#GirlsRock: An Interview with Game Developer Carla Kopp


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I’ve made up a tabletop game or two in my day.

cd-interviewsWho hasn’t? My games were good for a round, maybe two. Today’s guest on #GirlsRock does way better than that! Meet Carla Kopp, senior quality assurance test engineer for Synapse Wireless, an Internet technology firm in Huntsville, Ala.

So smart, so creative. She has a cool job – but she does cool things away from work, too, with Weird Giraffe Games.

This is an occasional series on Coach Daddy to celebrate women who do cool things. Carla definitely qualifies. She holds a BS in Electrical Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and a MS from the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

When smart and creative collide – watch out!

Please give Carla a warm CD welcome. And check out the links at the bottom of this interview to connect with Carla. Hers was a fascinating conversations and I know you’ll enjoy it.

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Eli: When you were little, what did you think you’d grow up to be?

Carla: I thought I’d be a teacher, either math or science. When I was younger, I grew up in a rural area and I didn’t see many people in different jobs, but I knew I really enjoyed math and science. That’s probably why I eventually ended up in engineering, which I think is the best of both of those subjects.

Eli: Tell us how you see math and science converging in engineering.

Carla: Engineering is basically applied math and science. It takes the best of both, then applies it to the real world.

Eli: Give us a cool example.

Carla: Computers! At the very base level, it’s just electrons moving in certain ways, creating what we read in as 1s and 0s. When you put the materials together in certain ways, you get transistors, memory, motherboards. It’s just really amazing how a simple movement of an electron can give you access to all the knowledge that is the Internet and allow you to do silly things, like watch cat videos.

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Courtesy of Carla Kopp

Eli: What was your first computer, and what did you do with it?

Carla: I built my first computer when I was 15! It had Windows XP. I originally intended on making it a server, but I never ended up getting around to it. I designed all of it, from the graphics card to the blue LEDs in the case. It was one of my favorite things that I did growing up and that computer got me at least halfway through college! I still have it, but I’ve definitely moved on to a better and more portable computer. I had wanted to make a server because I was really interested in web design growing up and I still design websites even now!

I used to run several websites, including one with tutorials on web and graphic design and one that was a giant game based on the Final Fantasy video games. Creating games has also been something that I’ve been doing for years, but I’ve recently switched from web based games and video games to tabletop games.

Eli: Why the switch? And tell us about this cool new card game you developed.

Carla: After college, I started working full time and attending grad school and I barely had time to finish my homework, so designing games was out. Around the time I got my Master’s degree, I started playing tabletop games and I’ve been hooked ever since. My first designed game is Super Hack Override! It’s a fast-paced card swapping game for 2-6 players where you outsmart your opponents, 90’s hacker-movie style. There’s 25 cards, with 11 unique hacks, no card drawing, but plenty of card swapping chaos!

The purpose of the game is to impress the Supreme Super Hacker so that when he retires, he passes along all his best hacks to you. To do this, you have to reach a certain hacker cred score, based on the number of hackers playing. At the same time, you can’t hack into too many government facilities or you’ll get sent to Hacker Jail!

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Super Hack Override funded on Kickstarter in October. Manufacturing is almost finished. The Kickstarter campaign went well and we were able to include the Buffer Overflow expansion in the game, which adds 5 cards and another unique hack.

Eli: That’s brilliant to include the expansion. Is there room for further expansion in the game? Or perhaps a related game?

Carla: There’s no extra room in the box. If there was, the box could be crushed or it would need to have a cardboard spacer. The game is going to be shipped to all over the world, so having a box that can’t be crushed easily is important. I’ve had to learn a lot about things like shipping!

I do plan on having another expansion, but that would include another box that would fit everything. The expansion will most likely be made in a few other games from now, so that people have plenty of time to play Super Hack Override.

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Play testing! Courtesy of Carla Kopp

Eli: Where do you see Weird Giraffe Games going next?

Carla: Our next game is Stellar Leap! Stellar Leap is a space exploration game with variable player powers, hidden objectives, and game changing events! It’s for 2-4 players, plays about 20 minutes per player, and has a focus on player engagement. Each player controls an alien species that is defined by a trait and ability. The trait determines what the end goal is for the alien and the ability determines how the alien can manipulate reality to get the outcome and resources they need. Gain prestige by populating, fulfilling missions, and discovering planets!

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More play testing! Courtesy of Carla Kopp

We plan to hit Kickstarter in September. Everything is on track! It’s been exciting designing and play-testing a more involved and longer game than Stellar Leap. I’ve enjoyed the challenges.

After Stellar Leap, will be a game called Observance. Observance is a game of astronomy and star gazing! You’re a junior astronomer and your goal is to observe the stars, identify what they are, and publish your data. The more constellations you identify, the better you get at different aspects of being an astronomer. The night sky is vast, but you’ll learn to do your best with the time you have.

I’m really excited about Observance due to the fact that of the games I’ve designed, it’s based most on science and should be really educational, in addition to fun. It’s also the most streamlined of my designs and I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes in the next six months, as I’m hoping that it’ll be ready for Kickstarter in the first quarter of 2018.

Eli: What advice would you give to girls who would love to design games like this someday?

Carla: Get prototyping! If you have an idea, see if you can get some note cards and get your ideas to paper and then to the table. You don’t need anything fancy to create a prototype of your game and then you just need to get some friends or family to play with you. Your first prototype will probably not be good, but that’s okay! None of us designers started out with a great game instantly and every game goes through so many iterations and play tests before becoming the game you see in stores.

There’s also a ton of resources online for you to use. There’s a lot of Facebook groups that are willing to help, Board Game Broads, Card and Board Game Designers Guild, and a bunch of other ones for art and publishing, if you also want to go that route. There’s also podcasts, like Breaking into Board Games, Ludology, and Board Game Design Lab. There’s even blogs out there, too! I’m going to be writing for The Indie Game Report, but there’s also One Thousand XP and so many others out there.

The board game community is helpful and wants you to succeed. Feel free to contact me personally at contact@weirdgiraffegames.com or on Twitter at @weirdgiraffes, if you have any questions about board game design, want to have some feedback on your design, or just want to chat about games! None of us in the board game industry can do this alone and getting help when you need it is just a part of how things work.

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12 Replies to “#GirlsRock: An Interview with Game Developer Carla Kopp”

  1. What a great series, and what an incredible interview! I can’t believe she built her first computer when she was only 15! That’s amazing. I’m always inspired by people who pursue their talents at such a young age, and it was wonderful to read this ❤

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