Friday, June 13, 2014

Faculty Lounge: Cyrus Kirby of Father Geek

Here in the faculty lounge I get together and talk to other board game interested podcasters and bloggers to learn a little bit more about what they do.

I honestly discovered Father Geek by coming across board games that proudly highlighted that they were “Father Geek Approved.”  This made me ask, who is Father Geek?  Is he a wise old man like father time, or, as I later discovered, a young father name Cyrus Kirby undertaking the most challenging RPG of all time...fatherhood.

Dr. Wictz: Thank you for stopping by for a chat in the faculty lounge.  Can you give a quick run down about what is Father Geek in case folks are not familiar with your blog?

Cyrus Kirby: Father Geek is a website dedicated to any and all individuals who teach life lessons through geekiness and play. "Better parenting through games and geekiness" is our slogan and our motto. We play games with children and adults, non-gamers and uber geeks. Each game gets hours of table time and a thorough review. The end result is a game review that provides comments from a very wide range of ages and players.

Dr. Wictz: Why did you start Father Geek?

Cyrus Kirby: I started Father Geek as a way to support my wife's project. She wanted to start her own blog and I didn't know much about the software or process. Since I'm her "tech support", I created a blog of my own to test new plugins and get to know how the code was working under the covers. Since I was going to spend some time on the website, I decided to write about something I enjoyed: playing games with my kids. Four years later, Father Geek is still going strong.

Dr. Wictz: How did you recruit your former co-bloggers?

Cyrus Kirby: When I first started Father Geek, I invited my fellow gaming parents to contribute. I created a simple template for them to follow and then let them decide when they wanted to publish a review. With the software I use to run the backend of Father Geek, contributors could type their review and upload images directly to the site. When they were ready for it to be published, they just had to push a button.

Dr. Wictz:  Father Geek has gone through some transitions from being a multi-person outfit to just being you, what were the positives and negatives of that transition?

Cyrus Kirby: Doing anything by yourself is less interesting than doing things with friends. The same can be said for Father Geek. Originally, it was a group project and it was great to have so many friends working on it. However, one of the goals of Father Geek was to simply report how games were played and enjoyed by multiple groups. I wanted the reviews to be as objective as possible, highlight the positives, and be a supportive ambassador of our hobby.

Some members of the original group didn't care for this idea, finding reviews to be more worthwhile if they were subjective in nature, focused on negatives, and suggested a game was good or bad. Overtime, every co-writer has left Father Geek either due to lack of time, wanting to pursue their own projects, or in disagreement with the Father Geek vision. More than anything, Father Geek has been a learning experience for everyone involved. It has had its ups and downs, but friendships were never in jeopardy. I have learned a great deal from every person who has contributed to Father Geek and feel immensely fortunate to have worked with them.

Father Geek is now run only by me, but it is still a group project. I play games with kids and adults. I might be the only one writing, but I get to play with lots of people who contribute to the project by simply joining me at the gaming table.

Dr. Wictz: Has the type of games you review/play changed as your children aged?

Cyrus Kirby: The types of games I play and review is not based on the age of my children. Father Geek plays games with adults, too. If I receive a game that is too complex for children, I focus on the adults. Likewise, if I receive a game that is intended for children, I tend to focus less on the adults. There has never been a game I couldn't play with someone.

What has changed are the many games I get to play with my children. When a new game arrives, the very first thing I do is put it in front of my 3 children to look through. We look at the rules, go over the game bits, and talk about what the game is about. This greatly interests them and they want to learn how to play the game. As a result, all 3 of my children play board, card, and dice games that are much more complex than other games traditionally targeting their age group. As they continue to grow, they become increasingly better at games, logical thinking, and critical analysis.

Dr. Wictz: Has your perspective on board gaming changed after you had children?

Cyrus Kirby: I have a lot more patience for games and people nowadays. Teaching a complex game to a 6-year-old takes time, patience, and willpower. I have found that there is no such thing as a "bad" or "good" game. For every player there is a game, and for every game there is a player. Perhaps the greatest shift in my perspective is that I no longer see board game as just a distraction. I now see the subtle lessons they teach, the skills they strengthen, and the positive rewards of social interaction they provide.

Dr. Wictz: What mistakes about introducing board games to your kids did you learn from your oldest child that you did not repeat with your younger children?

Cyrus Kirby: Never be afraid to introduce board games to your children, even if they are much more complex than you think they can handle. I made the mistake of "assuming" some games were too difficult and denied my son and myself the pleasure of playing the game together. I have now introduced very complex games to all 3 of my children. If the game is too complicated, I simply dumb it down by removing rules until it gets to a point where I can play the game with them. Of course, this doesn't allow me to review the game for that age level, but it does allow me play the game with my kids. If there is one thing I suggest every parent do is simply try. If the game works, great. If not, change it until it does. The goal is to play with your children, not learn how to play a game.

Dr. Wictz: Do you plan on having any of your kids write/contribute to a review as they grow older?

Cyrus Kirby: Without a doubt. My two oldest have already told me they want to write for the website. But in a very profound a real way, they have been contributing to Father Geek from the very start. I write about them. Without my children, I wouldn't have any reason to have the website. My children are the source of my inspiration and the only reason why Father Geek exists.

Dr. Wictz: How did you come up with Father Geek as the name for your blog?

