Thursday, September 26, 2013

Luminary, Not Luminara

Last fall, I was interviewed by the guys from the Theology of Games blog (and now podcast!) - hi, Scott! hi, Jeremiah! - and they chose to entitle it An Interview With Board Game Luminary Mark Jackson! 

Words like "luminary" conjure up two images for me:
  1. those cool Christmas candle bag thingees ("luminara")
  2. a quote from Lina Lamont in SINGIN' IN THE RAIN - "'People'? I ain't 'people.' I am a - 'a shimmering, glowing star in the cinema firmament.' [picks up newspaper] It says so - right here."
Since I neither shimmer nor glow, maybe we just call me "a guy who loves board games." But whatever you call me, here's the text from that November 2012 interview.


First tell us a little about yourself, and then tell us how you got involved in the board game hobby.

I am guy who wears a lot of hats: I’m the pastor of a small Southern Baptist church, the husband of Shari Jo (22 years!), and the father of two boys – ages 7 & 11 – who both (thankfully) love board games. I also blog on a semi-regular basis and have been a guest on a number of gaming podcasts, including The Dice Steeple.

(UPDATE NOTE: As some of you already know, I no longer pastor that "small Southern Baptist church"... but I am still incredibly proud to be the husband of Shari & the father of Braeden & Collin.)

I’ve played games all my life… my grandmother was a big part of that. Even as she got older, she’d get down in the floor with us to play Monopoly or whatever else I brought out of my room. And it was her daughter—my Aunt Nancy—who bought me my first Avalon Hill game (Outdoor Survival) and started me on the path to gaming geekdom.

• How has being a pastor enhanced—or run up against—your love of board games?

I’ve used board games in a number of different ways in ministry: as sermon illustrations, as ice-breakers in small groups, as social events (family game night) to connect people together. My church here has been gracious to allow me to host a regular gaming group in our social hall for a number of years, which helps me build relationships with people outside the “holy huddle.”

• Have there been any games that you refused to play because you found the theme/gameplay objectionable?

There are certain games I choose not to play (Hellrail, Lunch Money, Funny Friends, Chaos in the Old World, etc.) and other games I’m glad they re-themed (Twilight -> Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde) based on what I believe. I wrote some years ago that “my strongly held beliefs in Jesus Christ and the authority of the Bible obviously play a role in my hobby. (If strongly held beliefs don’t play a role in your whole life, then they’re not strongly held beliefs.)” That’s still true.

• You’re stranded on an island, but you somehow have the foresight to bring one game with you to play until such time as you’re rescued—or die due to exposure, starvation, or the awful disease those weird-looking lizards carry. What’s that game? (We’ll assume you’re stranded with the number of people that game plays best with…)

Oooo… so difficult. If I can carry expansions with me (I’ll assume i can!), it would either be The Settlers of Catan or Memoir ’44. (Just one? Seriously?)

• You have a wonderful blog. Which post has caused the most controversy?

Thanks for the kind words… it’s a lot of fun.

I don’t seem to generate wild levels of controversy, though I got some interesting private comments about my post The M Wordwhich was part of a series of posts about sex, pornography & passion.

On the gaming front, I got a bit of grief over my bad attitude about FFG and warned: I’m in full-on irritated fan mode in these posts,

I’ve also had a lot of comment about my posts about why I quit playing D&D: The Day I Quit Playing D&D, and DW, Bill Cosby & Evercrack.

• I can barely keep up with all of your updates on Goodreads. Who are some of your favorite authors?

On the theological front, I’m drawn to C.S. Lewis & Tim Keller. As a pastor, I’ve been mentored via books by Larry Osborne, Erwin McManus & Andy Stanley.

As far as fiction goes, I think Kurt Busiek’s graphic novel series ASTRO CITY is tremendous… and Stephen Lawhead continues to write brilliant genre fiction.

My non-fiction recommendations are all over the map – though I’m particularly fond of Marc Reisner (Cadillac Desert) and Robert Andrews (The Storm of War).

• You’ve been able to play many prototypes and advance copies of games. Are there any (that you can talk about without getting a hit put out on you) that we should be on the lookout for?

Race for the Galaxy: Alien Artifacts is a great addition to the franchise – and makes it easier for players who were overwhelmed by the previous trilogy of expansions to jump back into the game.

The Dungeon Lords expansion (Festival Season) is more of what you love IF you loved Dungeon Lords: more monsters, more heroes (minstrels!), more traps, and so on.

Matt Leacock has a fantastic prototype using his Roll Through the Ages system that I’m not sure I can say much more about – but it’s a delightful twist that I’ve loved every time I’ve played it. (Yes, it’s still an “ancients” theme; no, it’s not a civ-building game.)

• Is your wife a gamer?

No. She’ll play games – she likes cooperative games like Pandemic & Lord of the Rings – but she is definitely not a gamer.

• You have two kids with different ages. What are your favorite games to play with each of them right now?

My 7 year old has fallen in love with all things Catan – enough so that he told me the other day that he wanted to play “a game with hexagons where you get resources from rolling dice” – yes, that’s kind of specific. He & I have been having a great time playing The Rivals for Catan and are looking forward to getting our review copy of the Age of Enlightenment expansion.

My 11 year old has a wider variety of gamer interests – right now, we’re particularly enjoying The Ares Project. He would gladly play Risk: Legacy every day if only we could convince his younger brother to join in.

Here’s the One-Word Answer section.

• Favorite theologian who goes by his first two initials?

C.S. Lewis (with G.K. Chesterton a close 2nd)

• Favorite LEGO line/theme of all time?

Time Cruisers (I still have the blimp set!)

• Favorite Disney ride/attraction?

Radiator Springs Racers (CA Adventure), though Dinosaur (Animal Kingdom) is a close 2nd

• Favorite minor character in the Star Wars universe?

Admiral Ackbar

• Favorite comedian?

Bill Cosby (love me some of his OLD stuff)

• Favorite Batman villain?

Riddler (the comic book one, NOT the movie)

• Favorite Bible verse?

Habakkuk 3:17-19

Thanks, Mark, for taking the time to answer our questions! And thanks to you for reading!


Conrad Kinch said...

Double points for the Chesterton reference.

I was surprised about your feelings about D&D or is that something you'd apply to roleplaying games in general?

Mark (aka pastor guy) said...

What in particular surprised you, Conrad?

Interestingly enough, I sat in on a D&D game w/friends (playing a character for a guy who was out of town) a few weeks ago... and found it to be incredibly fiddly compared to Descent: Journeys in the Dark 2.0.

Conrad Kinch said...

From reading your description there definitely seem to be problems with your group, but I would have thought that any social group would have tensions like that - particularly young men.

To cut to the chase - I have observed social problems in roleplaying. However, I don't think those problems are exclusive to roleplaying. I see them in sports teams, youth clubs and other social groups.

As for D&D 4E being fiddly, you're absolutely right. When we play these days, it's almost always Call of Cthulhu.

Conrad Kinch said...

Oh - as a fellow Memoir '44 enthusiast, you might enjoy this.

Mark (aka pastor guy) said...

There were definitely issues with the group... and you're correct in noting that those kind of tensions can erupt anywhere.

It's been my experience, though, that RPGs can exacerbate the tensions.

Your Memoir game looks awesome, btw... :-)

jmonaghan said...

Man did I love the old Bill Cosby stuff. Buck Buck was probably my favorite.