Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Major Fun!

How many people out there can say they've won a "Major Fun" Award?

Let me step back a minute - and introduce a buddy of mine, John Forte. This might sound like a gushing review of John and his work, but honestly, he's just a talented dude I know, and I felt like writing about him. 

No, I'm not the president of the John Forte Fan club. 

 I met John a little over a year ago, when he called my shop and asked if I could work on a small woodworking project for his company, Game Creations LLC. After he stopped in to speak to me about it - I realized three things. 

First, he's a really bright, charismatic guy. The kind of guy you want to have a beer with; you know he's got a lot of good stories to share. (He told me a couple of doozies last night, and we weren't even drinking.)

Second - with a little woodworking knowledge and some tool training, he wouldn't need to hire me to do his woodworking. He could do it himself. 

And third - he's one of the many really interesting people I've met here in Las Vegas. 

I mean that - I could start a new blog and feature all of the cool people I've met here; I don't think I'd run out of people to write about. I mean, I've met magicians and authors, madams and animal trainers, poker stars and gold barons, acrobats and now... a game designer. His story is a fascinating one. 

Like many great ideas - John's first game came to him slowly, while he was on a cross country motorcycle trip with his wife. The 6,700 mile trip gave him a lot of time to think and create, and by the time he was back home - he began designing the game pieces, and working out the details of the game.  

As he related to me - he was truly a rookie at this point in game designing. Through hours of hard work and some luck (he happened to have a neighbors who owned one of the largest game store chains in the country) - John refined the game, and jumped into the gaming world.

It took a while - his first deal to license a game fell through, but his diligence paid off, and the next thing he knew - he had two companies negotiating for the same game!

Now - why am I writing about him in this woodworking blog? 

John has an interesting technique for designing a game, one that involves making game piece prototypes that he experiments with, until everything is refined and just where he wants them. This mostly means cutting dozens of small wooden parts for his games in development. 

In the beginning, he hired me to cut some of his game pieces, but now that he's taken a few woodworking classes, he's making his own pieces and parts. Here he is with the first thing he ever made - and a shellshocked look of "I can't believe I made this!" on his face. 

John's game prototypes take up a lot of space in his office, with game pieces and parts that require organization. When I asked him if I could do a blog post about him and his work, he wrote this:

How someone can have the patience to take a total beginner, make them feel like a craftsman in 6 weeks is amazing – Jamie's energy is contagious. Enough so that I signed up for the intermediate class and am currently enrolled in a bookcase class – I’m actually making a roll-a-bout mail slotted type case that’ll hold 54 prototypes with 4 drawers for various game pieces. When I asked her if my design was something I could do she said without hesitation  “absolutely”. That’s what I call confidence!

Here's a sketch of what John' is building in the Bookcase class - it might not look like much, scribbled on a piece of paper, but for what he needs - it's perfect. 

For the time being, John's games can be bought through Fat Brain's website and various local game stores. In the short time that he's been involved in the game world, John has won some major awards, including the Mensa Select 2012 award for his game, Mine Shift. 

Scramblitz, a pattern game with a flip side, has also won some awards - The Major Fun award, Tilliwigs Top Fun award and Parents Choice award. (Say that three times fast.) 

CrazyCakes has just come out, so it'll be interesting to see what sort of awards it will attract. Another game due to come out in a few months is iTrax, through a company called Learning Resources. 

All of John's games are throughly tested by his executive testing committee (i.e. - his daughter) and meet her full approval. 

So - what's in store for Game Creations in 2013? John has a lot of irons in the fire, and some interesting ideas he's bouncing around, including possibly opening a local  game store, and of course - designing more games. He's met other game inventors who have 10, 20, 40, or 100 games currently licensed and being produced, so that's something he's thinking about shooting for - and knowing him, I don't have any doubt he could accomplish that. 

FOr now, John's games can be bought through Fat Brain's website, or and various local game stores. In the short time that he's been involved in the game world, John has won some major awards, including the Mensa Select 2012 award for his game, Mine Shift.

By the way, John mentioned that if anyone has any questions about the game business, or how to go about it, he'd be happy to share what he knows. Not too many people are that generous with their knowledge, which once again, that shows the type of quality person he is. 

OK, I'll jump off the "I'm a fan of John's work" soapbox and head to the woodshop, but I just thought the kind of work he does deserves a little recognition.  If you feel like chatting him up about games, or finding out more about him and his games, he can be reached at his website - 


Vegas Lupe said...

John is a GENIUS!

Toby Crane said...

I like your blog. I am surprised you have not received a little more attraction for these posts. I know that lumber is probably not the biggest subject people use on the internet.