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Designer Corner

Q&A w/ Gene Billingsley

CEO of GMT Games


Q: What are some of the biggest challenges to running a games company?

A: I think the biggest challenge is continuing to build and lead a dedicated, capable, innovative team of designers, artists, developers, marketing, customer support, and accounting professionals. And to collaborate with that team to create products that our customers want to play and online tools that they want to engage with. Finally, to be able to do all that in a world and business environment that is ever-changing, where chaos is the norm more often than we'd like - and to be nimble and responsive enough as an organization to continually "meet the moment" and continue to provide quality products and superior service within that evolving, chaotic market space.

Q: What is it like working with some of the most talented game designers in the board game industry? 

A: Well, if they were in the room with me, my answer (because they're my friends and I like to mess with them!) would be that it's like herding cats; a constant goat-rope; an absolute circus where the animals get to run things and I'm a circus master with no whip or chair!


Ok, now that I've had my fun (and no doubt earned a few emails and phone calls full of choice words from my designer friends!), here's the true answer:


On the product side, it's like I get to be the kid in the candy store. I get to work with all these amazing designers who create state-of-the-art designs that are varied in composition and compelling and immersive to play. The only challenge to making this part of things my "dream job" is just getting enough hours in the day to play all the cool games that these designers create! 


On the personal side, "talented designers" doesn't even begin to convey the depth of these people as individuals. They are of course all unique, and getting to know them as people over the years, with their strength of character, intellectual prowess and curiosity, deep love of family and friends, kindness to others, and commitment to growing in their craft continues to bless and inspire me. Even if I'd never been able to create a single new product with any of these designers, just getting to have the experience of being their friend would have been a big "win" for me.

Q: Are there any games that you’re currently playing/excited to start playing?

A: I'm currently playing Imperial Struggle, a game whose puzzles and strategic depth will probably delight and befuddle me for years. I'm also starting to dabble with Versailles 1919, another game with such a myriad of strategies that will keep me coming back to it over time. Then there's digital Labyrinth. With the digital format allowing quick completion of games, now I'm hoping to finally be able to play that one - and its expansions - enough times to get good at it! And I'm also playtesting a very cool game with a "revolution" theme that will probably hit our P500 list sometime in 2021.

Q: What is your biggest plan you’re looking forward to post corona virus?

A: Vacations! Like so many others during this past six months or so, we've had to postpone family vacations. Mary and I have postponed our yearly anniversary trip, and I can't wait to go explore a new region with her when we get a chance. And then there's our family Hawaii trip in honor of our daughter-in-law, Elise, who graduated with her nursing degree this past May. She loves to go to Hawaii with us, so one of her graduation presents is a family Hawaii trip. So we're all looking forward to a time when we can once again rent a big house on the beach for all of us, cook together, snorkel, play frisbee or throw the football out past the surf break, eat lots of garlic shrimp and get shave ice every afternoon, and just relax together as a family.

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