10 Questions

Each month in the Inventor Newsletter I ask 10 Questions of an established inventor or game company. The results are posted below and will be updated monthly.

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James Ernest, Cheapass Games (Jun '08)
Q - # of years in the industry, # of years as a toy & game inventor?  

A - Started working freelance for Wizards of the Coast in 1993. Began designing CCGs that same year. Started Cheapass Games in 1996.

Q - About how many toys & games have you had published? Which is/are your favorite(s)?
A - Depending on how you count, about 120 original games (and many more if you count expansions and variants).   My favorite to play and teach is Diceland, though I'm also fond of Gloria Mundi, Pirates of the Spanish Main, Kill Doctor Lucky, Agora, and many of the Cheapass titles.

Q - Favorite toy or game that is not yours?
A - By hours played / played with, the game is poker, and the toy is Lego.

Q - What did you do before this? And how did you make the transition?
A - I was a technical writer, self-published book author, graphic designer, and professional juggler. I make transitions all the time.

Q - In a typical year... how many toy & game ideas do you prototype? how many presentations do you make? how many get licensed?
A - Years are different now that I work at Microsoft. From 1996 to 2006 I prototyped about 30 new game products every year, releasing or licensing about 12. Now I work on fewer projects, about 8 per year and releasing about 4.

Q - What is your process for getting toys & games seen?
A - I have a business partner, Mike Selinker, who shows my inventions and others to game companies, via email, at trade shows, or in person. I have also approached game companies for freelance work with no game in mind, with a bit of success.

Q - What is your favorite thing about the game/toy industry? Least favorite?
A - Creating games is fun! We make wonderful, colorful products that are entertaining and educational, inexpensive, and environmentally inoffensive. I meet lots of friendly, smart, creative people in the hobby gaming business. Sometimes I wish there were more money in it, but then it might become more like all those other industries where there is a lot of money.

Q - Do you see any current trends in the industry?
A - Not from my current vantage point. I could tell you what's going on in casual gaming on the software side, but I'm a bit out of touch with the trends in toy / game.

Q - What one thing that you know now, do you wish you had known when you were starting out?
A - Industry experts aren't always right.

Q - If you were to give beginning inventors one bit of advice, what would it be?
A - Write the game you want to play.


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