We were all born to create. And sometimes, the fuel for our creative mind may not even be noticed until years later, until new beginnings remind us of who we are all over again. More and more, my twin boys remind me of who I was before and during elementary school, where I went to a wonderful place of learning called Swastika Public School in the small town of Swastika, Ontario.
Every kid got to be Staypuff Marshmallow Man ... in the colour scheme of their (parents’) choice. So, everyone played hockey, or froze. But there was much more than hockey, otherwise this wouldn’t be much of a story, now, would it?
This probably sounds quite silly now, but put yourself in 8-year-old-you’s shoes. Wasn’t it just that much more fun to run and jump around when there was an exciting reason to do so?
We were all made to create – and I really do hope you are doing some creating too, no matter how close or far you are now from where you grew up. Because no matter what we tell ourselves about who we think we are, our past selves are always a part of us. So whenever I’m in a creative rut, I try to remember why I’m doing this in the first place.
How about you? Where did you grow up, and how did it inspire you to your calling? Tell me about what you love most and why it’s a part of your creative life.
Stratos Lead Designer, from Swastika, Ontario, Canada
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Creative Beginnings at Laurentian University
And yet, life in Sudbury gave me the space in-between other happenings. It sure feels like this time and space between events is where the creative spark most easily comes into being.
The professors at Laurentian University always seemed, to me, to have a real intuitive understanding of the need to balance challenge with just enough time for reflection. Looking back on it now, I have come to really appreciate this measured approach, and it was during my time there that Stratos came to be.
Magic, Heroes, and Pickup Basketball
Co-designer David Gundrum and I both grew up here for a significant period in our lives. A bunch of us played pickup basketball at every available opportunity, and when we weren't doing that, we dove into our favourite games of the time that captured our collective imaginations.
From Creative Play to Something More
There was a definite thirst for more creative play, which is where Magic came in. We'd spend hours every weekend engrossed in figuring out new decks and new ways to use cards together for combos.
Reflections and the Irony of our Story
One can't help but enjoy the irony of having created an RPG-inspired board game in such a place. It has dungeons (mines), treasures (like The Big Nickel), and even traps (potholes)!
As we reflect upon our journey 10 years later, our number one observation is that creative ideas best emerge when we are fully present.
Jacob Chodoriwsky and David Gundrum
Original Co-Designers of Stratos
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Having twins is wonderful – but it is sometimes like a Die Hard movie. They run over smaller toys with ride-on dump trucks, know professional wrestling moves innately, and love to crash cars into airplanes.
Yet I could not resist their ever-so-nice and cute smiles asking to play board games on the shelf. And when Zechariah was jumping up-and-down in excitement for “Daddy’s game” (Stratos), with Elijah ready to climb the bookshelf for it, well, I gave in.
Fortunately, they love to help and to build things for people. Both have such generous spirits, and it melts my heart every time I see them sharing and helping each other when they might otherwise be painting the walls with spaghetti sauce. Or fighting/arguing over who is, in fact, Batman (conclusion: they are both Batman).
You thought this was going to be about more crashes and explosions, didn’t you? Me too.
I am continually fascinated by how much board games can have a calming effect on my twin tornadoes. Here it gets Zechariah counting the pieces and telling me about them, and Elijah telling me stories about the dragon and the owls in the spooky forest, echoing some of his favourite bedtime stories.
It’s a joy to be a father of boys, who are as into games as deeply I am; I guess I’m not surprised. Like father like son as they say. This is why I try to set a strong example of hard work mixed with creativity and humour. I can’t wait to see what’s next. Even if it has a boom crash piece.
For reference, one of their other favourite activities is running around naked wearing buckets on their heads. Those pictures may be saved for future wedding days. We’ll see.
So try introducing board games with your kids. Watch as they fall into a new world and observe theirs expand. It may result in random nakedness, yelling fits, and lots of Lego pieces underfoot, but I would not trade any of this for anything in the world.
Thanks for reading,
Jacob Chodoriwsky | Lead Designer, Stratos
That particular feature made it a more immersive experience compared to every MMORPG that came before it. I’m sure there were great qualities to these games, but the combat just didn't connect with me. Being a big fan of games like Tekken 3, I just couldn’t get into games where collision detection was way off.
Over time, however, the hooks of Azeroth were simply not enough to overcome the laughter and chaos that accompanied nearly every match of Catan, a now legendary board game that appeared among us around the same time. While I definitely still respect the old classics, it was a revelation to play a board game that had the design maturity of video games with respect to balance, pacing, and strategy – while also being a more truly social experience than anything online. This new way of engaging in role-playing-like scenarios with friends was truly a life-changer.
Seeing the power of games like Catan to bring people together and keep players interested right to the end was a real inspiration for us. When co-designer David Gundrum and I first dreamed up Stratos, our goal was to make something accessible and social like Catan and other Euro games, but with a rich and beautiful RPG-like world and combat. Our inspirations there definitely stretch back much further. How many of you 90s gamers still love Shining Force or Final Fantasy Tactics, to name only two?
Thanks for reading - I hope to hear from you, too, about games that have had a major impact on your life.
Jacob Chodoriwsky is the lead designer of Stratos and CEO/Co-Founder of Board and Tale Games Inc. He lives in Hamilton, ON with his wife Rebecca and twin sons Zechariah and Elijah.