In my latest interview, I sit down for a chat with Lily from play_it_solo to talk about what makes solo games so interesting and why we’ve seen such an explosion of solo-focused games recently.
Dice In The Dark: Hi Lily, thanks for being here today. Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself: who are you and what do you do?
Lily: Hey Mark, thank you for asking me to do this! My name is Lily, I’m a 36 years old landscape architect living in Montreal Canada, who loves to play boardgames and take photographs of them! I need to add that I’m a solo only boardgamer, I think that’s important to say ;).
DITD: How did you first get involved with the world of tabletop gaming? Do you have any particularly fond memories from that time?
Lily: Well I started very young. I have the chance to have an uncle who was, and still is a huge fan of RPGs and boardgames in general. We always played games in my family, mostly with him, my cousins and brother. We used to spend hours and hours just playing when it was raining or after a day outside during the holidays. So I have a lot of great memories but I have three that I cherish a lot:
We once spent 5 hours playing The Werewolves of Miller’s Hollow during a family event. We were 18 family members and it was pure chaos in the most amazing possible way!
One case of Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective was so hard and intricate that we set up a full HQ operative base with maps and playmobil in the entire living room to recreate the murder, so we could see better what could have happened. Everything looked insane.
And last one, that time where my uncle spent days creating a suitable D&D adventure for us (we were so so young). I remember him with binders, papers all around it was amazing and we were so excited!
DITD: What are some of your favourite games? What do you love about them?
Lily: I love big adventures and immersive board games. My favourite games are Mage Knight, Spirit Island, Arkham Horror and Thunderstone Quest. I love the fact that you start a game and that you can upgrade your characters with cards or items during the game. It just adds so much for me when you can have the freedom to choose what you want and adapt depending on a scenario or situation. The progression is what I love the most, I think.
DITD: What is the appeal of solo gaming, do you think?
Lily: Well, I think the pandemic opened a whole new world for a lot of people, me included. I bought Mage Knight at the beginning of the pandemic because I didn’t want to get stuck at home with nothing to do except watching TV and playing video games. Solo gaming is a great way to challenge yourself. It’s a great puzzle for your mind. Board games are multifaceted now, it’s not just a tool to only socialise anymore. It’s way more than that and I think that people who tried it (maybe because they didn’t have a choice at first) saw that it can really create a world and a unique experience for them.
DITD: What makes a good solo game?
Lily: That’s a hard question because there’s different solo gamers. For me it has everything to do with the experience and immersion. If the game has it, a good AI that is challenging and easy to manage is also a number one concern for me. Replayability is also very high on my list.
DITD: It seems like there’s been a greater interest in solo games in the last few years. Why do you think that is? Do you think that solo games will continue to grow?
Lily: I talked about it a little in a previous question but I really think that the pandemic pushed solo games a lot to the front scene. People were stuck at home without ways to see each other in real life. So they turned to a new experience I feel like, and discovered that, yes, there are amazing solo games out there that can fulfil your gaming craving in a meaningful and incredible way! And yes, solo will absolutely grow more and more now, it’s a big part of the market now.
DITD: Where would you like to see solo gaming go in the future? Are there any kinds of experiences that you’d like to see more of?
Lily: I would love to see more and more people try it honestly. I would love for publishers and designers to create more solo options for their game and include them at the core of their thought process. This is way beyond a niche now.
DITD: Changing subject slightly, you’re also a very skilled board game photographer. How did and why did you get started with board game photography?
Lily: Oh thanks Mark, I don’t know about that haha. Well I started with an old iphone for a while and I was getting frustrated and limitated with what I had in mind for a lot of my games and what I wanted to show on my account. I had ideas for a lot of pictures that I just couldn’t achieve with a phone. So when one of my friends lent me his camera, a whole new world opened for me.
DITD: What would you say makes a good board game photograph?
Lily: For me it’s when you are creating a world and telling a story through your pictures. Board games are great for that because you have a lot of material to work with: components, minis, cards… After that it’s just to find an idea and go from there! Composition and lights are of course super important too.
DITD: What kind of equipment do you use in your photography? How do you edit your photos?
Lily: The only equipment that I have is the camera with a lense, some lights, small LED lights, and two black acrylic sheets. The rest is just some props that I have or buy if I have a specific idea. But I usually find a way to reuse them for other pictures. I use Photoshop and Lightroom when I edit my pics.
DITD: What advice would you give to someone looking to get started with board game photography?
Lily: Start. I might be stupid to say but just start. I know how intimidating it can be. It’s a lot of trial and error. Don’t hesitate to experiment too with lights, colours and composure. You don’t have to master everything, just have fun with it! And be patient. A good pic is usually hours and hours of your time, but it will get better the more your practise. And don’t get frustrated if you can’t achieve what you have in mind perfectly. Most of the time, the best pictures are the ones that are a happy accident.
DITD: Where can people find you on the web?
Lily: They can find me at play_it_solo on Instagram and Vero!
DITD: Just for fun, what would you say is the greatest movie of all time, and what makes it so great?
Lily: Oh my…that’s too hard to say Mark, don’t make me do it hahahah
DITD: Thanks for being here today Lily, it’s been a pleasure.
Lily: Thanks Mark, it’s always a pleasure for me too!
A massive thanks again to Lily for agreeing to chat. It was great to get her perspective on solo gaming, and I’m sure you’ll agree, her photographs are absolutely amazing. Be sure to check out her Instagram to see more.