The 2013 ENnies nominations have been announced and voting is now open. I caught up with Steve Johnson, Operations Director of Hex Games. Hex Games’ Hobomancer is nominated for a Best Electronic Book ENnie. Voting begins on Monday, July 22 and runs to Wednesday, July 31. The ceremony itself will be on Friday, August 16, in the Union Station Grand Hall at 8 pm with the cocktail reception beginning at 6:30 pm.
Michael Tresca (MT): Tell us about your company.
Steve Johnson (SJ): Hex Games is a small, part-time publisher. We’ve been making games since the late 90s, but the majority of our products have come out in the last five years or so thanks to the growth of the PDF market. Our core rules system, QAGS, is easy to learn, easy to play, and promotes storytelling and fun over dice fetishism and math. We’ve released over 40 different supplements covering all sorts of different styles, genres, and settings.
MT: Why should voters vote for your product? What sets it apart?
SJ: Hobomancer is the best game we’ve ever produced, and nobody’s more surprised by that than we are. When we first came up with the idea of a secret society of spell-casting hobos, we thought it was going to be a silly, slapsticky game. There’s nothing wrong with silly games, of course, but the more we talked about it the more we realized that hobos really did have a lot in common with traditional shamen and wizards. We started to bring in some of the ideas about uniquely American magic that we’d been developing in our American Artifacts series, and that led to the themes growing deeper and richer, and before we knew it we had something much more interesting and complex than we’d originally intended. It’s a game that’s all about freedom and the American Dream and the dangers of consumerism.
Plus, it’s the only game about magical hobos on the ballot.
MT: How do you feel about the state of the gaming industry today?
SJ: We started out before things like print on demand and PDFs existed. Back then, printing and distribution demands made it hard to produce games that weren’t likely to appeal to a large mainstream audience. An offbeat game like Hobomancer would have been too big a financial risk back then to seriously consider publishing. Thanks to the changes that have happened over the last decade or so, we can produce the kinds of quirky, niche games we prefer to write without having to worry about going bankrupt. So from our point of view, the gaming industry is in great shape today.
MT: How hard is it for a game publisher in this economy?
SJ: Since we’re a part-time company, we’re probably not the people to ask. We all have day jobs, so it’s not like we’re counting on money from our games to pay the rent. The sorts of games we enjoy playing (and therefore writing) aren’t typically the kind of things that are going to sell well enough to keep a full-time company in business, so we decided a long time ago that we’d rather be a part-time company that does the weird stuff we enjoy rather than a full-time company that produces popular games that bore us.
MT: What’s next for your company?
SJ: Later this year we’ll be releasing our first Hobomancer supplement, The Hobomancer’s Companion, which will feature new powers, new monsters, more options for your game, hobo signs, an adventure, and more. It should be a great resource for everybody who plays Hobomancer. We’ve also got some smaller games coming out later this year–one of them has the working title Sharktoberfest, so you know that’s going to be amazing. Our next major release is a revised, expanded, and all-around better edition of M-Force, our game of part-time monster hunters. That will be coming out in early 2014. And then there will be plenty more games, in all sorts of genres; for a small company, we put out a lot of games.
MT: Will you be at Gen Con? Where?
SJ: We’ll be there, and this year our games are actually being held in the convention center (room 110) rather than one of the outlying hotels. We keep joking that it’s kind of like finally getting to sit at the grown-up table at Thanksgiving dinner. We’ve also got some seminars in the Crowne Plaza and Indie Press Revolution will be selling our stuff in the dealer’s room.
MT: Where can we find out more about your company online?
SJ: Our website is www.hexgames.com and we’re also on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/QAGS2E), Twitter (http://twitter.com/qags), Google Plus (https://plus.google.com/u/0/b/117701429067699802824/117701429067699802824/about), and reddit (http://www.reddit.com/r/qags). Our games are available at DrivethruRPG, RPGNow, Indie Press Revolution, Your Games Now, and Paizo, as well as on our web site. Anyone who’s interested in M-Force can download the current playtest version of the rules at http://www.kickmonsterbutt.com.
MT: Anything else you’d like to share?
SJ: We’d like to thank the great artists who contributed to Hobomancer: Jeffrey Johnson (http://www.redherringillustration.com), Joshua Burnett (http://bernietheflumph.blogspot.com/), Juan Navarro (http://www.FWACATA.com), and Chris Newman (http://www.chrisnewmanart.com).
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