Do you ever get the feeling that your hobby is getting a little out of control? That’s what happened to Matt when he realized he collected over 250 board games in the span of a year. He doesn’t apologize for it though! In our interview, Matt talks about how gaming saved his life, and how looking at his collection informs how games have changed through the years.
RP: Tell us a little about yourself and what got you into the gaming hobby.
MM: Hi, my name is Matt, I’m a professional escape room designer, and I am the general manager of Dare 2 Escape in Kissimmee, Florida.
I had an amazing introduction into board games even when I was little, my mom and I collected different Monopolyand Trivial Pursuits. It wasn’t until I was introduced to Pandemicthat I realized that board game design is an art form and each game offers unique mechanics that require attention to detail and incredible imagination to come up with. I was fascinated that literally each game offered something new. For the more serious board gaming, I’ve only been collecting this past year. I’ve played games in the past with various groups, but I didn’t consider it a collecting hobby until a year ago.
RP: How many games do you have in your collection now? Do you have any favorites?
MM: I currently own to date over 250 games that I’ve collected over the past 12 months. Some of my favorites include Wingspan, Dinosaur Island, Potion Explosion, Mansions of Madness, and Chronicles of Crime. Interestingly enough since I’ve only been collecting over the past year my collection is a new representation of what games have become, I do own the likes of Twilight Struggle, Twilight Imperium, Claustrophobia, etc. but mainly my collection consists of games from the last 5 years.
RP: How do you think games have changed when you look at your recent games versus games that have been released in the past 5 years?
MM: Personally, from what I’ve seen, its quality and inclusiveness. Game mechanics and gameplay are timeless, I mean Catan has stood the test of time. But games I’ve collected that released 5 years ago typically include strictly white cardboard players, or heterosexual couples. Now you’re starting to see a more diverse character list and games. Like Fog of Love created alternate boxes featuring same sex couples on the cover. For me in the queer community, visibility and representation is so important and it’s really cool to see the inclusion in a community I’ve wanted to be a part of.
As for quality, games are starting to think about what happens even after the game, and the care and upkeep it takes to maintain the quality of these games. Chronicles of Crime had an insert that was preemptively made to include the expansions. I loved that in Wingspan on the side of the box it tells you how to organize the pieces to make it work.
RP: Are there any specific types of games you look to play or collect?
MM: My collection covers a wide range of types of games, but I must say some of my favorite have been worker placements, dice drafting, and deduction. I have to say between my favorites and my partner’s favorites, our collection includes nearly every type of game mechanic out there. I am a completionist so even if I haven’t played some of my games, I’m always looking towards purchasing the expansions. An amateur mistake I know. *laughs*
RP: As someone who manages an Escape Room, what do you think of the Escape Room style game? Do you own any?
MM: I’m obsessed with Escape Room stand-alone card games. Sometimes in Escape Rooms the grandiose nature of the rooms are overwhelming, but the isolated nature of the table tops give that immersive puzzle-solving feel without feeling that immense pressure of the countdown. I like the Escape Room games because they are contained to the table.
My absolute favorite is Escape Tales; the brilliant weave of storytelling and gameplay is exactly what I’d expect from an ER-style game. Sometimes with escape rooms we forget to tell a story, so the game doesn’t resonate with the players and is often times forgotten. I was pleasantly surprised with the Escape Talesseries and how captivated I was with the narrative. I enjoy the EXIT and Unlock series, but Escape Tales took it one step further for me.
RP: Do you consider gamer an integral part of your identity?
MM: For me, calling myself a “gamer” is integral to my identity. Being openly gay in a community that is accepting, but the visibility isn’t as clear can be difficult at times. Are you accepted at that D&D table? Is this board game store LGBTQ friendly? These questions almost always have a positive answer, but in 2019 you just never know.
RP: How do you balance gaming with your real life?
MM: This is something as a new gamer, I wish I had the answer to. It always seems like I’ve purchased more games than I’ve played. I keep it constant to once a week; we play something new but if life happens, first and foremost we handle that and game night takes a back seat. I also find that if we don’t HAVE to play each week, there is less pressure to get through our collection of games, thus making each experience more organic and enjoyable.
RP: What is the relationship between gaming and your mental health?
MM: Gaming for me has saved my life. I was constantly bullied as a kid and I remember not having many friends. I would sit in my room and create new D&D characters, but never have anyone to play with. When I found the board gamer community (mostly online) I learned that there was an entire community of people who, even if we just talk about our favorite worker placements or dice drafting games, makes this world seem a little less alone. It’s actually why a lot of times my gaming group only plays cooperative games.
RP: What are some games you bust out for someone who is new to gaming?
MM: For gateway games I choose things like Charterstone, or even Wingspan for an engine builder. Pandemic is a fantastic gateway game too! But sometimes, because I’m still so new we try games together! My philosophy is if a game can’t be enjoyed by a newcomer then is it really worth playing? What’s the purpose of the market if not to attract a new audience?
How many games are in your gaming collection? How long did it take to get that big? Let us know in the comments!