It’s been a while since we’ve given you a peek inside the brain of someone who devotes much of their energy into spreading the word about tabletop gaming. This week, meet Cyrus Kirby, Editor-in-Chief of FatherGeek.com. Father Geek is a web site dedicated to any and all adult role models who teach children important life lessons through their geeky passion and hobbies by way of play.
Cyrus and his three little “geeks” have played and reviewed lots of our games, so we were happy to catch up with him and get an inside look at what goes on in the life of a gaming geek dad.
1. What inspired you to create the Father Geek website?
Father Geek serves two purposes. First, it provides me a creative outlet to talk about games and why I love them. Like so many geeks, I derive a great deal of personal enjoyment sharing what I am excited about and getting others to get excited with me. Second, it serves as a historic record of the games I play with my family and friends, the accomplishments of my little geeks, and the many pitfalls and triumphs of parenting. But the single greatest source of inspiration is my wife and my three children who make it all possible and worth doing.
2. Can you describe what goes into picking a game and writing a review?
Father Geek reviews games with three specific test groups. These are Child Geeks (kids from ages 2-years-old to 18-years-old), Parent Geeks (parents and adults who range from “gamers” to “non-gamers”), and Gamer Geeks (the elitists who play games all the time, know their stuff, and feel comfortable learning new games that are challenging). These three test groups provide Father Geek the opportunity to review games meant for the youngest of family members to the most seasoned of game veterans.
We attempt to test each game with each group at least 3 times and never less than 2 times (where applicable). This ensures that the games are thoughtfully played and fairly reviewed. Some of our most elitist of gamers have found a great deal of joy playing games meant for little geeks and we have seen our little geeks learn and play games well out of their supposed reach. If it’s a game, we’ll play it. It is our love of playing games and the gaming hobby that drives us.
3. What are some challenges you face running a gaming site?
There are two main challenges. The first is the time it takes to keep a gaming site “alive”. If you let your web site go stale or only update it occasionally, you’ll lose your audience. Luckily, Father Geek has more than one writer which means the volume of content we can publish, and our growing body of work, keeps Father Geek active. Which brings me to the second challenge. I have been told a number of times that Father Geek cannot be taken seriously as a review site because it is not negative enough. I personally find this to be absurd and actively engaged in a healthy debate anyone who suggests that a “legit reviewer” must be negative. My argument goes something like this:
The difference between a review and an opinion is objectivity. Anyone can sit down and tell you why they did or did not like a game. A review should be objective, highlight what a game does, what it is comprised of, and how others found the game to be played. This is an objective stance that allows the reader to obtain an unclouded and impartial view of what is being discussed. The challenge is writing in-between these two extremes. Our goal is to inform and share, not persuade or pontificate. We hope our readers walk away with an unbiased perspective of a game which will help them decide if the game is right for them, eagerly suggest they read other reviews to get a second opinion (we are not experts, after all), and share their own thoughts.
4. Why do you think playing card, board and dice games is important, as opposed to video games, and how is the tabletop gaming world different from the video gaming world?
It allows a group of people to sit down at the table and share a common experience. The games provide a healthy and fun medium in which the players can learn about others and themselves. They also serve as an excellent tool to strengthen an individual’s social, emotional, and cognitive skills (what we commonly referred to on Father Geek as the “geek skills”).
Playing tabletop games will always be more social than video games, in my opinion. This does not make them superior, however. I have played many, many hours of video games and still enjoy them, but play them much less nowadays. I prefer and seek out the personal connection and social interaction of the gaming table with my family and friends. You can play with others with video games, either on the same couch or through online play, but I have found that video games tend to play the player rather than allowing the player to fully explore and strengthen their social, cognitive, and emotional skills.
5. Do you attend gaming conventions, and are there any upcoming events you’ll be at?
I attend Gen Con as often as I can. I’ll be one of the many lucky geeks at Gen Con 2012 and cannot wait! Look for a bald guy playing games with a silly grin on his face – easy to spot. I also started attending Con of the North in St. Paul, MN, which is a lot of fun and all about playing games with friends I do not often get to see. I organize an open weekly gaming get-together with some excellent friends and attend other geek gatherings around the Southern Minnesota area. When my little geeks get older, and if they are as interested in gaming as I am, I plan to attend more conventions, making the gaming hobby into a true family event.
6. What are your top five favorite games that are on the market? Do you have favorite Gamewright games?
This is a surprisingly hard question to answer. The level of enjoyment I get out of a game is more dependent on the people I play with versus the game itself. Based on this, my current Top Five Games that are still on the market today are (and not listed in any particular order): Aquädukt (2005), Castle Panic (2009), Dominion (2008), Last Night on Earth: The Zombie Game (2007), Merchants & Marauders (2010).
Of the many Gamewright games I currently have, the current favorites are:
City Square Off – one of the better 2-player games available today that really challenge a player’s visuospatial skills.
FlipOut – a unique twist on card set collecting and hand management, this game is almost always asked for when we have friends over for dinner.
GUBS – a light but very active card game that pits player against player as they attempt to out maneuver and out play their opponent.
Knock Your Blocks Off – an excellent build-n-bash game that is one part race, one part puzzle, and one part hand/eye coordination.
Who Would Win – a party game for those who have the gift of gab and like to make a good argument, this game is always providing laughs, a head scratches, and happy memories.
7. Have you ever attempted to invent a game?
To date, I have invented no less than 17 games. All of which, I might add, are half-baked and are in desperate need of attention. Perhaps one day I will be able to get a game complete enough to take it to the next level or be fortunate enough to work with a game designer, but I am in no rush. There are many wonderful games to play and I know many talented game designers and publishers who do an outstanding job already.
8. What do you do outside of Father Geek?
When I am not at home with my family, I am working in an office with a particularly boring view of a parking lot. I spend most of my day answering emails, architecting processes solutions and improvements, and attending way too many meetings. I am also a Cubmaster for my local Cub Scouts, and maintain an active gaming group (which also doubles up as the Father Geek test groups). When asked, I join various podcasts, but I’ll be the first to say that my voice sounds funny when it is recorded. Occasionally, I sleep, mow the lawn, but always make the time to play with my kids. All in all, a very busy and fulfilling life. My wife says that by busy schedule keeps me out of trouble, but let’s be honest. I simply don’t have the time to find trouble, let alone get into it.