Punchboard Media: In Focus - Interview with Kimberly Revia
In Focus: Women of Board Gaming' is an exclusive series from Punchboard Media that spotlights women in all facets of the board gaming industry. Our guest this week is Kimberly Revia, co-founder and organizer of Granite Game Summit and co-host of The Cubist. The interview was conducted over email by Eric Buscemi.
Hi Kimberly! Let’s start with some of your favorite board games to play. What are your favorites to play with your kids? How about on date night? Any new-to-you favorites?
Hi Eric! I am pretty much the worst at choosing favorite anything. I just love all of my babies so much, I can’t choose.
Some of the ones I like to play with my daughters (ages 8 & 13) are Kingdomino, La Isla, The Game, Rhino Hero and Klask. It really depends on what their mood dictates though. Both of them enjoy gaming, but neither are as up for it as I am so I generally let them control when they’d like to play and what they are feeling up to.
Date night gaming is the best! Lately we have been having a fair amount of date nights in mixed with escape room in a box styled games. Most recently Exit: The Game - The Abandoned Cabin. I think the teamwork required in those games can make them a really great for date night. Some other games that come to mind are Twilight Struggle, The Rose King, Jaipur, Fugitive, Dominion, and The Colonists. Our game choices are certainly a bit eclectic for date nights. Sometimes we want to work together to solve a puzzle, sometimes we want to systematically take each other down. <3
As far as new to me favorites, which by the way I am grateful you said new to me and not just NEW., I think I have to say Vital Lacerda’s Kanban! I am elated that I have finally gotten to cross that one off of my want to play list and that it lived up to my expectations.
You are one of the three organizers of the Granite Game Summit, or G2S, a regional convention held in Nashua, New Hampshire. How did this convention get started? Who had the idea? How did you grow it to the point it is today?
Granite Game Summit got started in a not so standard way, it all started with a tweet. I had been looking into running a gaming event with a friend when life happened and we had to scrap the idea. Fast forward a few months, Mike tweeted about the void of a former one day gaming event in our area, and said he wished there was a replacement for it. I tweeted back and said I’m in. If you want to start one, I am in and ready to help. Kevin saw our twitter exchanges and offered up his help as well. It quickly progressed from tweets to meetings, business licenses, market research, and venue scouting. There were only just over 4 months from the initial twitter conversation to our first event. Which even now seems entirely crazy. I think we were all pretty passionate about making it happen, the rest came together pretty organically. That event sold out quickly, and we made the decision to double our space just 10 days before the event, which then sold out again. Making that decision at 5 am from Seattle on vacation during an emergency meeting was such a combination of exhilarating and terrifying. Our initial goal for the first G2S was 60 people, we ended up selling out with 250 badges sold. Mike summed it up perfectly after we wrapped the event and we were standing together outside he said “So, I think we did a thing.” That was really the moment I personally felt like we had created something real with serious potential.
It know it sounds cliche but our G2S growth really is due to all of our supporters. Our friends, families, attendees and the social media gaming community. Without them, we might be struggling to fill seats. Instead we are responding to demand and trying to figure out the best ways to keep G2S what it is while carefully growing it. We are adding times to our Designer Alley and bringing in new events because the others fill so quickly. We are incredibly lucky to have the amazing support and community that we do.
This past April was the first time that G2S was a multi-day convention. Was this more challenging to set up? What were you able to do having a multi-day convention that you weren’t in a single day?
Thankfully I think our actual, physical set-up isn’t all that much more labor intensive for a multi-day. We seem to have that flow down pretty well now too. We have a dedicated group of friends who came the day before and helped us punch games, organize everything, set up the library, registration, swag bags etc. I think G2S set-up/day zero was pretty great last year. There is so much energy and excitement that goes into the set-up. Once we’re pretty much done we celebrate with pizza and of course, games.
There is a lot more that has to be factored into a multi-day convention. We really put a lot into making sure we have a welcoming, safe event. It means making sure we have ourselves or one of our well trained, amazing volunteers readily available at all times. It means making sure that food options were plentiful. That people with dietary restrictions or allergies had a variety of foods to choose from. Both at the venue and nearby. Scheduling more events for the people who don’t only want to play games. Really though for myself the main thing was the level of engagement. I try really hard to introduce myself to all of our attendees and let them know they can come to me for anything. It is one of the reasons I actually really enjoy working the registration desk. I can introduce myself, ask a few questions, try to get to know our attendees and their needs so much better. Obviously as the hours extend and the attendee number grows, that is increasingly more difficult. For our last event, we had some amazing volunteers who did the same thing and really got to know the attendees. It really does take a village. We are continually trying to listen, learn and adjust as we grow.
Having a multi-day really allowed us some flexibility to add some pretty great things to our existing format. We added a number of special events, which went over really well. We also added in 24 hour gaming, for night owls like myself late night gaming is where it’s at. Pajama night playing In Vino Morte with the designer Chris Anderson and 6 friends at 2 am? So much fun. I think those are the things that really help take it up a step from just playing games and really help make it an experience.
