On November 1st, I begin my job as a designer on Magic: the Gathering.
This is, of course, immensely exciting, and I’m looking forward to working with other incredibly talented designers on a game that’s captured my imagination for 15 years. However, this time of joy and new beginnings is also a time of bittersweet parting, as it means that Phantom Knight Games will be ceasing operations indefinitely. I will no longer be publishing games or writing blog posts on my own for as long as I work for Wizards of the Coast, though I hope to keep the blog archives and print-on-demand games up.
There were a number of reasons I began Phantom Knight Games. Perhaps one of the largest was the influence of the game Sentinels of the Multiverse, which convinced me that designing board games was fun and within my abilities. (I write more about Sentinels and its influence on new designers here.) However, another large reason, and the one that kept me going despite the cost and trouble, was a burning internal need to create. I found in tabletop games what I wasn’t getting from playwriting: The ability to give myself fully to a creative pursuit without worrying about how hard it would be to get an audience to see my work. It nourished and fulfilled me throughout some of the hardest times of my life.
Without my work in the trenches at the most independent level of game design, I wouldn’t have developed what I needed to be a Magic designer. While of course I got better at making and playtesting games, I also gained a number of other things from the experience: A design philosophy based around excitement and emotional impact, a sense of confidence from people loving my work so much they’d pay for it, and, most of all, the burning conviction to keep honing my skills until they carried me into the sky and pierced the vault of Heaven.
While I am proud of the games I made, especially Stand Back, Citizen!, I always felt a sense of inadequacy in the back of my head. I’ve never been particularly good at marketing, and I knew that I had to either promote myself more and better – either to pitch to external publishers or launch a Kickstarter – or keep puttering around local cons, selling a few dozen games a year. At times, I felt afraid that this was all my work would ever amount to. Being chosen to work at one of the most prestigious tabletop game companies in the world on the basis of the skills I developed through making these games validates this work I did, and I finally feel without reservation that all the effort I poured into Phantom Knight Games on (k)nights and weekends was worth it.
To everyone who ever bought one of my games, playtested one of my prototypes, or read one of these blog posts: Thank you. I’m afraid I must go now, but I’ll carry your kindness in my heart for as long as I live.
Designer, Wizards of the Coast