The Best Questions I’ve Been Asked This Week

Hay-on-WyeThis week I was selected to be the “Geek of the Week” on a website called Board Game Geek. If you’re not familiar with board games, BGG is the most popular website in the world devoted solely to tabletop games. I was really honored to be selected as the Geek of the Week.

When you’re the Geek of the Week, anyone on the website can ask you any question in the public forum, and you’re supposed to answer as honestly and candidly as possible. I love a good question, so I’ve gone through the forum and picked out some of my favorite questions and how I answered them. For the purpose of this post, I’ve mostly selected questions that aren’t about board games (only about 33% of the questions are in that category).

What is the best city in the world and why?

It’s a close call between Hay-on-Wye in Wales and Kyoto, Japan. Hay-on-Wye is a ridiculously awesome little town tucked away in the foothills of Wales. It features the most bookstores per capita of any town or city in the world. If I ever wanted to get lost in books, the smell of wood fires, and the accents of Welsh girls for a week, I would go back to Hay-on-Wye. As for Kyoto, I lived there for 9 months and had the best year of my life. It features a beautiful mix of new Japan and old Japan, often in close proximity to one another. And it’s almost completely flat, making it perfect for bike riding, something I care little about in America, but it just makes sense in Japan.

What was the worst customer experience you had whilst working at a restaurant?

Ah, I remember it well. I was serving a middle-aged couple. I got their drinks, took their order…and then the kitchen stalled out. Their order was taking much longer than it should have. I didn’t like to leave guests stranded, so I kept checking in on the couple just to update them and make sure they had plenty of drinks and bread. I was particularly worried because the couple really did not seem happy. They weren’t talking at all. I thought maybe they were going through a rough patch, and the food delay wasn’t helping.

So finally the chef took the order, and I ran over to the table to tell them the good news. Before I could say anything, the man growled at me, “Come here!” I leaned in, and he said, “Can’t you see that we’re trying to have a f–king conversation?”

Although that hadn’t been apparent at all, of course I apologized, backed away, and gave them their space.

The oddest thing was, they actually tipped well. But that says something to me–some people didn’t tip well no matter how good of service I gave (and I really tried to give great service to everyone), but as long as I gave good service and they seemed happy with their experience, I was happy even if they only tossed a few dollars my way. But I’ll never forget that silent, angry couple.

What would be your perfect holiday?

That’s tough. I thought I knew what my perfect holiday would be (I took a solo trip to Ireland to stay in a castle and write), and although it was a really unique holiday for me, it wasn’t perfect. Right now it’s hard for me to imagine a holiday, as I think I wouldn’t be able to disconnect from Stonemaier Games.

But let’s see, I need to have an answer, right? I think I’d just like to go somewhere beautiful and play/design games for a long weekend. I’d really enjoy that.

What’s it like to be the top man leading a vast game producing empire? Is it all limos and A-list parties, like I’ve heard?

It’s not quite as glorious as it sounds. Of course I have car service, but it’s in a DeLorean, not a limo. And sure, mostly I hang out with famous movie stars and athletes now, but when I need some “me” time, I do what anyone would do: I retire to my floating island fortress off the coast of Hawaii, have my butler read books to me, and get a foot massage from one of five beautiful personal assistants. It’s the simple things in life that matter.

What was the most enjoyable thing(s) you did while in Japan that didn’t happen in Kyoto?

I spent a few summers in Hiroshima and a few weeks in Tokyo, so I have a few other areas to work with. I wish my memory were better so I could remember every detail of my time in Japan. Something that stands out is a very special dinner I had while in Tokyo. I was spending the week with the family of an exchange student who my family had hosted in the US, and I think as a way to thank me and my family, they took me out to dinner in this little restaurant nestled in the mountains.

The restaurant was unlike any other I’ve ever been to–every group had their own room set apart from the others, almost like private pagodas. A stream ran under all of the rooms, and fish were caught from the stream and promptly served to us. There were somewhere between 10 and 15 courses–small dishes, many of which I didn’t recognize at all, but I could tell that this was a very expensive meal, so I ate everything.

It was this surreal, magical evening. I can’t remember much more about that week, but I remember that dinner.

What has been your favorite memory of these past couple years in the board gaming world?

It’s really hard to narrow it down to a favorite, but I did get an e-mail recently that really moved me and reaffirmed what I try to do when I design a game. It was from a man who backed Euphoria and introduced it to his kids. He told me that one of his kids has been struggling in school–acting out, alienating friends and family, and falling behind academically.

But when he showed him the Euphoria box, his son lit up. He took his time to explore the components, the recruits, and the game board. And then they started to play, and the man saw a side of his son that he hadn’t seen in a long time. He was interacting and devising a plan like a seasoned veteran, even pointing out to his father several times that he made a suboptimal mood.And when the game ended, he wanted to play again immediately.

It really, really made my day–or perhaps my month–to hear that some pieces of cardboard I spent months developing were able to bring those two people together and help reignite something in the boy that had been missing. That memory is definitely up there near the top of the list even though I wasn’t able to experience it firsthand.

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These are such great questions that it would be a pity if only I answered them. I’d love to hear some of your answers if you don’t mind sharing in the comments.