Cyrus Kirby: When I was thinking about what I wanted to write about, I thought I'd focus on the two subjects that I was very passionate about: my kids and geek culture. The first name that came to mind was "Father Geek" and it just so happened that the domain name was available. I never thought of a second or third possible name because the first captured everything I wanted the site to be about so perfectly.

Dr. Wictz: Will it you become Grandfather Geek when your children are grown up and starting their own families?

Cyrus Kirby: Since I have the privilege of being a "father" for the rest of my life, the site's name will never change, but the young people who I get to play games with most certainly will. I get to play with my kids and their friends today. In the future, I look forward to playing with my children and their children.

Dr. Wictz: How did you come up with the idea for the Father Geek Seal of Approval?

Cyrus Kirby: The Father Geek Seal of Approval came about because a game publisher wanted something from me that suggested that the game was endorsed by us. My initial gut reaction was to politely decline. I didn't want Father Geek to be anything other than be an ambassador of or hobby. I wasn't comfortable with the idea that someone would make a choice on a game based on my opinion. Besides, there are plenty of other reviewers available today who make strong opinionated arguments for or against a game. I honestly didn't see the need.

But then I thought of a going about it differently. What if I were to only provide a "seal of approval" for a game that was enjoyed by all three of groups? This would mean a game was enjoyed by children, adults, non-gamers, and gamers alike. Now that is a game worth talking about! And so, the "Father Geek Seal of Approval" was born. I only offer it to those games where Child, Parent, and Gamer Geeks all voted to approve it. It is important to note that I NEVER have a say about the game getting the seal or not. It is not up to me.

Dr. Wictz: What was your reaction the first time you saw the seal on a game box?

Cyrus Kirby: The first time I saw the Father Geek Seal of Approval on a game box I felt exceedingly happy and then overly nervous. The thing is, I don't want to be recognized. I'm just this guy, you know? But that fear quickly subsided and I am hopeful that others see the Father Geek Seal of Approval as a sure sign that a game will be enjoyed. If I sat down next to you at a gaming table, you'd think I was just this nice guy who likes to play games. And you know what? You'd be right.

Dr. Wictz: If you were to introduce someone to your blog and you could only have them read one entry, which entry would you have them read?

Cyrus Kirby: This is a very difficult question to answer. Impossible, even. Father Geek is organic in nature. I write from the heart and that means each article is unique. I constantly rotate out different players, which means comments and observations are always different, too. There is almost 4 years of content and over 500 game reviews. But if you need a place to start, I would start with my "Games by Type". Read the game descriptions and then dig a bit deeper into whatever interests you.

Dr. Wictz: I saw last November you became a victim of your own success and you had to stop accepting game submissions, have you caught up on the backlog and are accepting board game submissions again?

Cyrus Kirby: No I have not yet caught up, but I have stopped the crazy train, so to speak. I am eager to play any and all games. A bit too eager. Titles published from big publishers, small independent publishers, and print-n-play games all interest me. I don't want to turn anyone away. As a result, the games I was provided to review piled up and up and up. It became a source of stress instead of a source of enjoyment. I knew I had to turn this around or I would risk being burned out. So, I simply stopped accepting new games and am now focusing on the ones I have. Once I have reduced the total number of games down to a reasonable amount, I'll warmly invite anyone to send me what they have.

Dr. Wictz: I know your wife also writes a blog, do you help each other with your blog writing?

Cyrus Kirby: My wife helps me by playing games and providing input to my writing. I help her out by writing articles for her and providing technical support when needed. It works and allows us to contribute and support each other in a way that is both natural and intuitive. We have very different audiences and approaches with our content. For example, my wife thinks I am nuts when my average review is 3000+ words long and it takes me 2 weeks to review a single game. I, on the other hand, don't see why anyone would care to type the pros and cons of a specific brand of hand soap in less than 200 words.

Dr. Wictz: Is there a board game designer you always wanted to interview?

Cyrus Kirby: While Father Geek doesn't publish interviews, I would love a chance to sit down and talk to P. D. Magnus, the creator of the Decktet game system. He created a series of cards with symbols that have been used to create over a hundred different games. Games, I must add, that are very good. I would love to find out how the Decktet game system came about, how he designed a game system to be flexible enough to allow for unlimited freedom of creativity, but rigid enough to always provide structure. I think the system and the design is simply brilliant. Diving into the mind of the individual who created such a thing would be a wonderful experience. I encourage your readers to take a look at the Decktet. If you'd like to know our thoughts on the game, give our review a read.

Dr. Wictz: What is your favorite type of board game?

Cyrus Kirby: My favorite kind of board game is the kind where you get to explore and the game evolves around you and your decisions. My very first game of this type was Dungeon! by TSR. I would later play HeroQuest Milton Bradley and much later play games like Betrayal at House on the Hill and Runebound. These are all games in which you get to have an adventure and its never the same adventure.

Dr. Wictz: Thank you again Cyrus for taking time to stop by the faculty lounge.  If someone wanted to learn more about the father geek blog where should they go?

Cyrus Kirby: To learn more about Father Geek and what we do, please read our obligatory "About" page -
Or, if you prefer, just send me an email at or use our contact form -

Dr. Wictz: You can also follow father geek on twitter @thefathergeek and on facebook.

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