Gamers’ Bliss: This Game-Designing Couple Got Engaged at Gen ConNovember 19, 2018
A few years ago Emma Larkins made a Valentine’s Day gift for her boyfriend Philip Schmitte that any gamer would appreciate: a two-player card game called Heartcatchers. Both Emma and Phil are game designers and soon went to Gen Con together, to play test Heartcatchers as well as Schmitte’s game, Scrapture.
“Our lives and games have become intertwined with the con,” Larkins said.
It was at this year’s Gen Con, though, that something truly special happened. Larkins recalled the moment when Schmitte asked to take her to a picturesque and quiet part of their hotel at three in morning.
“He started talking about being non-traditional as a couple, then gave me a long, rectangular box,” she recalled. “I opened it to find a beautiful, shell-shaped necklace.”
Schmitte reminded her of one of her favorite digital games, Stardew Valley, and how villagers in the game gave each other a mermaid pendant as a sign of their desire to marry.
“He told me the story of how he’d been sneaking off to the jewelers for the last few months while I worked to customize the necklace,” she said. “Then he pulled out a square box and said, ‘This one is so you have no doubts about what’s happening.'”
A sci-fi author, speaker, game designer and live streamer, Larkins launched #gamedesigndaily after they moved to Seattle. She shares on social media her thoughts and photos while designing games and also hosts local board game design jams.
“I decided to focus my free time on making board games, so I combined my newfound daily practice skills with game design,” she said. “I set myself a goal of spending two minutes on game design related activities, every day. Read a page from a game design book, brainstorm game names, doodle, that kind of thing. And here we are a year and a half later – still going strong!”
The couple continue to test and design their games despite their busy schedules. Schmitte works as a software engineer for Amazon and during his free time works with a group of college friends on Scrapture, a game set in the future in which you use your followers to discover relics from the past and fuel your cult.
He talked about his favorite aspects of meeting other designers at the weekly game design meetup.
“Sharing the creative process, being involved in what everyone is working on,” he said. “Getting a first look at cool independent projects, and helping to guide them on their journey.”
As this year’s convention season winds down, Schmitte reflected on being part of a game-designing couple.
“I’ve spent the last few of years touring the country, showing off games at a variety of game conventions and events, including PAX, Dreamhack, Gen Con, Essen, and SIX,” he said. “When we’re not traveling to shows together we play a lot of tabletop and digital games together across all sorts of platforms.”
While nothing will top their Gen Con engagement, there was some excitement at Essen SPIEL last month, as Larkins’ latest game, …and then we died, sold out.
“It’s such a weird, different, indie game. I wasn’t sure how it would be received at a more traditional show,” she said. “People loved it, though. My friends who’ve seen the game evolve got to see the final product, and some big-time industry people said some very nice things about it – both incredible experiences.”