We’re happy to introduce Patrick Fitzgibbon, our Client Services Manager, as a new member of our team! Patrick previously worked at tabletop publishers Genius Games and Elf Creek Games before joining us here at Greater Than Games. I sat down with him in his first week to share some of his story with our followers.
Geddy: So, let’s get started. You’ve been in and around the tabletop scene for a while now. What does your experience look like, and where has it taken you?
Patrick: I started working with Genius Games straight out of college as their Director of Sales and Marketing. I also did a lot of convention and operational management. Before joining Greater Than Games, I was working with Elf Creek Games, based in Champaign, Illinois. I was their Sales Manager and worked on growing their retail and distribution networks. They make great games, so it was really rewarding getting those games into more stores and onto more tables. They were really solid on the making of games and needed more help on the selling of them. I kept running into Paul and Christopher and Katie and the rest of the Greater Than Games crew while we were working the same conventions for years. Every time I saw them, it would be at a convention outside of St. Louis, and we’d say ‘Oh, we should definitely hang out when we get back to town’, and then we never would follow up!
And now that we’ve finally followed up, you’re going to be hanging out with us Every. Day.
Perpetual hangout! [laughter]
Here’s a tough professional question. What was your first board game?
I actually do remember the first board game that got me into the hobby. It was Diplomacy. I know that’s not a conventional way into the hobby, most people don’t know about it!
Oh wow! I was trying to remember the name of Diplomacy the other day, but I just couldn’t place it. It has such a simple name.
Yeah! It’s a surprisingly cut throat game. It was made in 1954 to simulate the leadup to WWI, and it was originally played by mail in the UK. There would be this big communal board, all the players would write down their orders for their military units and mail them in, and then two weeks later they’d get the results of all of the movements and actions.
Diplomacy really comes from the legacy of board games just being wargames, before they split off into being their own thing. How were you introduced to the game?
I was taking an Ancient Civilizations class in my senior year of high school and my teacher loved this game. In the last five minutes of every class he would say “Alright! Everyone is going to spend five minutes looking at the board and then submit your orders for the turn!”. When we came back to class the next day, our orders had been carried out and the board was updated. So we just played Diplomacy for five minutes every class period. I was really interested in it because there’s no randomness in the entire game, unlike a lot of board games I knew at the time. I would just stare at the board in-between classes, planning my moves. Then I started to play multiple games of Diplomacy at once online. From there I found The Dice Tower top ten videos, and they introduced me to the concept of board gaming as a wide community of different games.
I’m going to throw you another hardball. Do you have a favorite board game?
This is going to sound cheesy, but it’s Spirit Island. It’s similar to Diplomacy, honestly. There’s obviously more randomness in it, but you can plan around what’s coming with the information you have. It’s the same, like, vibe of Diplomacy where you’re looking at a map, you’ve got a bunch of different locations and pieces and things you can do, and you’re trying to maximize “how can I do the most or prevent the most damage”. I probably soloed thirty to forty games when I first bought Spirit Island. I got my friends together when Jagged Earth came out and we blew through all the medium to very high complexity spirits. I was like, “I have a resource called Time!” and I’m just moving this thing back and forth and my friends are sitting across from me like “I don’t know what you’re doing over there, but you’re really helping us out, so we appreciate it!”
That’s pretty much it. I think I got the most familiar with it because I could solo it, and then introducing it to other people is such a fun experience, between the co-op and the theme.
So you have this history with Diplomacy, and you got into board games as a hobby. What made you decide to join the industry and what kept you in it?
In my sophomore year of college at Washington University in St. Louis, I joined my college’s Game Developers Society, which was like a mix of tabletop and digital amateur designers, and also some people playing Diablo in the back of the meetings. You know, just a normal college club.
Definitely. They paid to have the CEO of Genius Games, John Coveyou, come and host a talk. I interned with him over a summer, where I went to Origins and Gen Con to work their booth, and I really enjoyed being at the shows. In my senior year of college, John offered to pay for food, traveling and housing if I wanted to continue staffing their booths and I said yeah, absolutely. I was going to these shows with my free time on the weekends, and when I graduated with majors in Computer Science and Linguistics John offered me a position in sales and marketing for Genius Games. So I started out with conventions and demoing games, working convention booths, and I realized I had a real love for it and wanted to keep doing it. So here I am!
Is there an underappreciated board game that you like and want to see more people play?
One that not a lot of people know about is this game called Element by Rather Dashing Games. It’s a kind of abstract game, where everybody has a pawn, and there’s a big bag of these tiles with water, air, fire, and earth elements. You’re pulling the elements out of this bag, and you’re placing them on the board in order to trap the person to your right. So in a four player game, you’re trying to trap the person to your right, and being chased by the person to your left. It’s an interesting little cycle of relationships that I haven’t really seen elsewhere. The elements all do their own thing, like the water moves around, the fire spreads, the earth sits there and does absolutely nothing but gets really good at sitting there, but yeah! Everyone I’ve shown it to really enjoys it.
That sounds like a lot of fun. What kind of hobbies do you have, and what do you like doing in your free time?
I love board games, obviously. I’m in a couple of D&D campaigns right now, and I’m getting into a lot of things I haven’t tried before! I also do improv comedy at the Improv Shop here in town. I like biking, I bike to work here every day, biking in Forest Park is really enjoyable. Oh, and I’m slowly learning to play the musical keyboard. It just seems like a fun thing to do!
That’s a good way to choose a hobby!
Exactly! I found a keyboard for thirteen dollars at a garage sale, and I asked “how much is it?” and they said “fifteen dollars cash”. I went through my wallet and said “I have thirteen dollars, I can go to an ATM…” and they said “Thirteen is fine, don’t worry about it.” The top third of the entire keyboard wasn’t working, and they said well, if you can get it working… so I brought it into these strangers’ house, at their garage sale–
I started fiddling with it — knowing absolutely nothing about electronics or keyboards — and I got the top third of it to work and they were like “cool, that’s way more valuable now,” and I said “are you still going to take thirteen dollars for it?” and they said “I guess so, sure”. So I’m just slowly learning to play the keyboard now!
Alright, last question. If you could live as someone else for a day, who would you pick?
If I could keep the muscle memory of an incredibly talented musician, and play to a theater of a hundred thousand people… I feel like that would be a pretty unique experience. But, you know, I don’t know if my muscles go “alright well I know an F-chord, and an F-minor chord–”
[imitates a violin screech] [laughter]
[laughter] I think that’s it. I’d like to put on an incredible performance for a huge audience… and, well, one day would probably be enough of that. I don’t need more. I’d be like “That was fun, I had that experience, I can lock that away now”.
So can’t put you up front at Gen Con and be like, alright, so, our new Argent Adept for Greater Than Games-
I mean, I’ll find something to do, I can’t guarantee what it will be though–
It’ll be that F-chord.
And the F-minor. I will say, after a few minutes, it wouldn’t be a crowd of a hundred thousand people anymore. [laughter]
I’m really excited to get to work with you, Patrick! Welcome to Greater Than Games.
Thank you. I’m excited to get started!