An interview with a game designer: Kristen Mott

In the latest in my series of interviews, I speak to Kristen Mott to discuss her journey to becoming a board game designer, and the experience of launching a game on Kickstarter.

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

Kristen Mott: Hi Mark, it’s really fantastic to be here today talking about board games. I am a homeschool mom of three kids (ages 4, 6, and 8) and I’m also an independent board game designer.

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

KM: As a child I remember playing a lot of Herd Your Horses, simply because I was very interested in horses at the time, not because I really enjoyed board games. I played some typical games, Monopoly and Battleship with my brother, and some party games with extended family as I got older.

I spent much of my adult life really indifferent to board games. I just didn’t have much interest. That all changed several years ago when my oldest became interested in trying some games that were collecting dust on our shelf: chess, checkers, Chutes and Ladders. Then one day he found Dicey Peaks on the shelf and wanted to try it. I learned it, we played it, and something switched in me. We were both really enjoying the game experience, and I could see how much he was thinking and learning. From there it became a family hobby and has been growing in our house ever since.

Images from

DITD: How did you get started with game design?

KM: After playing a lot of the typical mass market games with my kids I thought that I could make something just as good with a theme that held their interest. At that point I was still pretty unaware of some of the truly great children’s games on the market. So I started making some very homemade prototypes and played them with my kids. When their interest grew and they really seemed to enjoy the designs, I decided to keep going with it. Especially since I already had three play testers built into my family!

As I continued designing games for my kids, I also fell deeper into the hobby myself. My husband and I played any game we could, and my appreciation for game design and my drive to do it myself only grew from there.

DITD: In early 2022 you successfully Kickstarted your game Dinosaur Exhibit. Can you please tell us about the game and its development?

KM: Dinosaur Exhibit is a very light, family roll and write/tile placement game for ages 6 and up. Each player is a museum curator trying to create the best dinosaur exhibit in hopes of winning a Spinosaurus skeleton for display. I really wanted to create a simple, entry level roll and write that adults would enjoy with their children but also as a light filler game for themselves.

The original idea for this game came after I watched the movie Night at the Museum. The concept started as a card game where you could trade resource cards to purchase items for building different museum exhibits. I could never get it to work quite right. Around that time I also played Lanterns Dice for the first time, a game that combines the roll and write mechanism with tile placement on the player sheet. I fell in love with it and thought that might be an option for my museum game. I worked out some of the major mechanisms and simplified the theme to focus just on a dinosaur exhibit. All three of my children were very interested in dinosaurs at the time too, which helped with the theming. As all games do, it still went through a lot of play testing and many more changes to become what it is now.

Image from Kristen Mott

DITD: How was the experience of launching a game on Kickstarter? Were there any particular challenges that you had to overcome?

KM: Launching a game on Kickstarter has a laundry list of challenges. There is so much to keep track of and prepare for a crowdfunding launch, especially when you are doing it all yourself. I had to be my own art director, even though I hired a fantastic artist, Jerry Padilla, to bring this game to life. I had to make every decision on components, sizing, and formatting. I had to make sure I had preview copies ready to send internationally to reviewers months before the launch. I had to make sure I had simple and compelling graphics for the Kickstarter page. And I tried to organically market the game myself through contacts on social media.

The list goes on and on. I never felt like I had everything completed until suddenly I did and it was time to push the launch button. That was a roller coaster of a day! But the experience itself has been very rewarding knowing that I put my idea out into the market and the response was generally positive.

DITD: What advice would you give someone looking to design their own game?

My first piece of advice is to play a lot of different types of games. You never know when an idea will pop into your head. For me it’s generally when playing something new. Second, if you have a concept and a prototype, play test it more than you think it needs with lots of different people.

DITD: What about advice for people looking to launch on Kickstarter? Are there any things that you wish you knew when you started that journey?

KM: My number one piece of advice would be to create a game and a Kickstarter page that would interest you if you were the backer. If you wouldn’t back a similar project, chances are most others won’t either.

The biggest surprise to me was the overall cost of Kickstarting it myself. I did my research and knew that I probably would not make any profit based on my calculations, but I was hopeful that I might. Spoiler: I didn’t. The cost of art, graphic design, prototype and preview copies, and shipping all add up. Especially with the global shipping crisis being what it is right now. I would advise anyone to price out manufacturing and shipping months in advance of the launch date.

Image from Kristen Mott

DITD: What plans do you have for the future?

KM: I have lots of concepts and designs in various stages that I’m working on right now. I have sold several of my designs to publishers, which is the path I prefer right now. Selling the design to a publisher allows me to focus on just the design process instead of taking on art direction, marketing, publishing, and shipping/distribution myself.

Dinosaur Exhibit was purchased by a publisher earlier this year and we are working on a full-scale reprint in the future, though there is no definitive timeline yet.

DITD: Where can people find you on the web?

KM: I am most active on my Instagram page @family.boardgaming, where I post general family board game content and my own game designs. I have a website where you can find some of my designs, though it’s not updated often. I’m also kristenmott on BGG.

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

KM: My all-time favorite movie is Looper. It is such an underrated sci-fi thriller about the destruction time travel could cause. I love sci-fi, but it also made me cry with its sincere and heartfelt storyline.

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

KM: Thank you so much for having me!

A huge thanks again to Kristen for agreeing to chat, it was lovely. Be sure to give her a follow on Instagram for more news on her designs.

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