An Interview With Designer--and Now Publisher--Jason Kotarski

Today we’re joined by our friend Jason Kotarski, designer of The Great Heartland Hauling Company, among others. He’s launching a new endeavor, and took the time to talk to us about it.

Jason! Thanks for this.

Thanks for taking the time!

So for people who might not know you, tell us a little about yourself.

Sure. Let’s see. I’m a game designer and a pastor living in Flint, Michigan, with my awesome wife and two daughters. I’ve been diving deeper and deeper into gaming for the last 10 years. It’s been fun to explore this hobby that is as much about the people that you do it with as the hobby itself. I love people so it’s been a blast.

Last time we talked, you were busy planting a church. What happened with that? 

Well, my wife and I and a small group of people started Dwellings about 2 years ago, and closed this past February. It’s been kind of a wild ride. It was difficult to make the decision to close but we had lost most of our core group of people at about the same time. Some had decided to move back to our mother church, feeling it was a better fit for their stage of love, and some folks left to follow work. When we had so many people leave at once, it was either keep on trucking and essentially rebuild from the ground up, or close the doors. We sensed that it was time to move on. I was out of energy and didn’t want to lead from a place of wounded-ness, so I am confident it was the right call. Though it was tough to close, I can see that God used us to be a part of something special for that season. Now I’m working as a hospice chaplain, and healing and listening and waiting to see what’s next.

So you’re starting a new gaming company. Tell us about it—and what made you want to do this.

I keep saying “the more I get involved, the more I want to be involved.” The community surrounding gaming is amazing, and I’m a contributor. I like to use my gifts and talents to contribute to whatever I’m involved with. I have had a ton of fun being involved with Heartland Hauling on every level, from design to marketing, and it just seemed like the next step was to take a stab at publishing. And the timing of the church closing and uncertainty about where life would take us next seemed like this was the ideal time for an experiment! So Green Couch Games is that experiment. The idea is to release “great little games that make great big connections.” I love filler games and I would love to be considered a go-to company when people are looking for solid, portable games to introduce to their friends and family.

How has your last year or so of being “in the industry” helped you with this adventure?

Oh, man. It has helped immensely. Working behind the scenes with Chris Kirkman from Dice Hate Games, the company that puts out The Great Heartland Hauling Co., has shown me so much of what goes into making a board or card games. And that I loved every part of the process helped whet the whistle to do it more. The other part of that is that the success of my game has helped give me a platform to build on. I have built relationships with lots of great people in the industry so that gave me a little bit of a head start.

So do you have any games in the works for Green Couch Games?

Once had the idea for the company I knew Fidelitas would be a great place to start, since it fit well in that filler category and I had been developing it with Philip duBarry for almost 2 years--so I knew it was very close to being ready to go. Fidelitas is a quick card game of hand management where players are manipulating characters around different locations in a medieval city in order to meet the requirements of hidden agendas. It takes about 20-30 minutes to play and features some cute, playful art by Jacui Davis. The early reviewer feedback has been really positive so I’m super excited to share this game with the world soon!

How has co-designing a game been different from going on your own?

Well, I mentioned that I love people, and there is a lot more of that involved when you are co-designing. And different people bring different perspectives, so working with Philip has been great. He has a different personality and different ideas, so it's fun to bounce ideas back and forth until both parties get to a place where they're happy. Designing alone is still fun, but it’s a quieter experience early on and only moves as fast as ideas unfold in your own brain. With someone else to work alongside it seems to just keep flowing since we each get to pick up where the other left off.

Where can folks play/demo Fidelitas this summer?

I’ll be at Protospiel in Ann Arbor, Michigan this Sunday. And I’ll be at GenCon for a couple days in August which happens to be right in the middle of our Kickstarter campaign.

What are some recent games that you’ve played and enjoyed?

Let’s see. I’ve been playing a lot of Sushi Go, which is a super cute and simple card-drafting game. My wife and I have been playing a bit of Pagoda, a cool 2-player game about playing cards to build pagodas, from AEG. And a few quick card games like Straw, also from AEG. A classic-feeling card game called  Sloop by Mike Fitzgerald. And a real-time, visual-perception game called Voodoo Mania from Passport Games.


It’s the Lightning Round! We ask 5 quick questions, and you give us five quick answers!

* Favorite Smoking Popes song?

The entire Duvall Volume and Density album. That counts, right?

It does. Oh, it SO does…


* Most underrated game designer?

Jason Tagmire. Is that dude famous yet?


* Favorite proverb?

Pretty much all the stuff Avett Brothers say.


* Favorite way to prepare coffee?

I dig my hipster Chemex brewer but my Cuisinart drip brewer gets a lot more use.


* Kurosawa or Miyazaki?

I’m pretty sure between the two of them, I’ve only seen Ponyo, which I really enjoyed. I guess I’ve got some geek-cred-homework to do!

Thanks for talking with us, Jason! You can check out Green Couch Games on Facebook right here. Thanks for reading!