Our wonderful media partners at Inkygoodness are back again for another year, and they had the pleasure of sitting down to talk to Hub Games co-founder Anita Murphy (formerly The Creativity Hub) about their rebrand, passion for gaming and future plans, ahead of their appearance at OFFSET Dublin 2018.
How did The Creativity Hub/Hub Games begin? Where did the idea for a company giving gaming a “HEART” come from?
Rory and I began our business as The Creativity Hub in 2006. We were a creativity training company, offering creative problem solving workshops to organisations big and small.
One of the tools we created for these workshops became a game called Rory’s Story Cubes. This game went on to sell 7 million sets in 50 countries. On our journey with Rory’s Story Cubes and later The Extraordinaires Design Studio, we came to appreciate the power that play has to bring people together and to explore narrative and creativity.
In May 2017, we sold the Rory’s Story Cubes brand to French game distributor Asmodee Studios. Now, in January 2018, we have just renamed the company Hub Games. We want to focus on creating new games for the indie, tabletop games market. We say our games have ‘heart’ because they offer more than simply entertainment. Our games will always have something more beneath the surface, should you choose to delve deeper. We want our games to foster discussion around the table, self-expression, and reflection long after the game is played. The best gaming experiences, win or lose are when there is a good story to tell, like a story about pulling off the perfect combo, just in the nick of time.
We released our two latest games in October of last year; Blank and Untold: Adventures Await. Both have been incredibly well received by critics and gamers alike.
Can you elaborate further upon the ethos beyond The Creativity Hub / Hub Games? Which gamers are most important to you and why?
When we first started The Creativity Hub, we wanted to foster imagination, empathy and self-esteem in people, through showing them they are more creative than they think they are.
Moving on to becoming Hub Games, we are focusing more on gameplay. Games are simulations, they can help us tell stories, experience life from entirely different perspectives and make us think about the world in new ways. They have the potential to help us grow as players.
We don’t want to make games just to put products on shelves, we want to make games that have a reason to exist in the world. Our games will always foster discussion around the table, they will have an element of self-expression, and most importantly, they will invite reflection, after the game is played.
We are creative people and if we look at games as an art form, then cards, board and tokens are the materials we use but ‘PLAY’ is our artistic medium.
We call our fans ‘true gamers’ because they like playing games of all kinds and they are willing to play things outside their traditional comfort zone. Some games we have in the pipeline have themes and narratives not seen in tabletop games before now. As well as our gaming fans, we hope these themes will attract people outside the hobby.
Can you talk us through how the seed of an idea for a game, flourishes into a final “product”; as such a creative team you must have hundreds of ideas, what’s your editing process?
We have no shortage of ideas for games. The art and science is distilling it into a great gameplay experience. We always start with the question “Why should this game exist?” Most game designers design the mechanic first and then fit a theme on top. We tend to explore the theme first and then explore the mechanics that work with the narrative. Anyone in the company can suggest ideas to explore and we also take game submissions from external game designers.
The final edit to green light an idea is that our team of diverse game players have to enjoy it. All must agree that it has ‘heart’, something special beyond mechanic and theme that truly makes it a Hub Games release.
If you were stranded on a desert island, with four of your best mates, and only one of your games, which one would it be and why?
If only one game could be brought along it would have to be Untold: Adventures Await, because the gameplay is endless. Inspired by your favourite TV shows, Untold: Adventures Await is a pick-up- and-play, co-operative storytelling game where you play the heroes in your own adventure series. The narrative can be set anywhere in space and time and is so different each time you play.
The world of analogue gaming appears to be facing fierce competition from digital gaming. How do you see the future of analogue gaming changing, in order to stay relevant and competitive?
I would disagree about the competition, in fact I think there is a huge crossover with the video game audiences. Gaming is part of everyday life now and game designers borrow mechanics and learn from each other .
Analogue or tabletop gaming (by which I mean board games, card games, dice game, tile games, role playing games and miniature war games) has really grown in recent years. Traditionally Germany has been the biggest market. Post World War II, playing games as a family became a popular pastime and the strategic ‘Eurogame’ developed here. In the past decade, we have seen a huge growth in the range and quality of games. We see more couples playing games together and the age demographics are widening.
Many Game cafes have opened as ‘in real life’ social venues. The social aspect is what the ‘analogue’ game can do better than even the most social multiplayer online game. You can see the whites of people’s eyes!
Where do you aspire to position Hub Games over the next few years? Where do you hope to be both as a company and in terms of your continued influence and impact on gamers?
We believe that tabletop gaming is at a really exciting time in its evolution. We compare it to the comic book industry in the 1980s. Before then, comics were broadly viewed as children’s entertainment. Then the graphic novel emerged exploring more complex themes and human conditions, think of the impact of Art Spiegelman’s Maus, for example. We want Hub Games to be remembered as a part of this exciting time in gaming history.
We also want to support new designers. We support a project in Uganda, called Game Changers, which introduces games to young people as a means of personal development and skill learning. These young people are now pitching their own game ideas, ideas from their unique perspective and view of the world. I would love to be looking back in thirty years and physically holding games that we published from designers like these young people.
As one of the speakers at this year’s OFFSET Dublin we’d love to hear your thoughts on the conference; it’s not the first time you’ve spoken at one of their events so what makes it special for you?
We love OFFSET. In 2013, we launched The Extraordinaires Design Studio (a design-thinking game) at the Dublin event. We spoke at Offset Sheffield in 2016 too. It’s an extremely visual and thought provoking festival. For me personally, I get a lot of inspiration hearing about the creative journeys of the speakers, speakers at the top of their game.
Can you give us any previews of projects you’re currently working on? Any planned releases for 2018?
We are working on a heart-felt game called ‘Holding on: The Troubled Life of Billy Kerr’, which will be released later in 2018. This game started with the theme of Alzheimers and memory loss, something personally close to us at the moment. Like all creative journeys, it has evolved and is now the exploration of the memories of an older person and the extraordinary things that can happen in an ordinary life. In this game, the players work together to piece together the memories of a dying man. It is a co-operative, worker-placement game with a poignant, interactive narrative.
Here is the full interview at Inkygoodness – : http://inkygoodness.com/features/offset-dublin-speaker-hub-games/