Having been to the most recent G2S, I know there were a number of special events, from the play-to-win games that ran the entire convention, to the Designer Alley, to Fancy Friday, to the live recording of the Flip the Table podcast. Tell us a bit about them, and how you chose them.
The events! That is such a big part of changing it up from a 15 hour event to a multi-day we got to have so many new events.! I love every second of the events, the planning, the preparation and the actual events themselves. We started G2S off with Designer Alley and play-to-win, math trade, BGG auction and a raffle. Those are our staples. This time we got to add Fancy Friday, Geeky Trivia, Board Game Relay, Flip the Table live show, Pajama Night, Two Rooms and a Boom and VR Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes into the mix.
Fancy Friday was inspired by the lovely Kathleen Mercury, and I wanted to pair it with an event that could feel like a date night. Geeky Trivia hosted by The Castle was a perfect pairing for that. Board Game Relay was actually inspired by Mike mishearing Board Game RePLAY, we pretty much instantly knew that it needed to be a thing and that Matt from Board Game Replay should host it. Flip the Table came to us and asked if they could host their final live recording at the event, we were incredibly honored to have the opportunity to host it. It ended up filling to standing room only, the event was fun, hysterical and truly heartwarming. Pajama night came to be from a series of tweets, Two Rooms and a Boom was offered up by Ben Warren of The DiceBreakers as a moderated event and ended up with an insane turnout, VR Keep Talking was Kevin’s idea and he really ran with it. Every event seemed to fill and go over really well. We put so much into these events it definitely gave me the warm fuzzies to see them go over so well.
Which events will be returning in the future? Are there any new events you are planning?
Most of the events will be returning this year. We are also working on a variety of new ones, I won’t give away too much but I have been working on a pop-up escape room and the logistics behind a large scale CodeNames board game cover style. You’ll have to follow our social media to find out about the others though.
Do you have any advice for other local game groups looking to have a regional convention? Anything to avoid?
I think my main piece of advice is that it takes a LOT of work to do and do well. If you aren’t looking to put in the work to make your event inclusive, safe, inviting and fun then don’t even bother creating it. Start with your code of conduct/ harassment policy and build from there. No event is worth having if people can’t feel safe in the environment. Set the bar high from the get go, don’t only make it a priority after an incident occurs. Have a clear vision of what you want the event to be, not only immediately, but in the future and build it from there. It takes an abundance of planning, and that definitely won’t be for everyone which is okay, it is important to know if you are that kind of person though.
Where would you like to see G2S being in the next few years? Do you want to keep it a smaller, more intimate regional con, or is your goal to grow it into a major U.S. convention?
Our goals are really all based on the quality of our event, not the size and scale of it. We aren’t aspiring to have tens of thousands of attendees at any point. We are however, always trying to find new and better ways to improve the experience for everyone. Small things that will make our events feel even more welcoming. We are working on adding care baskets into the bathrooms (inspired by Avonelle Wing), streamlining the players wanted, and doing our best to make sure people feel welcomed and comfortable. That is the real heart and focus of Granite Game Summit, community building. There will be growth of course, it will naturally happen but we will do our very best to make in mindful growth.
In addition to being a convention organizer, you are also the co-host of The Cubist YouTube show, which -- full disclosure -- is part of Punchboard Media. How did you become Bill’s co-host?
You may be sensing a theme here, my co-hosting The Cubist also came to be from a tweet. Bill asked me to co-host an episode. I reluctantly agreed. These things are definitely outside of my comfort zone. Then rest is history. Awkward, stumbly, oops I had to be bleeped history.
What are some of your favorite parts of being on The Cubist? Talking and rating newly played games? Interviewing board game insiders? Doing deep dives of classic games?
Oh Eric, I think everyone who has ever seen the show knows that beginning where I have to talk about a game and rate it is my least favorite part. Nearly every week I panic in some way. I am getting better at it I think, well I hope that I am. I really enjoy all of the shows but I have a soft spot for the Deep Dives and the AMAs. I think they just have such a natural flow and lead to some really great discussions. They seem to draw more crowd engagement which really gives the show new life.
Anything else we should know about you? Any other hobbies or interests?
Are there hobbies that exist besides gaming? I kid of course. I have quite a few other hobbies actually, but I think my favorite is volunteering with dogs. I have volunteered at a dog rescue for years also with another organization that helps find lost dogs and they both do such amazing work. There is just something so pure about dogs, their willingness to adapt, learn and love is really inspiring. It has taught me a lot about patience and how to roll with the flow from working with puppies. Sometimes you can get them fed, pottied, and cuddled without issue. Other days they band together to pull your pants down, scatter in every direction and constantly bite your ankles. I have learned to laugh through the chaos and to problem solve quickly. They have taught me so many things over the years and have shown me so much love. I will be forever in debt to those furry little monsters.