Interview – Sebastian Hickey (Cobweb Games)

Cobweb Games is an independent roleplaying and board game design studio based in London. Sebastian Hickey is one of the founders and designer.

Sebastian was kind enough to record an audio as well as a written interview. Here are both for your listening/reading pleasure:

Audio: Cobweb Games Interview

Starting off with a more personal question, Cobweb Games was founded 2009. What keeps you going? What keeps you enthusiastic about working in the RPG industry?

I was introduced to roleplaying games by my best friend’s older brother. He was intelligent, charming and educated, very much my idol growing up. When I was seven he introduced me to a game he had written himself, and my mind widened with the thought. Rules were suddenly a human thing.

The nostalgia of that moment, coupled with repetition, practise, and obsession, kept me thinking about games and design throughout my adolescene, on through my twenties, through university, my career and now here, in my thirties, with my second game about to be released. I write games because there’s nothing else I can do with so much passion.

Earlier this year, Hell for Leather – Free Edition was nominated for Best Free Product. What did you think of the ENnies when you found out that you were nominated?

I thought the ENnies were mad. I thought there was a mistake. All that incredulity. Then, as I came to understand the other nominations, I realised that there must have been some rogue judges out there. Hell for Leather is a violent, trashy, controversial game of gore and gameshows. It has a physical resolution system which puts off most gamers, and it tells violent, comic tales. It really is a fringe product. Nevertheless, someone at the ENies read it, liked it and nominated it. That says a lot about the tolerance of the institution.

Did your nomination affect short-term sales? How about long-term sales?

Yes, but marginally. Lots of people downloaded the free edition of the game and a few people bought the deluxe edition in print. There was a spike in sales during the lead up to the competition, but that faded away pretty quickly once the results were announced.

What projects do you have on the schedule; anything you can talk about?

I have a little game called Chronicles of Skin, which is due for release in December. I’m mad about the game. Last month I started an IndieGoGo project, to raise $2,000 for printing costs, but it more than doubled that target in just a few weeks. It’s really exciting, there’s nearly a hundred people behind it, and it fills me with love. So, the elevator pitch, right? Chronicles of Skin is a game of scribbling and storytelling. Using a pencil and a special deck of cards, players explore the decimation of an ancient culture, and collaboratively draw a map of that story. It’s for three to five players, plays in under two hours and fits in your pocket. We’ve got a printer lined up to print the 72 card with a custom tuck box, 64 page full colour rulebook and double sided playsheet insert, and we’re negotiating with a major distributor in Europe. It’s very exciting.

Now that we’ve been around for over a decade, what do the ENnies mean to you both personally and professionally?

To me, the ENies are a mainstream award ceremony. The nominations have always been more useful to me than the award winners, because of the way the winners are chosen. Every year I am impressed by the variety of nominations. But because of the kinds of games I’m interested in, and the way the awards are handled, the winners are rarely the types of games that float my boat. Lots of the ENies reward coverage. For that reason, of course, I’d love to win something! But, for me, the heart of the ENies lies at the nomination stage, for the unheard treasures I can discover there.

If someone who had never heard of the ENnie Awards walked up to you today and asked, “So what are these ‘ENnies’ you keep talking about,” how would you answer them?

It’s like the Oscars for storytelling games. It’s mostly a competition for blockbusters, but sometimes a well-loved small timer will get the limelight.

Since the interview, Chronicles of Skin has been submitted. As soon as it reaches the judges, it will be listed on the submissions page. For more info on Cobweb Games, visit them at cobwebgames.com.

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