"Innovation is not linear or straightforward"
An interview with Reiner Knizia, Author of My City (Conducted by Chanel Henkel from KOSMOS)
Questions about the My City:
Chanel: My City, nominated for the 2020 Game of the Year (Spiel des Jahres), is the first game for families and casual gamers alike to experience the extraordinary appeal of legacy games. This means that the gameplay changes and evolves over the course of the games. How did you get the idea to develop such a game for families?
Reiner: It is particularly important for me to make games accessible to as many people as possible. I love simple rules and I love giving players a lot of freedom to get involved in the game. The new and most interesting thing about a game is the people who play it. Legacy games that change from game to game are a big trend today. So it was somehow obvious to use my experience to create a simple, yet thrilling and exciting legacy game that many people can enjoy.
Did you develop the subject or game mechanics first?
That cannot be answered at all. Two approaches alternate when I develop new games. On the one hand, I discuss a lot with my fellow players and test players, and this brainstorming often leads to innovative ideas. On the other hand, I sit alone, close my eyes and look into foreign worlds, let themes, mechanisms and materials flow together playfully, play in the spirit, feel the emotions until finally, it clicks. Innovation is not linear or straightforward, so there is no clear order of what comes first.
Was there a moment when you realized that you had created something special with My City?
Yes, there were moments like this. The core of every game development is testing, i.e. playing and experimenting. My City consists of a sequence of 24 games, which are divided into eight chapters. Each game lasts about 20 minutes so that you can playfully spend a good hour together with a chapter. But after playtesting each chapter, players wanted to try the next chapter immediately, and then the next, and they didn't want to stop. We usually only play until about 10 p.m. in the evening, because the next morning everyone has to go back to work. But for My City, we always went past midnight and nobody got tired ...
How long did you work on developing the game before it hit the market?
This is the big question of when a game is really tested. Legacy games are a particular challenge here, because changing something in game number 8 may have an impact on game number 12, or you have to play differently in game number 5 to make the most of the changes in game 12. It gets pretty complex, so we spent many weekends playing long sequences to optimize the game dynamics. Overall, the development of My City took over 18 months. It should also be mentioned that the game was still a good year in the publishing house before a finished product was created.
Give us a hint without giving away too much of the game: what strategy do you recommend to players to win?
Hmm, it is important that the goal is to win. And you can do that in My City in a variety of ways. But in the end, it doesn't really matter who won after eight chapters and 24 games, because with a good game, all players win. My tip: Just enjoy the changing challenges of the game. As the saying goes: "The way is the goal." But of course, there is also a winner based on points.
My City will be available in almost twenty different countries by September of this year. How many of your games make it into international markets?
The games market has become a very international, global market. Developing a really good game is a huge investment of time and energy. Why would you limit your publication to local markets? My goal is to reach as many people as possible with my games. For this purpose, I have built up a worldwide network of publishing partners over the years. But of course, it is even better if a publisher like Kosmos has its own network of international contract partners, which makes distribution much easier. That's why Kosmos was my partner of choice for My City.
Can you imagine developing more chapters for My City?
Of course we already have exciting ideas on how to proceed. But they won't be revealed yet!
Questions about Reiner Knizia:
What fascinates you about board games?
For me, board games are the door to other people. Good games offer me a stage to spend a pleasant, stimulating time with other people.
How did you become a game author?
I’ve actually played board games for as long as I can remember. I made my first games at the age of ten. When I was teaching and doing research at the university, and when I was working in banking and IT, gaming was always with me. Eventually, I took the plunge to become a full-time game designer and never looked back. I live my dream.
Are you still playing for fun? If so, what are your favorite games?
Playing is always fun — well, if the prototypes don't work the way I imagined, sometimes it's frustrating. My favorite games are the ones I'm working on. After each test, the game is adjusted, and then of course I'm excited to see how the changes will work. Developing games is a long and unusual goal. If that's not fun for you, don't become a game author.
About the author:
Reiner Knizia is one of the world’s most successful and prolific game designers. More than 700 of his games and books have been published worldwide in over 50 languages with sales reaching many millions of copies. His creations have won numerous international awards – including five German Game Prizes, two German Game of the Year Awards, the German Education Game Award, four Austrian Game Awards, the Swiss Game Award, three French Grand Prix du Jouet, two Spanish Game of the Year Awards, the Italian Game of the Year Award, the Dutch Game of the Year Award, the Danish Game of the Year Award, the Swedish Game of the Year Award, three Finnish Game of the Year Awards, the Australian Game of the Year Award, and the Japan Board Game Prize.
Reiner Knizia is a master of simple game rules that create much fun and enjoyment for people of all ages.
Reiner Knizia has a Master of Science degree from Syracuse University (USA) and a PhD in Mathematics from Ulm University (Germany). After many years abroad, Reiner Knizia now lives in Munich, Germany.