Stick to Game Design

I get a lot of people telling me to “stick to game design.” Usually, these are people who are extremely comfortable ramming their political opinions down people’s throats. But I haven’t gotten that from many Pathfinder fans. You folks have been amazingly supportive. On behalf of my teammates at Lone Shark Games, I want to tell you about how we created a socially active game company and why we’re thankful for fans like you.

If you don’t know my name, you might have played my game the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, or used the Harrow deck I co-designed, or any of the games I helped Paizo make under the Titanic Games line. I also did a lot of work on D&D, serving as one of its creative directors, and helped design games like Betrayal at House on the Hill, Apocrypha, Unspeakable Words, and Lords of Vegas. I generally like writing about games because games uniformly make me happy. You might have seen me on Twitter enthusiastically dismantling the Riddler’s riddle from the trailer for The Batman. That’s a joyous thing to write about.

I also write about politics, and that does not make me uniformly happy. I use game theory and the games I’ve worked on to analyze the actions of people in politics. You might have seen my essay “A wargame designer defines our four possible civil wars,” which went all over the internet. It’s not the most joyous thing I’ve ever written. You can see it and much more in my new book, the omnibus edition of Game Theory in the Age of Chaos, which is on Kickstarter now. You can read it for free if you like, and get a free copy if you put your energy into critical tasks for democracy on our voting site,

We do that because it’s important to let gamers know that the lessons they’ve learned from games are writing themselves large on the world stage. You’re not wrong when you yell at the Senate Majority Leader, “That’s just what a rules lawyer would do!” Because it is. You are some of the smartest, best educated strategists out there. You can use that to make powerful change in the world. If my writing helps you channel that, I’m happy to help.

You’ll see that positive world view in the games we make. One thing I love about the Pathfinder community is that the team’s constant push to include characters of all races, body types, and sexual orientations has been met with positive energy. I believe that if you can’t see yourself in a game, you can’t form as deep an attachment with it as the designers would like. So we try to make sure we make characters that reflect the entire population of players we want to play our games.

My team also cares about the circumstances under which you are playing our games. Years ago, I invented a principle called the Afghanistan Principle, created after my team sent out a bunch of RPGs to our soldiers overseas, and the military (not knowing any better, which was our fault) broke up the player’s guide to one unit, the monster book to another, the gamemaster guide to a third, and so on. We created the principle “no interconnectivity without availability” to mean that we wouldn’t make expansions that demanded other expansions to play them, because those expansions could be several countries away.

I hope that at some point you’ve participated in our charity efforts. We’ve made bunches of Humble Bundles for various charities, contributed a lot of collectibles to the Child’s Play and Desert Bus for Hope, and created puzzle packs that we give you if you contribute to our causes. We think gamers feel more attached to their games if they can use their fandom to do good.

When the pandemic hit, we took some more actions along these lines. We had one of the only functioning game warehouses in America, so we immediately floored all of our prices so people could get the games as cheaply as possible. We make games that are really good solo or in small family groups, and we wanted to make sure people had distractions in this difficult time. We also created a Retailer Recovery Booster Pack, giving $1000 worth of our games for only their shipping price to any continental U.S. brick and mortar store that wanted it. We care about our community on every level.

For these efforts, we’ve gotten so much powerful energy from the fans of Lone Shark and Paizo. For that we are very thankful. We stick a lot to game design, and we’re going to keep doing that. But when we don’t, you know our hearts are in it. We appreciate you and everything you to support us in these activities. From all of us here at Lone Shark, thanks.

And if you’re in the U.S., please vote. Your country needs you.

Mike Selinker
President, Lone Shark Games

Guest Author