TGN Interview: David Lowry of Club Fantasci
Game reviews are an important part of TGN. I’m a firm believer in getting all the information you can about a product before you make a purchase. With the price of many board games out there on the market, most of us can ill-afford to drop a load of cash on a game that’ll just sit on the shelf.
A game review blog that’s recently been on the rise is Club Fantasci. At the helm is David Lowry. I had a chat with David, trying to get to know a bit more about the man behind the website.
And since turn-about is fair play, he interviewed me as well! Check out Club Fantasci for my half of the interview.
So let’s dive into another TGN Intervew. This time it’s David Lowry from Club Fantasci.
TGN: How did you originally get involved in gaming?
David Lowry: Well other than playing games like Monopoly, my earliest memories are playing Pinochle with my mother and grandmother. That is what really started me gaming. Then it was playing Dungeons and Dragons (Advanced Edition) with my older brother for many years. I also was really into the Lord of the Rings RPG by I.C.E, Star Trek by F.A.S.A. and the James Bond 007 RPG. I started actively board gaming in my early 30’s with Mississippi Queen and Settlers of Catan. I had a friend that turned me on to that game and it just blew up from there.
TGN: Did you do a lot of your gaming at a store or did you play just at home?
DL: I didn’t start gaming at stores until about 2008. I always gamed at my friend’s house or hosted them at my place. It didn’t even occur to me at that point that people gamed at the stores. I only thought about RPG’s for that.
TGN: What systems have you played the most? Are there any that don’t exist anymore that you wish were still around?
DL: D&D and Catan for sure. To this day, I still play them. We play a lot of Arkham Horror, Belfort, and Steam Park (which is the house favorite). I do wish both Star Trek from F.A.S.A. and James Bond Games were still around. I have a great respect for the classics. I would love to see some of these things get re-licensed.
TGN: Did you stick with just casual gaming or were you more into the tourney scene? Why?
DL: I never got into the tourney scene probably more because I have always been working on my own businesses for so long I never had the time to get into it. If I could do it over, I would have taken the LCG thing more seriously and got into those tourneys, especially Netrunner and A Game of Thrones.
TGN: What made you want to take the next step from just playing games to running a website devoted to gaming reviews and a virtual book club?
DL: I needed a distraction from the entertainment industry. It can be all-encompassing and very, very stressful. Board games and books have always been my release, besides ice skating. I was sitting around one day trying to think of a way to help some of my author friends market their books and that is where Club Fantasci was born. It morphed over the last couple years, but it is more for my own outlet than anything else. I have always wanted to help turn people on to modern board gaming. So many people still haven’t discovered how far they have come and how cool it really is.
TGN: You’ve made several editorials about your thoughts on gaming reviews and the interactions between gaming companies and reviewers. What would you say are your defining thoughts on game reviews?
DL: I look at reviews two ways. First, as a fan. Obviously, I have relied on Board Game Geek heavily in the past and used it to help me make decisions on purchasing board games. It takes time to find the reviewers whom you trust and you feel are more in-line with the types of games you like. I try to write reviews that provide a good idea of the game play, but also the overall experience. That is what gaming is to me. It’s an experience each and every time I play. It’s always different and provides so many different experiences; I want to convey that to the readers. Reviews should provide the basics of the game, but should really sell the experience.
The second way I look at reviews is from a business/marketing stand point. I have been either writing reviews or sending out content for reviews for so long and in so many different industries I think I have a different view than many of the people in the board game industry. I understand that reviewers and companies develop relationships on some level. Not biased ones, but mutual ones. Ones where the company knows they can count on timely, honest reviews from certain people and also where the reviewer can rely on a company that actually provides everything needed for a solid, accurate review. As far as the bias argument goes, I don’t buy into it much, especially in the board game community. No one is making enough money on it to worry about bias. I was recently sent an interview request about reviewers that make $1,500 or more per review. If anyone in the board game industry was making that kind of money for a review, I’d worry about bias. As it is, every reviewer has bias. We all have companies we like more than others, or certain designers. This is based on the games we like, themselves, or how certain companies or people treat you. You can look at Twitter all day everyday and see the relationships as people are always trying to “be in their crowd.” That is a form of bias in itself. We don’t charge for our reviews, but even if we did, I don’t think anyone is selling their souls or integrity for the tiny amount that they would be making reviewing board games.
TGN: Much of your background focuses on the recording industry. Do you feel that your time with music has influenced your thoughts on gaming? If so, how?
DL: So much of what we do applies to both industries. Marketing is marketing, period. There are subtle differences, but not much. It’s actually much, much easier to market for board games than for the entertainment industry as it’s a very hungry audience and not one that thinks they should be able to get the product for free. What is interesting to me is watching the board game industry start to turn into all of the things I have written about. Rock star reviewers, too many games too fast, demand for time and coverage is now a sell-able commodity for these reviewers. It’s moving at a faster pace than I predicted, though. So I guess, in a nutshell, it certainly has influenced my thoughts. It’s nice being on the front end of a movement this time, instead of the back end.
TGN: If there’s one musician you could have a jam session with, who would it be and why?
DL: That is the toughest question ever. HA! I would have to say Richie Kotzen (www.richiekotzen.com) Hands down, he’s one of the most talented and probably most underrated musicians I have ever heard. Although he is starting to come into his own with The Winery Dogs. If I had one ounce of this man’s talent, I might be able to achieve my musical goals. I have had the honor of interviewing him twice, filming a show of his in Nashville and hanging back stage. He’s honest, personable, and humble to a fault.
TGN: Your profile photo displays your exquisite hair… how do you keep it so nice? Is it a lot of maintenance to take care of?
DL: HA! Nice question! It’s actually the easiest thing in the world. I just use a leave-in conditioner and a diffuser. Two minutes in the morning and I am done.