After doing our Tome Traveler episode on BESM: Big Eyes, Small Mouth we had a change to talk to the original creator, Mark MacKinnon, who is still creating fun games! Here’s our interview:
Mark, thank you so much for agreeing to doing the interview.
So, in 1997 you released Big Eyes, Small Mouth, perhaps the most famous Anime RPG, into the Gaming landscape. What was your background in the roleplaying medium? As a player what were the things that you enjoyed?
Like many kids of the 80s, I grew up playing Dungeons and Dragons from grade 7 on. I started with the infamous red box then moved onto AD&D 2nd edition in high school (which is still my favourite D&D edition). After expanding into many other RPGs, I eventually found the Amber Diceless RPG and fell in love with the rule-light mechanics that stressed character and story over rules. I fell in with a great group of Amber players through the annual Ambercon convention in Michigan and formed a friendship with Amber DRPG creator, Erick Wujcik, that eventually saw me organise a Toronto-based Ambercon North convention for a few years. It was from all these experiences and exposures that lead me to start my own RPG publishing company, Guardians Of Order, in 1997.
Did you have any background in game creation when you did it? What drew you to create this game?
I had toyed with board game and RPG design for years as a hobby but didn’t pursue anything seriously until I decided to pair my love for anime with my passion for role-playing. When I set out to create Big Eyes, Small Mouth RPG (BESM), I thought I was creating a home-brew game to play through characters and scenarios of the Ranma 1/2 anime series. Shortly after I began writing, I realized that I could expand the game’s scope to create a multi-genre RPG that could handle a wide range of anime settings and themes. A cursory review of the industry at the time helped me make the leap from “design just for me” to “design to publish for others”.
You also continue to create games; what can you tell me about your new titles?
Dyskami Publishing Company is my new effort, and we have been focused on creating tabletop/board games for the past few years. Our latest release, the Sailor Moon Crystal Dice Challenge, is a licensed dice battle game that’s part of the Button Men family of games (an awesome social battle game designed by Cheapass Games). We have a multi-year license with Toei Animation to create a line of Sailor Moon Crystal games and Dice Challenge is the first release (August 2018) with several more to come.
Have you ever thought of returning to the tri-stat system?
I love role-playing and I love my Tri-Stat game system, so returning to RPG publishing has been on my mind since my company sold BESM and my other RPG lines to White Wolf back in the mid-2000s. Obviously, the RPG industry has changed dramatically but I think there’s still room for great products and innovations in that field. I would love to return to my gaming roots and publish some RPGs because there are many people wanting more.
What other ways do you embrace and support gaming as a hobby?
As a busy entrepreneur, politician, and family man, I don’t have as much time for gaming as I would like. A few years ago, I partnered with some like-minded individuals and opened The Boardroom, a board game cafe, in Guelph, Ontario. Working the retail and service side of the industry has certainly brought a different perspective to what people want and need from gaming and it’s been great to be involved at that level as well. Running a game cafe and publishing board games with Dyskami has allowed me to continue engaging with gamers in many different ways and I look forward to what the future holds!