Phil Eklund is an extraordinary board game designer that is well known for designing in depth simulations of various topics. I met Phil in person and helped some on the tail end of his decades of work for “High Frontier”. One of the best play experiences I have ever had, but mainly because he was there to explain so much about astrophysics and bring that one of the game.
What accomplishments so far are you the most proud of?
I am best known for “High Frontier”, a game about the exoglobalization of the solar system. But I am the most proud of “Origins”, a game that attempts the ambiotious subject of identifying everything that makes us human, and showing how it might have come to be.
How did you become a published game designer? Please tell us about your first time.
I have been designing games for as long as I can remember. I started self-publishing in 1980, the year my son was born. A decade later, I started my own publishing company on a shoestring.
What do you think it takes to be creative? Where do you get flashes of brilliance from?
I look at boardgames as art, and boardgame designers as artists. A useful definition of art is: “The selective re-creation of reality according to an artist’s value-judgments, according to principles of aesthetics.“ By this definition, painting, sculpture, and literature are artforms. So are boardgames. I recreate reality in each of my games according to value judgements which I have carefully defined…to myself.
Do you think anything particular about your past helps you as a game designer?
I was trained by Jesuits on the art of non-ambiguous communication. I also learned the importance of objectivity, i.e. the ability to discern truth as something apart from prevailing viewpoints. This led me to my present philosophy of atheistic fundamentalism, rather to the disappointment of my teachers. But these skills are important for the distillation of life and living into rules and natural laws.
What is the best advice that you apply to your life? Please share some of the positive results of following that advice.
I am a game designer that follows his own inspirations. I seldom play other games, for fear of compormising my objective approach to simulation. I can therefore maintain a unique “signature” that makes any of my games recognizable to a gamer who is familiar with my style – including the way I integrate science principles into the subject, and the way I communicate my view of the world. My advice, hardly unique in the artistic and creative world, is to objectively follow your own vison, without regard to others, even without regard to customers. I make games that I want to make, not those in demand.
What have you been up to recently? What projects are you working on?
At the moment I am working to have a series of games that encompasses the entire history of life on Earth. The “Bios” series will start with the origins of life, and end with conscious life streaming off the planet to other habitable sites. “Origins” covers the last quarter million years, “Bios Megafauna” covers the last quarter billion years, and “Bios Genesis” covers the first 4 billion years.
What excites you about these new projects?
I am interested in fundamentals that can be expressed in rules that are valid in all times, places, scales, and lifeforms. It is part of my Objectivist philosophy that such rules exist, but most remain undiscovered. Discovering and integrating such rules on this scale has never been done before in this genre, as far as I know.
What blogs, podcasts, or other sites that you still find yourself consuming religiously?
Do you have a Twitter account, Blog, or Facebook “Like” page?
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