An interview with a content creator: Jim Cohen

Welcome to the next installment in a series of interviews where I chat to people from the world of tabletop games. The aim is to try and find out a bit more about what makes them tick and to explore their particular corner of the hobby.

This time, I talk to content creator Jim Cohen – influential Instagrammer and the man behind Jim is a lovely guy, and it was great to sit down for a (virtual) chat with him.

Dice In The Dark: Hi Jim, thanks for being here today. Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself: who are you and what do you do?

Jim Cohen: Hey! Well, first and foremost, I am Jim. A guy who loves to play games with his family and friends. Most evenings and weekends I will sit down with my son and play a game, and that is when I am most happy. I also run a review website called What Board Game and an Instagram, channel @jim.gamer.

Image from @jim.gamer

DITD: How did you first get involved with the world of tabletop gaming?  Do you have any particularly fond memories from that time?

JC: My path was somewhat staggered. I first played in the 1980’s where I fell in Love with games like Escape from Coldidtz. I loved playing that with my dad and remember fondly our long, slow games over the British summers. The next big trigger was when Pandemic came out, offering something a little new. I bought that for my wife and I to try and start watching less TV, and it worked for a bit. But after a while, we were left looking for something more. Then, a few years later, I went to my first board game café on the recommendation of a friend and saw the choice available. I was mesmerized and wanted to instantly learn and play every game there. The fondness turned to an obsession officially that day!

DITD: What are some of your favourite games? What do you love about them?

JC: Brass: Birmingham, Star Wars Rebellion, Blood Rage, Blackout: Hong Kong, and Robinson Crusoe have stayed pretty consistent in my top five games for a while now. I think the thing that unifies them all is crunchy, meaningful decisions. I like options in games, and the sense that my choice affects my success or failure. I want the balance between winning and losing to be close, either against other players or the game itself. As that way, when you win or play the game well, it feels that much sweeter. And I want big moments in games. Moments you will talk about afterwards.

DITD: There’s some great games there! Brass: Birmingham is one of my favourites too. I have to ask, do you prefer the day side of the board or the night side? (I can never decide which I like best)

JC: I prefer the day side as it’s lighter and a little easier to see some stuff, but I often play with the night side as I think it looks cooler!

Image from @jim.gamer

DITD: How has tabletop gaming changed since you first got into the hobby?

JC: In so many ways! Firstly, the number of games released each year. Wow, that’s grown exponentially, hasn’t it? Secondly, the amount of people that play games now. It’s great to see so many new people join the hobby. I think crowdfunding has given a platform for new designers and publishers to get their games to market, which is obviously wonderful. I think social channels have opened up the way people can find other gamers too. Not just things like insta, but also things like meetup where I found my first local community when I moved a few years back.

DITD: Is there anything that you’d like to see more of in tabletop gaming going forward?

JC: Innovation. I love games like Destinies, Lord of the Rings – Journeys in Middle-Earth, and Return to Dark Tower that use apps to develop the theme, story, and mechanics of a game. This seems to be the main change mechanically in the last few years. But I am keen to see what’s next. A digital/tabletop hybrid is a nice idea, and can work well, but how can publishers and designers use technology to enhance the tabletop experience, rather than replace it? I am keen to see that. Luminor, the new digital expansion for Moonrakers is a step in the right direction for me but I would love to see more.

DITD: You run a website called How did that get started?

JC: In lock down, I was given back about three hours a day from not having to commute to London for my work. My wife thought I could make use of that time in a productive way, and complete to my surprise, made me a website! She saw how obsessed with the hobby I was and thought it would be a productive use of my time. I was blown away. I have no ability to build a site myself, so this would have never happened without a gesture like this. But I was very excited to fill it with content. So, I got set to reviewing some of my favourite games, interviewing some of my favourite people, and trying to create a site and community that I would want to be a part of. A few years later, and I now have a few people who regularly write for the site, a thriving community, and some pretty good numbers. I am very proud of this.

Image from @jim.gamer

DITD: You’re quite an influential figure in the board game community on Instagram. Can you tell us a bit about how that and how it’s progressed over the years?

JC: I don’t really have the numbers to say I am influential on my own, but I do think I am part of a community of people who are trying to do some good stuff as a collective. This was accelerated largely by two things. First, I started writing for Zatu, a UK games seller. Second, the lockdown periods gave everyone more time for things like this. This introduced me to a number of other UK based games enthusiasts. We found each other and formed a community on insta. This led to some cool little projects and collaborations starting. This is where the hashtag #MechanismsMonday began, which has now run for almost two years, and brings together the community to support one new account each Monday. I love it. I see the bump in followers and engagement the person who chose the mechanic each week gets, and it makes me very happy. Our little Zatu group is also how a number of friendships formed. It developed and evolved to more than just the Zatu crew, the Mechanisms Monday hashtag really helped that. We met people all over the world, and from all sorts of backgrounds, and I now feel like I have mates all over the world.

DITD: That’s awesome. I’ve been taking part in Mechanisms Monday myself for over a year now and I love seeing what people choose each week. That hashtag really changed the way I interacted with the Instagram boardgame community, so thank you for creating it.

What advice would you give to someone looking to get into board game content creation?

JC: I think the best advice I have ever received was to not worry about what others think and concentrate on what makes you happy. Don’t worry about the numbers, or what other people are doing. Focus on your strengths, your goals, and your interests. Try and do something that makes you happy and proud.

DITD: Where can people find you on the web?

JC: I am on or on Instagram at @jim.gamer

DITD: Just for fun, what would you say is the greatest movie of all time, and what makes it so great?

JC: True Romance. It has everything. Action, comedy, drama, romance. Great actors. Great script. And is very nostalgic for me, I was a very happy guy when I first saw that film. And it makes me very happy every time I watch it.

DITD: Thanks for being here, Jim, it’s been a pleasure.

A massive thanks once again to Jim for agreeing to chat. Be sure to check out his page, and come back soon for some more interviews with people from the world of tabletop gaming.

All images are © copyright their respective owners.

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