Curt Covert

Making Stuff Up as I go… The Novels, Games and Works of Curt Covert

Archive for the tag “Curt Covert”

Making Games by Gaslight: Hurricanes and Game Design

Trusty Xacto in hand, I hand cut cards for a new game.

Like so many others, Hurricane Sandy has left me in the dark. Not that I’m complaining, others have it a lot worse than we do. One look at the photos from New York City or New Jersey is enough to have anyone count their blessings. Still, this is the third storm in two years to leave my home without power for more than a week at a time. Oh sure, I should have invested in a generator by now, but what were the odds we’d have another storm of the century so soon? Right? Pretty good, as it turns out.

Anywho, all of this leaves me with an interesting challenge this week, designing and assembling prototypes of new game designs by gaslight. Yep. As generators were impossible to come by (I’d missed a shot at the last Home Depot had by 45 seconds), I hunted down two gas hurricane lamps, which I thought would be better than the candles we used last year. I have to say I’m greatly pleased… less mess and more light.

The game, in progress, in the dark.

As I crouch over the sample cards I’ve glued back to front, with my coat fending off the cold and my xacto knife poised for yet another cut, I can’t help but feel a touch of Dickens about me. Scrooge in the next room and me, wishing I had another coal to warm my hands, squinting in the dim light for the line to draw the razor across. It is slow going, but going well. Hand-assembling a game is fun, but is a lot of work.

Why bother? Well, this weekend is a grand opportunity to playtest a number of new designs, a whole weekend dedicated to bringing game designers and players, eager to try something newer than new, together. It’s a convention in Morristown, NJ, called Metatopia. It’s the second year running and is filled with panel discussions for fledgling designers, some of which I will be lending my experience to, and play testing from 9am to 4am the next day (for a few die-hards), before hitting it again on Sunday. I think I have almost every minute of that time scheduled – and valuable time it is. If you are local and have a board game you need playtested, there is no better venue. I heartily recommend it.

We are trotting out five new game designs, two slated for my own company, Smirk and Dagger Games, and three others that I will be attempting to license to larger game companies. I’ve done such a good job at building my own brand of ‘stab-your-friend-in-the-back’ games that some designs just don’t fit into my company’s line, nor are they tolerated by my fans, who greatly love poking each other with sticks. What can I say? I’ve trained them well.

Two of the designs are party games, which I will be pitching to companies like Hasbro, Buffalo Games, & Endless Games, to name a few, in two weeks in Chicago. Normally, big game companies do not look at unsolicited designs from unrecognized inventors without an agent (and agents basically take half of your earnings for having gotten your design an audience). But once a year, just before Thanksgiving, Chicago plays host to an amazing opportunity for inventors.

The Chicago Toy & Game Fair (CHITAG, November 17 -18) is held at Chicago’s Navy Pier, where the public can come out to preview, play and purchase hot new Toys and Games from around the world, and meet the inventors who created them. During the weekend, there is a Young Inventor’s Challenge, where kid’s toy and game designs are showcased. Over 150 kids entered last year from across the country and overseas. Besides great prizes, toy and game industry representatives provide advice, recognition and encouragement to dream big and discover the possibilities of play! Last year, one of the winners got licensed by a major toy company.

More important for adult designers are the two days before. T&GCon is the toy industry’s preeminent, most comprehensive conference available to toy and game inventors and seasoned industry professionals. Since 2006, T&GCon has brought together the nation’s leading toy and game industry experts and the independent inventing community for two days of invaluable networking and educational opportunities. If you’ve ever dreamed of getting a toy or game seen by a company – or better yet, produced, this is the place to be. I attended their first con ten years ago and a number since then – and learned so much it is incredible. Round table discussions, one – on – one chats with key decision makers, who can help guide you or potentially bring your designs back for further review, networking… plus an all around great time with some fabulously creative people.

And after a number of years attending T&G, Toy Fair, etc and having the good fortune to have licensed my 3-D Outdoor Chalk line to Crayola, the week opens up another unique opportunity. I-Spi, the International Summit for Professional Inventors, layers on top of T&Gcon with special events for recognized inventors in the community. Not only will we all get to hear the wishlists from the major toy and game companies and attend advanced workshops, but we’ll get some face time to pitch ideas too.

I can’t wait to trot out my new babies. Who knows, maybe next year you’ll see one of them on shelves for the Holidays. And that is why I am plugging away, working by gaslight, praying for the power to come back on.

Wish me luck – on either front!


Why I Can’t Wear Sunglasses. A Writer’s Epiphany.

I won’t wear sunglasses. Never could. I’m just not cool enough.

