The Self-Made Man: Christian T. Petersen
Board games are pretty rad, and not just because they’re a relatively cheap and reusable excuse for social interaction. No, wait, that’s exactly why they are rad. My mistake.
One of my favorites is Arkham Horror, in which all the players team up to beat the game, which throws all sorts of nasty Lovecraftian beasties at you in an attempt to crush your pathetic human spirit because it hates you. It’s so great.
Anyway, Arkham Horror was put out by Fantasy Flight Games, a board/card game company based in Roseville, Minnesota. They’ve been around since 1995, and their founder, Christian T. Petersen, is still their CEO. As you may have guessed, he’s this week’s Self Made Man.
Christian was born in the States, but grew up in Denmark and latched onto board games early. He also latched onto the idea of being an entrepreneur early, starting a game importing company in 1988 and a Danish game convention, creatively titled Games Weekend, two years later.
Christian returned to the US to get an economics degree from St. Olaf College, and started Fantasy Flight Games after graduating. FFG started slowly, mostly importing European comics to retail stores as Christian built up the distribution end of the business. Once he had a good network set up, he started creating his own games, including Twilight Imperium and Disk Wars, both of which changed the hobby gaming industry. Disk Wars was particularly effective at building up FFG’s brand, thanks to the rules system and low up-front cost for a collectibles game.
Part of FFG’s success comes from Christian’s instincts; he knows how to balance what his market likes (fantasy, science fiction, and horror) with game designs that will challenge them. In Christian’s own words, FFG games “deal with a myriad of components, scenarios, and try to push a player interaction and player immersion in a way that simply does not appeal to a certain group of gamers that hunger for a more clinical play experience.”
The other part is fantastic customer service. One of my friends spilled beer all over his Arkham Horror board, and called FFG to order a replacement. When the guy on the phone heard what had happened, he laughed good-naturedly and sent my friend a replacement board for free, telling him to “keep the drinks off the table next time.” Christian knows the loyalty of his hobby game enthusiast demographic, and thus understands the value of treating them well, along with making fun and intricate games for them.
These days, FFG is hard at work with some franchise titles for Warcraft and Game of Thrones, so check out their website to get a closer look at what they’re up to.
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About Dave Kiefaber Dave Kiefaber is a Baltimore-based writer who regularly contributes to Adfreak and the Gettysburg Times. His personal website is at www.beeohdee.blogspot.com.