John Kovalic is known for many things: from Apples To Apples to Munchkin, he’s helped create hundreds of games and gaming supplements over the last 15 years. He’s the creator of award-winning comics like Dork Tower (which runs in GTM) and Dr. Blink: Superhero Shrink. He’s helped develop games that have sold millions copies, and this month, ROFL! his own fast-play party game, hits the shelves.
So, tell me about ROFL!
John Kovalic (JK): ROFL! is a simple, clever little party game that lets people take pop-culture phrases — say, “Use the Force, Luke,” or “My cat’s breath smells like cat food” — and rewrite them using as few characters as they can. The player who uses the fewest characters while still getting the meaning of the phrase across to the Guesser (the “Judge” of ROFL!) gets points. Then another player becomes the Guesser, and another turn begins. The person with the most points after three rounds is the winner. You don’t to have to know the phrases — or where they’re from — to enjoy ROFL! You just have to get them across.
So ROFL! Is a game about texting?
JK: Well, it’s a game inspired by texting. It’s a game about getting your message across – and that applies to many aspects of modern online life. People who hate texting still love ROFL!.
Why did you make ROFL! a party game, if the phrases are so geeky, and you’re associated with geeky games like Munchkin?
JK: “Geek” is the new mainstream. Most people will get a laugh from many of the quotes, whether they’re from Star Wars, Star Trek, Harry Potter, or The Avengers. But there are also categories for pop songs and famous lines throughout history thrown in for good measure. Since you don’t need to know what the phrases are, you can play ROFL! with anyone.
You have a lot of experience with party game development – did this come into play with ROFL!?
JK: Absolutely. Working on and helping to develop games like Apples To Apples, FAUX*cabulary and Word On The Street have given me a real love and appreciation of great party games. To me, Apples To Apples is as perfect and self-contained as Diplomacy. You have to approach the design of a party game as seriously as you do any other game — more so, in some cases, as the rules need to be short, sharp, and simple.
This is the first time you’ve worked with Cryptozoic, isn’t it?
JK: It is, and it was a blast. They have a great team of incredibly talented, driven folks, and their line is exciting and eclectic. John Nee and I have been trying to find the right project to work together on for a while now. I’m very glad it was ROFL!.
Now that ROFL! is done, are you busy with other things?
JK: Oh, yes! ROFL! is the first of four major projects — two of the others involve my comic books, Dork Tower and Dr. Blink, while the fourth is a ‘tween. I’ve also got two or three new games I want to finish up this year. Plus, my other usual commitments.
When you say “Dork Tower Project,” is that The Tao of Igor compilation?
JK: No — believe it or not. The Tao of Igor (the next Dork Tower collection) should be done soon — possibly by the time people read this. And that will mark the start of new Dork Tower comic books overall. But the Dork Tower project I mentioned is actually much larger than that.
Why so many projects after being relatively quiet for a few years?
JK: I think the words “baby daughter” just about cover it all. I was fortunate enough to be able to pull back from some things and spend a lot of time with my family.
Obviously, I can’t let you get away from an interview without talking about Munchkin — probably what you’re best known for, in gaming circles.
JK: Hah! Yes, Munchkin (Steve Jackson Games) continues to be a sales behemoth – there are many new releases on the horizon. Last year I drew my 4,000th Munchkin card. I’d like to say that working on Munchkin is just as much fun as ever, but actually it’s a lot more fun! I try to make every new Munchkin set look better than the last, and the newer games themselves — like Munchkin Apocalypse and Munchkin Zombies — are terrific games.
Can you drop any secret hints about the next big Munchkin release?