Award-Winning Game Designer

There is no easy way to say it.

It appears that, despite the odds, my little game Posthuman Pathways won an ENnie-award. One of the five judges identified this as a game as deserving of attention, and gave it the Judges’ Spotlight Award. The ceremony itself was an interesting affair with a host of technical problems that were perfectly suited to the theme of my game. At the end of the day, I wound up with validation for my little game.

Thank you all for making this possible.

ENnies Award Certificate



Posthuman Problems: On Technology and Society

I published a small roleplaying game last year, titled Posthuman Pathways. It’s a game about transhumanism, the importance of technology, and how it inevitably changes us. It’s a cute little GM’less game; five pamphlets in an envelope that three people can play in an evening. Designing something like that is challenging, but that’s nothing compared to the philosophical and moral challenge that it brought to my door.

Modern society is still trying to grapple with the emergence of new technologies. The technophobes fear that we shall create tools of our own destruction. The technophiles preach from the digital rooftop that these tools will bring about something greater than humanity. Both of these urges pulled on me and the game I designed.

For context, I’m a walking ball of privilege. I’m a physically-able and university-educated white guy from Canada. By day, I’m a professional scientist with a decent income and a good deal of job security. I tend to be a broad proponent for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (S.T.E.M.) education in society as a matter of course, and I have the heart of an intellectual. In short, I’m loaded to bear with biases.

One common complaint about science fiction is that it’s a medium about the danger of upsetting the status quo. Changing things, particularly through science or technology, invariably causes disaster. There’s always a pesky professor reading a book that call infernal or eldritch horror.  Engineers design robots which will destroy us. Researcher study particle physics, biologist try their hand with genetic engineering and everything goes to hell in a hand-basket.  and scientists examining particle physics invariably cause terrible problems that everyone has to deal with.

An example: Caveman Science Fiction
This technophobia runs together with anti-intellectualism that inspires such blights as the anti-vaccination movement or climate change denial. The fact that politicians say “I’m not a scientist, but I think” to justify going contrary to science? This is a problem in my books.

It would be easy to leave it there. Comfortable, even. Life would have been simpler if I had, but I couldn’t help but see the other side.

Despite the technophobia present in society, there is also some danger associated with going too far the other way. I designed a game about transhumanism, and it got me looking very hard at the intellectual threads within that subculture.

There is a status game associated with education. Those on the top are those practitioners of S.T.E.M. disciplines, who just _happen_ to be disproportionately male.
Lower in status are those with “less important” and “fluffy” university degrees in the arts, humanities or social sciences which coincidentally tend to have female students in attendance.

As a general trend, university folks look down on the technical college graduates, who are still considered a step above the trades. You will note how closely tied this ranking is to issues like economics. Why should I be receiving more respect and financial remuneration compared to a plumber, a social worker or a farmer?

What this means is that there is a tendency for those of us with  social and economic power to reinforce and glorify the technological solutions to the world’s problems. We imagine that someone from Silicon Valley will come up with some new “disruptive innovation” that will “save the world”. There is a line of thought that technology will lead to some utopian future by erasing the differences between people.

Lots of games explore science and transhumanism. Shock: Social Science Fiction by Glyphpress recreates social science fiction with a great deal of care. Eclipse Phase by Posthuman Studios explores technology as a positive form of change while addressing how it can be misused.

I worry about the idea of erasure of identities, of disrupting the current world and the impact that could have on the most marginalized members of society. That’s why I seized upon that care as the philosophical core of Posthuman Pathways. For this game, I chose to address how technology changes the world, and how this new world affects the people within it.

I have hope for what the future might bring, but that depends on us being thoughtful on what we create.

Source 1:

Source 2:

More about Posthuman Pathways:

Posthuman Pathways Post-Mortem

Just as I have done with the Spark RPG kickstarter, I wanted to present a financial breakdown of the Posthuman Pathways project. Unlike that previous project, this one was a bit less successful at the preliminary stages and may take a year or two to get into the black. I am very proud of the game as a design and a product, but this taught me a number of valuable lessons as a publisher!

Original Budget $3,360

Printing 1000 copies of the game: $2,500
Printing 1000 cover stickers: $500
Other freelance costs: $360

My original, minimal kickstarter request was planning on just covering print costs for the core pamphlet. I met this goal, but didn’t exceed this be a very significant amount. Unlike my previous kickstarter, all donations were made in Canadian dollars which meant that I couldn’t benefit from the currency exchange rate.

