Lorien Green is a GeekMom: she’s got two young kids and her geek credentials include meeting her husband through Magic: the Gathering and her love of “geekumentaries” like “King of Kong.” Plus, she’s a sucker for zombies. She decided to combine her love of board games with her love of documentaries and is currently making “Going Cardboard,” a “geekumentary” about board games and the people who love them.
I did an e-mail interview with Lorien about “Going Cardboard,” board games, and her desire to be a Cylon. I also have the audio of a follow-up phone interview, where we talk more about board games, zombies, and juggling a full-time job, parenting, and shooting a documentary. Listen to it here.
GeekDad: Tell us a little about yourself: what makes you a GeekMom?
Lorien Green: I grew up in Montana, very shy and geeky to begin with. I was a big Euell Gibbons fan back then, very into gathering and preparing edible wild plants. And visiting the local Aladdin’s Castle arcade.
I moved to Boston for college to study marine biology (because Hooper in my favorite movie, Jaws, was “from the oceanographic institute on the mainland,” and Boston University had an internship at that very location). I was also big into Magic: the Gathering at the time, and met my husband on the pro tour (he was a highly ranked tournament player, and I was the President of the M:tG club at my college). By senior year, I was sort of disillusioned about academic science, and how frequently inconclusive research is manipulated by the choice of statistical presentation just for the sake of getting a paper published. Which was probably both naïve and idealistic of me. That was right around senior year, when I decided marine biology wasn’t for me.
Luckily, the internet boom was happening right about then, so I taught myself HTML and wound up in online marketing. It was also the MMO boom. I became an Asheron’s Call fangirl, and created a virtual catering company called Cragstone Farms Catering. I was lucky enough a few years later to come to work for the company that ran Asheron’s Call, Turbine. I was there for four years as online community relations, and worked on Asheron’s Call 2, Dungeons & Dragons Online, and The Lord of the Rings Online. Working there is pretty much exactly what you’d imagine working at a video game company would be like, plus a LOAD of hard work that people don’t really include in their visuals about a dream job. But it WAS a dream job for sure. The job I’d held previously to it was the embodiment of Office Space (they HAD a Hawaiian shirt day).
Right around then, my husband had discovered German-style designer board gaming, and was rapidly populating our basement with his collection. It turns out the designer board gaming scene in the Boston/New Hampshire area is pretty big. We became acquainted with Eric Martin of boardgamenews.com through the game group my husband played with. That was one of my keystones for this project; an expert in the field.
Then kids came into the picture, two of them, Madeline and Colin (ages 3 and 2). About a year ago I left the video game industry to manage eCommerce for a language learning software company, Transparent Language, which is what I’m doing now.
GD: How did you get started making documentaries?
LG: About a year ago, we rented “The King of Kong” on Netflix, and I LOVED it. I started discovering other documentaries on geeky niche subjects, and started blogging about “geekumentaries.” For one of the blog entries, I made a list of subjects that still seemed to be in need of a geekumentary, and designer board gaming was high on that list.
A few months went by and I started to think about the idea of making my own geekumentary. One of my favorite documentaries, “TILT: The Battle to Save Pinball,” was made by a theme park designer with no formal film training; he just loved pinball. I was inspired by that, and it planted the seed of “if someone else could do it…”
Then the final piece of extreme luck fell into place. I’d been watching the progress of a documentary called “Get Lamp,” about text adventures. I emailed the director, Jason Scott, saying I was looking forward to his film, and also asking if he had any advice for me. It turned out he lived nearby and was all about helping people do amazing things. I like to think of him as the patron saint of geekumentary, and I wouldn’t be doing this if he hadn’t treated it as a foregone conclusion.
Anthony Artis, the author of Down and Dirty DV, has also been a great source of advice and support.
GD: You mention on your website that your husband got you into board games. What was your gateway game (or games)?