It’s funny how certain items and words become layered with meanings in the collective conscious. And for one reason or another, I’ve always associated wearing sunglasses with motorcycles, celebrities and rock stars. Trying on a pair left me feeling like a poser. Sure, it’s ridiculous. I’m well aware. But I’ve just never felt comfortable in them.

Honestly, I’ve always felt the same twinge when describing myself as a writer. Not that I don’t qualify. I write all the time. I even get paid for it. It’s just that when I think of a WRITER, my mind immediately leaps to Hemingway, Emily Dickenson, Kafka… you know, Writers.

You want to have fun? Do a web search for images of ‘writers.’ Never mind; I’ll save you the time. This is what you’ll find…

Half-crazed madmen. Suffering infuses their every word. Writing is pain, an obligation, a compulsion that tears at them. They chain-smoke their way through writer’s block, struggle with the weight of the world on their shoulders… you know, Writers.

A lot of the writers I’ve known have talked about it in the same way. Writing was a struggle. It was emotionally draining on them. All I could think of in response was, Sounds awful. Why the hell would anyone want to be a writer?

Yet, here I am, writing away and having a blast. I look forward to it. As I write, it is almost as though I’m reading the book for the first time. The characters surprise me. The story keeps charging forward, twisting and turning in ways I hadn’t expected. I’m just trying to keep up half the time. I set the stage, but the characters decide what happens and shape the events. They certainly seem to know the story better than I do, so I just let them go. It’s fun.

Clearly, I am doing it wrong. I’m just not this dude.

All of which makes calling myself a writer feel like wearing an ill-fitting shoe. Not only does it pinch my toes, it looks ridiculously out of place on my foot.

But then, something interesting happened the other night. I had just spent two hours on the hot seat, having my writing group provide feedback on my first draft, and had jumped into a story about how I first learned to lucid dream as a kid. As I finished, one of the women in the group was looking at me funny. I couldn’t quite read her expression. She looked stunned, with a hint of annoyance, yet still warm and friendly. “My God. Do you even hear yourself?” she said. “The sentences just fall out of you fully formed.”

I didn’t know how to react, still unsure of where she was headed with the comment. But what she said next led me to an epiphany as I replayed it in my mind going home. She said I was a natural storyteller and did not wonder that it showed in my writing.


Now that brings up much different imagery, doesn’t it?

Google thinks so, too.

What a pleasant looking fellow. This is a guy who enjoys what he does. He’s an entertainer. He’s not trying to create art; he’s trying to engage an audience, artfully.

So why do the two words connote such disparate things in our minds? Is the oral tradition and performance of a story so different than the authoring of the story? Don’t you have to be a storyteller in setting the words down in the first place? Yeah, of course you do.

Perhaps, then, it is simply an attitude. I often hear people say they are working on a book. In college, people talk about wanting to become writers. Writers are constantly at work on their craft and measure themselves by those who have distinguished themselves as literary giants.

Well sure, we all want to be better writers. It’s just the word perhaps, the vision that seems so out of whack. But what if one replaced the desire to be a writer with the desire to tell a story? To not work on a book, but delight in telling a tale? It just sounds like more fun. And maybe, that’s the only difference.

Certainly, the thought made a difference for me. Driving home, I realized how right Katie was. For people who know me, you know that you can seldom strike up a conversation with me without being subjected to a story. Sorry. I can’t seem to help it. But yeah, storyteller pretty aptly describes how I see my role. Perhaps that’s how I fit into the writer’s world.

Though… I suppose I could get used to the term ‘Author’ pretty easily, should I be so fortunate. For the word author conjures up a whole new vision in your head, a person who has had their story published, having been recognized for their own unique voice. And that is a title anyone can wear with pride.

Even for a guy who can’t wear sunglasses.

Making Stuff Up

There is very little in the world as satisfying as the act of creation.  That said, it sounds a lot less pompous when you simply talk about how much fun it is to make stuff up. Now, I’m not talking about just coming up with an idea, which is pretty amazing to begin with, but rather the process of taking that idea and bringing it to life. To create something unique that without your passion and dedication would not otherwise exist. When you’ve finished, you can look at it with as much pride as you can muster and say, “I did that.”

And then it gets even better. Once it exists, it can be shared – and therein lies the true joy. To share your creation with others and see your passion reflected back by someone who appreciates your work… well, there is simply no feeling on the Earth like it. It’s as powerful as love and equally addictive. It propels you forward into your next project.

This blog is about that passion. It’s about the things I create and the joy that comes with sharing them.

So thanks for visiting and inspiring my next adventure.


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