Local Game Developer, UGA Math Instructor Pursues His Passion

The market for table top games has been growing in North America and it doesn’t seem to show many signs of slowing.

According to ICv2, an online trade magazine that covers the geek culture, the hobby games market grew by approximately 15% in 2014. It should be an encouraging sign for game developers but a bigger market doesn’t necessarily mean more diversity.

Kevin Kennedy is currently a math instructor working at the University of Georgia and has lived in Athens for most of his life. He’s also one of a handful of local board game developers, and at 36 years old, has been developing board games since he was 29.

Kennedy recognizes the difficulty of getting games published.

“Getting a board game published for somebody who isn’t published already is very difficult,” he says. “It’s really hard to make a game that competes with the current market.”

That hasn’t stopped him, though.

Not particularly tall or physically imposing, Kennedy comes off much more as an intellectual individual, perhaps aided by the Sherlock Holmes style overcoat that he’s wearing. His initial tone is measured and calm as he carefully describes himself and who he is.

His voice changes, though, and he begins to exhibit excitement when it comes to games. He’s eager to share information on games that he’s played or made and it’s hard to prevent him from giving too much extra information and going off topic. Kennedy mentions that his first experiences with board games was playing chess and checkers.

Kennedy credits his interest in table top games to his mother. When he was a child, he used to play board games with his family before getting into trading card games such as Magic: The Gathering, a game that he played pretty seriously as a high school student.

However, it was during and after his college years that his interest in board games really developed. “I discovered the board game night at Tyche’s [a local game shop on Lumpkin street] and I started playing there and that’s when I seriously started collecting board games,” he says. “Now I have 300 distinct board games, not including expansions.”

Not only satisfied with collecting games, Kennedy took his love of board games to create games of his own. He’s been developing a board game called Academy for the past six years and has actively been play testing it at local shops and cafes, including at The Rook and Pawn.

Kennedy explains that Academy is an intricate game with two levels. There’s a beginner level where players play primarily in a European style board game, where the main purpose of the game is to foster trade and resource management. The more advanced level, he says, encourages player interaction and conflict, making it more action packed. The different play styles are for different people. Some people, he says, aren’t so fond of breeding conflict with other players.

 Academy appears to have been well received by those who have been able to play test it. Kevin Stipek, a friend of Kennedy, says it’s been especially well received by new players who play it for the first time. “With the group on Tuesday, we have a lot of newer people who come through and they especially are very interested and excited to try a game that is being developed by somebody.”

The game is ready to go. Kennedy is now pitching it to publishers, certainly not an easy task. “The game’s basically finished,” he says, “and the only real thing left is to get a publisher for it.”

By Abe Park