LG: As is typical, Settlers of Catan was one of the first ones we played, and I definitely like it, but for some reason, I have the fondest memories of Bohnanza. It’s a game where you’re planting fields with different kinds of beans, and have to manage the order you’re planting things in. It’s also got a competitive trade element like Catan. And Goa, I really enjoyed Goa in the early days. And Power Grid… yeah, and San Juan, and Tichu.
GD: What games do you most enjoy these days?
LG: Battlestar Galactica is one of my favorites of the newer games I’ve been able to play. I haven’t been a Cylon yet, I’m dying to find out I’m a Cylon! Having little kids running around really cuts into time we used to spend on longer, more intense designer games. We sneak in a Lost Cities and sometimes an Agricola when we can, but things are pretty busy, especially with the film project going on. Almost ALL my free time is dedicated to it.
GD: Who’s your biggest “catch” for the documentary so far?
LG: I think as far as big designer names go, that’d have to be Alan Moon (Ticket to Ride) and Friedemann Friese (Power Grid). However, so many interviews I’ve done so far are incredibly important for different reasons, and have shaped the plot of the story. More independent designers like Greg Lam, Peter Hawes and Bryan Johnson are hugely important interviews because they really showed an element of the creativity and enterprising spirit involved in designing these games. The owner of Rio Grande games, for example, Jay Tummelson, was actually involved in bringing Catan to the United States. When you think about it, THAT makes him incredibly important. The more people I interview, the more I learn about the world of designer gaming, and so far, ALL of them have been really interesting people to talk to, each with unique perspectives and contributions to the big picture.
I’m currently working to schedule as many big interviews as I can at the SPIEL convention in Essen. I’m happy with my progress there. One of the biggest, most obvious fish I’ve yet to catch is Klaus Teuber, that’s one I’d really like to include for the simple fact that Catan is given so much respect as the flagship gateway game in the United States for this genre.
GD: What’s the movie going to be like?
LG: So, I’ve said before, this all started after seeing “The King of Kong.” However, there’s a large controversy surrounding the making of that film, and a lot of the subjects feel very burned and betrayed. That’s what this movie ISN’T going to be like. I’ve met most of them, the Twin Galaxies crowd, and they’re all decent, friendly people. Mine’s an advocacy piece in the sense that I’m an advocate at heart. The reason I’m telling this story is because I think it’s cool! I’m not interested in putting my subjects up as weird sources of amusement; I think designer gaming is fascinating, and precisely what I feel will make people connect with it is that feeling of expressing your own creativity, I think people can relate to that, and the fact that the designers and gamers here are normal, friendly, and fun people, just like the rest of us. Or maybe I find them normal and fun because I’m hopelessly geeky, I don’t know. Always a possibility. But I think people who don’t know about this hobby will be amazed at what they discover. And people who do know about it, people like that have come up to me and said, “This movie you’re doing, I’ve been waiting for this. I want something I can hand to a friend and say, ‘THIS is what I do. THIS is what designer gaming’s about.'”
GD: When does the movie come out/how do we find out more?
LG: I’ve set a tentative release date of Winter 2010. I know that seems a horribly long ways away, at least to me it does, but in many cases, documentaries take 4 years or more to complete. Filming really started this past February at the Unity Games convention in Woburn, MA, then a bunch of individual interviews, then the Gathering of Friends, another big event, and then some more individual interviews. In theory, I should be done with most of the filming by October, after Essen (though I’ll probably attend Unity again the following February). Then it’s full contact editing. If I can get it done by Summer 2010, I will, I’m chomping at the bit to see it released, the sooner the better as far as I’m concerned.
GD: Have you made any other movies?
LG: I haven’t, but I certainly have some ideas for the NEXT project. Don’t tell my family I said the phrase, “next project” though!
Here are a few of the games and conventions mentioned in the interviews:
Dominion (for fans of Magic: the Gathering)
Last Night on Earth (for Zombie fans)
Photos used by permission of Lorien Green.