Nightlight Interview – Mike Young

This week we interview Mike Young, creator of Code Monkey.

Mike Young

Welcome! Tell us a bit about yourself.

Hi there. My name is Mike Young. I’m a freelance game designer from Sterling, Virginia. That’s not too far from Washington DC.

What game or games have you had published?

Well, I’ve had a number of small live action roleplaying games (LARPs) published in Metagame Magazine which no longer exists. I also had one of my LARPs made into an online game by Skotos Inc. And I’m currently working with Soiree Publications on an e-Book version of The Book of LARP.

But you’re probably more interested in my card and board games. About 8 years ago, I had a small indie games company called Interactivities Ink. We put out three card/board games: Hamlet!, A Game in Five Acts; You Need Drew’s Truck; andIGOR: The Mad Scientist’s Lament.

Do you publish under your own design label?

I’m currently publishing card and board games through The Game Crafter. I have five games and a system for LARP up there. These include a second edition to Hamlet!;Code Monkey (based on the Jonathan Coulton song); and Vehicles, a short fast worker placement game. You can see all of them at

How long have you been designing games?

My earliest memories of designing games was when I was six years old and I built a tabletop miniature golf course out of tape and cardboard, and you used crab mallets as the clubs. I’ve been designing games my whole life. I’ve been designing them professionally since the early 90s.

How much time do you spend designing and playing games?

I’m working on games all the time. Well, I have a day job where I don’t work on games, but most nights and weekends you can find me tinkering with a game or playing one, or both at the same time.

What types of games do you enjoy playing?

I like all kinds of games. My favorite card/board games are the deep thinking Euros where there is a lot going on and you have to plan a few moves in advance. I’m not a big fan of games with a lot of randomness in them; I like to be able to plan my move while other people are taking their turns and it is tough to do that if the playing field is likely to change completely by the start of my turn.

What’s your favorite game other than one you’ve designed yourself?

I play the hell out of Agricola and Dominion. I won’t say I’m the best player in the world at those games, but I enjoy them a lot.

Of your own projects, which is your favorite and why?

The one I’m working on next. Currently that is Escape From Pirate Island, a cooperative adventure game that is only a few steps from being released. I’m waiting for the results from the blind playtesters (people who have played the game from the rulebook without my help in any way) and I need a little bit more art.

What keeps you motivated to design games?

I really enjoy the process of getting the game from my head to a playable state. I have used the term “relentlessly creative” to describe myself, and it does fit. I think at this point, I design games to get the ideas out of my head because I have so many ideas. Sometimes they pan out and sometimes they don’t, but once they are on paper, I can move on if I need to.

What advice would you give to aspiring game designers?

Now is the best time to self publish. Between sites like Board Game Geek, The Game Crafter, and even Kickstarter, self-publishing is more accessible than ever.

But don’t confuse that for it being easy. Publishing a game is a lot of work. You need to understand business. You need to know how to sell, how to manage a budget, and how to promote your game. Nobody else will do that for you. You will need to go to local and national conventions and get as many people to play your game as possible. You need to sell, sell, sell, all the time!

And finding a publisher, if you want to go that way, isn’t easy either. The big guys get new game submissions all the time, and the small guys rarely have the resources to publish a bunch of new games, especially from unknown authors. It’s tough to get your foot in the door, but perseverance is the key. Good luck!

Do you have any upcoming projects you’d like us to know about?

Well, Escape From Pirate Island will be released at The Game Crafter soon. After that, I have another cooperative game, Meteor, in the works, and a reprint of IGOR. They’ll both be through the Game Crafter as well. Oh and look for The Book of LARP next summer at Drive Through RPG.

Anything else you’d like to say?

Listen to your playtesters. If they give an idea, try to make it work. If they say something isn’t working, try to remove it even if it is your favorite thing about the game. And playtest. Playtest, playtest, playtest.

Art sells games. It’s a sad but true fact. Hire yourself a professional. But gameplay keeps ‘em coming back for more. And while you’re shelling out money for professional art, hire an editor to look over your rules and printed materials. You’ll be glad you did.

Do you have a Twitter account, Blog or Facebook page you’d like to share with your fans?

You can see my updates on Google+ (look for Secretly Mike Young) and I try to put up a free downloadable game every month at my website Thanks!

Well Mike, thank you for your time and we wish you the best of luck and success!

Code Monkey


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