Interview: Erika Svanoe (Marrying Mr. Darcy)

Erika Svanoe is the creator of Marrying Mr. Darcy, the strategy card game styled after Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice. We met during Clearwater Con in Eau Claire, WI in July 2015 and she graciously agreed to a short interview…

CH: How is Marrying Mr. Darcy structured?
ES: The structure and mechanics of the game are based entirely on Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice. In Austen’s novel, the unmarried young women are basically trying to get married in order to secure their financial stability and hopefully their happiness. The ladies do what they can in order to make themselves attractive to the men in the book by learning to play the piano, and spending time improving their appearance. But ultimately they have no control whether a gentleman will propose marriage or not. The young ladies may only accept or decline any proposals they receive. These are the ideas that I translated into the mechanics of the game.

CH: What was the process you went through to make the game something tangible?
ES: I imagine the process I went through was fairly similar to other game designers. I basically had the idea and then knocked out a prototype pretty quickly. I play-tested it with some friends and then kept revising and improving it. There were so many iterations I lost count. It took a little over a year (of working on it part time) to make the whole thing including the graphic design, art, writing, rules, etc… There was also a ton of research put into Regency era England and the specifics of the book. I also had to learn a lot about game printers, distribution, website building, social media, crowdfunding and those kinds of things.

CH: Did you experience any battles in particular that stood out on the way to the completed product?
ES: The one battle I had making the game was finishing the design. I am fantastic at starting creative endeavors but I am not as good at finishing them. My husband, Erik Evensen, who is the game’s artist, finally just started drawing all the character art. Once he started putting his time into it, I knew I had to finish since he had started investing his time, too. It really pushed me to get it done.

CH: How do you feel about your success?
ES: I’ve been really pleased with our success so far. Our reviews are generally pretty fair and positive. People really seem to like the game and have fun playing it, which makes me feel great. This game has a bigger audience than I initially imagined as people who don’t necessarily like Pride and Prejudice still like the game. Considering that I assumed I would only do one small print run and we’ve had to do three large print runs and two expansion packs, it’s fair to say I’ve been surprised by the games success.

CH: Do you have any future plans for the game?
ES: Now that the Emma Expansion Kickstarter is over, I’ll be finishing that project up. Since we raised so much money, I’ll be creating a new expansion in 2016, though I’m not sure what Austen novel I’ll do at this point. Maybe Sense and Sensibility or possibly Northanger Abbey because that has the potential for a haunted mansion component.

CH: What are you passionate about? What do you do for a living?
ES: In my real life I’m a musician, composer and educator. I’ve taught music for most of my adult life at various schools. I play the clarinet and saxophone, and usually write a Christmas album of bad songs every year that I send to friends and family.

CH: Is there anything about you that ties into the creation of the game?
ES: I started making the game one summer when I was on a break from teaching at Bemidji State University. I probably should have been writing an academic article about Aaron Copland, but instead I started making this. I was really getting a bug to make something tangible because in my “real” profession as a music conductor my art is very intangible. Conductors wave their arms around and communicate with the players, who actually make the sound an audience hears, which of course then disappears a moment later when the sound stops. It’s all very intangible. So I was really getting the itch to make a thing that existed in some kind of solid form. My husband had written some comic books and I was really inspired by his ability to make a thing, so I decided I wanted to do that, too. I happened to become obsessed with Pride and Prejudice a year or two before so the project was a labor of love.

 

Written by Caitlin Holcomb

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