On Friday morning, Steve Jackson Games tweeted:
It’s with a heavy heart that we announce the passing of our Munchkin Czar, Andrew Hackard. If you’ve played a Munchkin game, you’ve been touched by his work. He was an incredibly nice, funny, and gifted man, and will be missed deeply. We love you, Andrew.
I can probably count on both hands the number of actual hours I was fortunate enough to spend in the physical company of Andrew Hackard, but because those moments unfolded at gaming conventions, surrounded by enthusiastic and happy nerds, I think they were quality time.
I met Andrew at Penguicon 7.0 in 2009, when my then 12-year-old daughter and I drove to Michigan mostly because Wil Wheaton was going to be there. (As it turns out, he got sick and couldn’t attend, but I’m still grateful because we had an amazing time.)
Late Sunday morning, the last day of the convention, Kelsey and I had one more box to check off the to-do list: Open Soda, a crash course in making our own pop (because that’s what we call it here). She’d been looking forward to this one a lot. About 15 minutes before I was supposed to meet her for the presentation—she’d gone back to the room for something—I was in the Consuite, and I saw Andrew, who I knew solely as Wil Wheaton’s editor. He had been on a couple of panels we’d attended, so I said hi and we talked for a few minutes about editing books with friends, and then my phone buzzed. “It’s my daughter,” I said, “She’s at Open Soda and I need head over there.”
“That’s where I’m off to!” Andrew responded, standing up. “Let’s go!”
Over the next hour, as we learned the details and process of making a fine fizzy peppermint beverage, I mentioned that the one thing Kelsey and I didn’t get to do was learn to play this game we had heard about called Munchkin because we’d missed the only beginners’ course of the weekend.
And again, I can’t stress this enough, I only knew Andrew was an editor.
So now this delight comes into Andrew’s eyes: “As it happens, I work on that game [UNDERSTATEMENT, I KNOW]—after this, if you have time, I’ll teach you to play.”
And that’s how we spent our last hours at Penguicon 7.0: learning and then playing a full game of Munchkin with this incredibly generous person we had just met. I watched him give Kelsey advice, and I reveled in the smile on her face as she learned the twists and turns and sneaky fun moves—and, it should be noted, she totally kicked our butts under Andrew’s tutelage. After one particularly venomous and level-boosting turn, Andrew grinned and proclaimed, “That’s it; you get no more help from me!” and then Kelsey won.
I didn’t see him again until four years later, at my first Gen Con. We chatted and I wound up having dinner with him (and meeting my friend Phil for the first time), and he made one of his Red Pen of Doom “Go Up a Level” Munchkin cards—playable by Kelsey only.
As a writer for GeekDad, I wound up writing about a fair amount of Steve Jackson Games stuff and talking to Andrew about the new games and products he was excited about. One of my favorite memories of time with Andrew was sitting down with him and Steve and Phil and John Kovalic to talk about the 15th anniversary of Munchkin, and watching the four of them just joke and riff off each other seamlessly and hilariously.
We spent at least a few minutes catching up every summer for seven Gen Cons, so the last time I saw Andrew was 2019. Our paths crossed infrequently, but I think about the games I discovered through him, and the people I met because of him, and I hope now that I thanked him enough for the joy he brought to my corner of the world. And I know I’m not alone in being a lucky recipient of his kindness and laughter.