Punchboard Media: In Focus - Interview with Marguerite Cottrell
'In Focus: Perspectives in Board Gaming' is an exclusive series from Punchboard Media that spotlights diverse perspectives across the board gaming industry. Our guest this week is Marguerite Cottrell, Hobby Brand Manager at PSI and content creator through maggibot.com and Meeples Included. The interview was conducted over email by Eric Buscemi.
Hi Maggi! Thanks for taking the time to chat with me. You've become a great ambassador to the board gaming hobby, but let's go back to the beginning. What were some of your favorite board games you played as a child? What modern board games first brought you into the hobby?
In our house Cribbage, Spades, Canasta, Solitaire, and Casino were common. I played a lot of Monopoly and Pit as a kid, but it was hard to come up with opponents (even in my crowded home). The first game I played in the hobby was Race for the Galaxy. A few other random things were purchased (Arkham Horror, Killer Bunnies) at the same time... I started to learn my preferences for euro games by attending Meetups and playing whatever was on offer. It's all kinda trial and error in the beginning.
I know in the past you worked for a board game retail store. At what point did you realize you wanted to transition from this being a hobby to your career? How did you get the job?
I began working in game retail only a year or so after picking up a modern game. I had a lot of jobs and two very different careers before that. I didn't really see much career potential until becoming a buyer and encountering the myriad charitable efforts in the gaming community. I got that job by proposing it to the owners? It was my first Power Point and had no less than 3 LOLcats... so I nailed it? No, not really. You have to know your audience better sometimes. After a LOT of convincing I took on the buying full-time (there were a couple years I did it on the floor of the shop in between selling games). Buying is really fun for those who like a multi-tasking, spinning-plates mentality.
As a retail buyer for a game store, was it hard balancing purchasing and stocking games you felt were deserving and excellent with games that sold well? How much of the store's stock reflected your personal gaming tastes?
Hard is not the word, sometimes I did get a little disappointed in folks' taste though. Enough time went by and one could just start to see what would sell to your audience and what wouldn't move. I did keep a pet or two around in my pre-order and stock choices, but most of my decisions were based on sales patterns. Largely trying to satisfy the vastly different markets to which the store was appealing. The regular rate of turns and $$ per square foot don't work in the model of store we had, so we got creative with our goals.
You now work for Publisher Services Inc., better known as PSI, which is "a game and toy sales and operations company helping manufacturers place their products in the hobby market, specialty toy and game retail channels and mass market." I know a lot of people, myself included, are not very familiar with PSI. What is it exactly that they do? What is your role at PSI?
Yeah, the company is a behind-the-scenes part of the industry so folks really don't need to know about us til they're in the supply chain. PSI is a for publishers who want to farm out specific services to focus more on making games! We work to do sales, warehousing, consulting, fulfillment, and B2B marketing on behalf of many publishers. It's a piecemeal service where both sides choose to be involved mutually and in what manners. My role is working in the hobby department (non-mass or specialty). I work to curate information and package it for the sales teams, to consult, to help with warehouse shows or conventions, a little of everything so far as we're developing my role from scratch!
Any tips for anyone that is looking to break into the board game industry as a career?
Know what your skills are, self-improve, ask questions, read everything, most importantly: look at it as a serious job. Never accept an offer for less than you deserve. People should pay for work -- money -- like what you can spend on rent. That's what I recommend. So many in the industry work for free.
In addition to working in the industry, you've also created a lot of content on your YouTube channel and through Meeples Included. What are your content creation plans going forward? Any exciting new projects you can share with us?
My personal channels will continue my scatter-brained vlogging and occasional reviews. I figured out long ago that content for me has to be fun and will never be my job. Helped me define my success a bit better. I've been working on some Best of 2017 content for maggibot.com -- which may feel late, but I still have around 29 games from last year i never even tried!
For Meeples Included, I'm going to need to overhaul my original plans and find some more creators. I really needed 2 partners to help manage and keep content flowing properly. Not long after I began the two folks who'd hoped to serve in this capacity became unavailable to do so. I'm sorta stressed about this, but I know I'll get it working again.
I recently had the pleasure of running into you at Granite Game Summit, a local convention in New Hampshire. How was your experience there? What do you feel are the pros and cons of smaller conventions like that one compared to the major conventions?
G2S was a hoot! Nay, a hoot-and-a-half! It's quiet and small, but the venue matched the size of the crowd perfectly. There were always people about, but never a shortage of tables. I got to see Flip Forey record live and hang with good friends from the area. I LOVE regional shows because it often gives me quieter, more-quality time with folks than big shows can provide. I spent more time playing games than I did hiding from the noise, which is great! I also love that it was far away from where I live so I could see folks that I don't otherwise get to.
Working in gaming means finding a way to still celebrate the community on the hobbyist side of things. I personally do this by attending regional cons.
What games have you been playing and enjoying recently? Any good recommendations?
I played my first game of Feudum the other night and it is killer. Has a bangarang economy system that makes the guilds (and the power to manipulate these guilds) very intriguing. I can easily recommend the upcoming reissue of Container from Mercury Games as well. The new investment bank make a huge difference in game play feeling more accessible and the different number of containers for different player counts is just lovely.
You have not one, but three board game related tattoos. Tell us a little bit about them and what made you decide to get them. Any plans for more?
The first one is a string of resource cubes on my right arm. I wanted my first tattoo to rep my love of gaming and especially to speak to my love of euro games (with their penchant for lots of cubes). The color pattern is from Dominant Species. It's the kind of heavy game that creates anecdotes that can be retold and I find real power in that. More than that I wanted a tattoo that spoke to folks who know gaming but still looked beautiful on my body.
The second is my meeple on my left front shoulder. I HAD said I'd never get a meeple tattoo...THEEEEEEEEEEN 2014 Extra Life happened. A few friends of mine flew to Seattle after a very late night conversation on Twitter. We donned our Onesies and flippantly told the world that if we could raise $10000, we would all get a tattoo. $12000 later and the plot was set. The generosity of this community floors me every year. Though the money I've helped to raise through gaming is now well into six figures, that first weekend has changed me.
The third was a joke that's probably only funny to me so I won't go into details. It's "Untap, Upkeep, Draw" on my inner wrist like a cheat-sheet and a personal mantra. It has the little cheating man from an MTG card called Humility.
My next tattoo will likely be movie or pinball-based. I have a book tattoo on my leg already.
What kind of book tattoo?
It's a scene from the Phantom Tollbooth. It's the most evocative of my favorite childhood books. It really taught me a lot about perspectives and empathy. The crosshatch art is iconic and I've always loved the watchdog. It's the first book I buy for friends of mine who have children, followed by A Wrinkle in Time, and The Wind in the Willows.
Is there anything else you'd like to share about yourself before we wrap up? Any other hobbies, passions or interests?
I consume a LOT of movies, and television, and books. Once upon a different life I was an amateur movie reviewer- which lead me to begin talking about games in a critical manner. I have many times considered bringing back movie content but chicken out every time.
I'm very happy on any given night to find my way to a pinball bar, grab a pint, put on my headphones, and waste a couple hours.