Revenue $2,525

Gross Kickstarter Total: $ 2,806
Admin Fees: $280
Net Funding Received: $ 2,525


Campaign Expenses – $ 5,351

Printing 2000 Copies. $3,219

I originally budgeted for 1000 copies, but secretly hoped that I would have enough demand in the kickstarter to justify a larger print-run where the costs decreased. When I originally planned this project, I had assumed that the economies of scale would kick in at 1000 units for pamphlets, just as they do for books. Turns out that is not the case, and things only became economically feasible at a 2000-unit offset print run. Oops!
There is normally a variance of +/- 5% on print runs of this size, and they provided me with 100 discounted copies. Note that each “copy” of the full game involves five different pieces of printed material, so they printed over ten thousand individual pamphlets in this little endeavour.
Lesson Learned: Get comprehensive quotes earlier in the design process and don’t assume all products have the same economies of scale.

Printing 2100 Stickers. $594

Before going into the campaign, I had gotten several quotes and settled on a professional-seeming company specialized in sticker production. Unfortunately, I discovered after the campaign closed that they didn’t provide physical proofs, didn’t understand how crop marks worked and demanded payment up front with no refunds. I went back to the printer who produced the pamphlets and they were able to give me the high-quality stickers that I used, at a pretty competitive price. It worked out pretty well in the end, though it was a bit of a hassle to get there.
Lesson Learned: Double check what printers offer as “proofs” when getting quotes, not at the end of the process.
Commissioning Velvet Cases from Sink or Swim Stitching: $ 378
I was originally not intending on including many of these in the campaign, but due to popular demand I included them at a stand-alone level. These reward levels brought more money (making it possible for me to meet my goal) but also increased my overall costs not insignificantly due to payments to the artisan and additional shipping costs. Good thing they are beautiful!
Lesson Learned: Consider the additional shipping costs as a more significant portion of goals using large add-ons such as this.

Other freelance costs: $360

This project included two editors, one illustrator and one graphic design professional. I was happy to compensate each of them for their work and the payments were made before launching the kickstarter campaign, out of the profits of the Spark RPG sales. It was a relief to be able to simply hire skilled professionals to help me with this, and they did amazing work.
Lesson Learned: Paying all the freelancers before launching the kickstarter campaign drastically decreases the stress levels while running the campaign; would recommend!

Shipping : $ 800

Shipping is always an issue, and this was no exception. One of the goals of this campaign was to produce something that would be as affordable as possible to ship. Between the product design and the printing, our mail prices skyrocketed which made “as affordable as possible” still rather nasty. I also had the unpleasant surprise that the final product (5 pamphlets + 1 sticker + envelope) was heavier than I had originally forecasted. I had expected that the final product would increase in weight 50% over that of my prototypes, while it turned out that it doubled the weight instead. This pushed it over a mailing price threshold and boosted the cost for international backers (outside of North America) by another $2 which was rough.
Fortunately, I worked with Magpie Games to reship most of the rewards to American backers domestically, which dropped my overall costs considerably. The cost-savings from that little maneuver pretty much negated the cost increase for the international shipping.

Stretch goal costs : $ 0

One of the reasons why I created that first stretch goal, only $250 above the base goal, was that I could do it entirely in-house. As a purely digital release with no external costs, I could add value without spending additional funding. I’m very happy about this digital supplement as well.

At the end of the day?

Despite these setbacks, I am happy to say that this kickstarter has been a success overall. While I haven’t broken even yet, I have plenty of product available for sale and it’s only a matter of time before I do so. I think that the actual product and the underlying game design are beautiful, and I’m really proud of what I have accomplished.
I have sent out just under 300 copies of the game at this point to you fine backers. Within the next few years, I am confident that I can make up most of the difference, and break into the black on this project. More importantly than that, I hope that people really enjoy this game and that you tell stories of the transformation, tranhumanism and sacrifice.
That said, your support would be very much appreciated. I depend on your enthusiastic voices to spread the word and get copies of this in people’s hands.
Play the game: Play sessions at home, at game stores and at conventions. The best way to help is to play the game and enjoy yourselves!
Leave Honest Reviews: Reviews are great, and I would love to hear your thoughts about the game. The DriveThruRPG page is a great place to talk about the game.
Send people to GenCon: I will be working at the Indie Game Developer Network (IGDN) at GenCon, running demos and selling the game. Spread the word and send people over, so I can introduce them to the game in person.
Send people to buy copies direct: With the completion of the kickstarter campaign, I have now put the game on sale and included a more reasonable shipping premium. Please feel free to send friends, colleagues, and random strangers to buy their own copies over at
Thank you for all of your help, and your support. The more people hear about Posthuman Pathways, the more likely I am to sell a few copies and produce more interesting RPGs.

Happy Gaming!

Origins of Posthumanity

Just a quick note; I have pretty much finished all of the work for the Posthuman Pathways kickstarter. Now that the shipping of rewards is effectively complete and we have finished the local launch party, I am ready for the formal public launch of the game at Origins. I will be working at the Games on Demand section, or staffing the Indie Game Developer Network (IGDN) booth where I will be selling copies.

I hope to see you there!