  I think of things in the most unusual places, at times, but at other times I get ideas while sitting in front of the computer.  I thought of the ending for Loving the Rain while in bed in the middle of the night on a cruise.  I wrote it on a notepad in the dark.   In the morning I could actually read what I wrote.   Sometimes my wife gives me ideas when we’re talking about the book, but usually she isn’t trying.  She just says something that clicks with me, and I get an idea.  Sometimes, I just believe that writing is simply what God wants me to do, and He gives me ideas.

4. The characters in your book do some wrestling with issues of faith. Why do you think it’s important to tell those kinds of stories?

I found that I simply wanted to be true to myself when I wrote the books.  For instance, I don’t swear, so there is no swearing in my books.  I love sports, and I like humor, so I include those things in my writing.  And I’m a Christian, so I can’t but help but write from a worldview that includes God.  If Clay and Tanner are believers, then they should have struggles like all believers have had—struggles like I have had.  I’m proud that I’ve written books that my 8th grade students can read and that my seventy-year-old parents are proud of.  I think it’s good that anyone can read my books and enjoy them without me preaching at them, but the values and faith lessons and real struggles are evident too.

Continue reading


Everyone likes a good story. Good stories reach out to us from the page inviting us to place ourselves in someone else’s shoes to explore life from a different perspective. I’ve always been drawn to those larger than life stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Maybe this is because of all the superhero stories I was obsessed with as a kid. While I still love these kinds of stories, as I get older, it’s not the stories of the fantastic or the incredible that grab my attention. It’s the stories of people seeking to find meaning and truth and beauty in the everyday, mundane activities of life that have taken there hold on me. These are the kinds of stories that remind me that I don’t have to live vicariously through the cape-and-tights-wearing heroes I grew up with. These are the stories that help me figure out how to suck the marrow of life from the present moment. Ryan Claytor, a Michigan transplant from California (seriously, who moves from California to Michigan?), tells these kinds of stories through his unique autobiographical comics series, And Then One Day. He was kind enough to plop down on The Green Couch to share some thoughts on comics, community, and his current projects.

Tell us a little bit about how you got into comics.

I was very interested in comics as a kid.  When I was growing-up, probably between the ages of 7-12 years old, that’s all I would read.  However, once I got to high school I forgot about comics for the following decade.  It wasn’t until shortly after I finished college that a friend of mine requested that I take him to the local comic book store.  That was my RE-introduction to comics (around 2002-ish) and I’ve been hooked ever since.

In your “And Then One Day” series, you focus on the everyday, sometimes mundane, stuff of life. Why share these kinds of stories?

Well, my artistic focus has definitely shifted since I was creating those strips in 2004-5.  At the time, I wanted to become a different kind of voice that I felt was lacking in autobiographical comics.  It was tough for me to relate to a lot of the downtrodden, self-flagellating perspectives that I saw depicted in a lot of autobiographical comics.  I was more interested in presenting a different perspective on life, one in which everyday occurrences are examined, enjoyed and valorized.  Don’t get me wrong, I still look back on those strips and enjoy them, but I’m answering these questions in 2011, half-a-dozen years after creating those strips.  Right now, I’m more focused on creating longer continuous narratives.  I think the page-a-day strips really helped me to feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of each page, since each page was a self-contained thought or story.  If I had attempted a longer story right from the start, I’m not sure I would have had the artistic maturity and stamina to pursue comics.

What are some of the other comic projects you’ve worked on over the years ?

Outside of “And Then One Day” I’ve contributed to some anthologies.  One such collected book was a series of strips about overheard conversations called, “I KEEE YOU!!”  I’ve also produced a few 24 Hour Comics (which I am sold-out of, but you may be able to find a stray copy or two lurking on the internet somewhere.  I’ve done some limited edition letterpress prints in comics form and some readers have even commissioned custom comics from me for special occasions, but I have to admit my main focus has been my “And Then One Day”

Why do you think comics are important as an art form?

Comics are the intersection of visual art and literature. Continue reading


Endorsements from Philip Yancey and Eugene Peterson grace the back cover of Nathan Foster‘s first book, Wisdom Chaser (IVP Books). The book closes with an afterword from Nathan’s father, author and speaker Richard J. Foster (Celebration of Discipline). If the company we keep says anything at all about our personal character or the content of our work, I’d say Nathan Foster is someone worth spending at least 200 pages with. In his memoir, Nathan recounts the time he spent with his father sumitting mountains, both literally and metaphorically. Nathan travels to the edge of adventure and to the depths of his soul and invites his readers along for the ride. I recently had the opportunity to ask him about his book, his dad, and his thoughts about outdoor life in his new home state of Michigan. Enjoy!

The stories in your book, Wisdom Chaser, take place around your attempt to climb as many of Colorado’s Fourteeners with your dad, Richard J. Foster. Could you talk a little bit about how this whole adventure got started? What led you to take on this adventure?

Sure. It really started as a joke. “Hey, dad you want to climb the highest mountain in Colorado?.” It was something I really wanted to do, but I fully expected him to say no.

It seems that at the heart of your book, it’s really all about relationships. What is it about relationships that are so important? What did tackling the Fourteeners with your father teach you about relating to others in meaningful ways? Continue reading

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