Interview with Joanna Kijanka

Nelly Steiner Publisher Spotlight

Joanna Kijanka is a game designer at Portal Games. She has been working on expanding the worlds of their evergreen titles such as Neuroshima or Imperial Settlers – Empires of the North. As Portal Games is our Publisher Spotlight for March and International Women’s Day is March 8th, we were really excited to be able to interview her.

(Mox) Hi, Joanna, how did you get involved in game design?

(Joanna) I started by taking part in a local tournament and won. Ignacy [Trzewiczek] came to me with a proposition to become a tester for his company. Actually I wanted to become a tester even before this tournament because my friends knew Ignacy, but in the end, my own initiative was faster 😉 and as years have passed and I did work on couple of Ignacy’s titles he promoted me to be a developer and later co-author of the games Portal creates.

(Mox) What do Table Top Games mean to you?

(Joanna) In the beginning, it was a hobby that I had a chance to forge into a full-time job. But it of course still is a hobby. I like tabletops mostly for having a challenge – thinking on how to connect all elements to come with the most optimized outcome. But It’s not about solely winning but having fun during the game. Although I always was more attracted to competitive games, winning still gives a lot of satisfaction in the end.

(Mox) What title was the most fun to work on, and why?

(Joanna) It’s the Roman Banners expansion (for Empires of the North) as Romans were always my favorite faction and I loved the aspect of creating mechanisms that simulated building enormous constructions. The theme is so present in these decks. Also, I’m really proud that It’s my own expansion and Ignacy trusted me with everything from a to z create them.

(Mox) What inspires you?

(Joanna) I mostly start with ideas that would match the theme I’m working on. Then I try to think about incorporating the mechanic that would convey this theme. It’s a really fun and exciting process and one of the most enjoyable ones. At [the] point of inspiration, everything just works in my head, and to turn it [into] physical components that work as well as imagined – that’s where the [majority] of my work is sucked into – but it’s a whole different story 😉 

(Mox) If you could pick any theme and world to design a game in, what would it be?

(Joanna) There [are] a lot of them 🙂 But all have the same element, I just love fantasy elements. So I’m in for all apocalyptic wastelands, epic middle age kingdoms, or any other magical worlds. And as for themes for the actions in-game, for me, these are trading and combats.   

(Mox) Can we get a sneak peek into anything you are currently working on?

(Joanna) I keep most of our evergreen titles expansion lines alive so during the most of the year I just think about what else I could bring to f. ex. world of Neuroshima or Imperial Settlers. Recently I’m neck-deep in new factions for Empires of the North. 

(Mox) What does it mean to you to be a female in this industry, and how do you think that this impacts your game design?

(Joanna) I personally think I don’t really feel any different than any other person in the industry, I never experienced being treated any differently, because of my gender. During my still quite short period as a designer, I only had great feedback and I’d like to always be treated according to what I bring people on these cards because of my creativity, not the gender. Because besides my personal experiences I’m well aware that there [are] still a lot of girls that might feel pressured about it. I think [it] does not particularly affect my designs but maybe being a designer might be an example, inspiration for other girls to try their chances in this industry.

(Mox) What do you find most challenging as a female game designer in the industry?

(Joanna) There is sometimes this feeling that people might have an opinion about the game even before trying it that it will be a certain way because it’s created by a girl. But it’s not like I ever had this kind of feedback, these are just my little hesitations.

(Mox) What would you tell young girls/non-men who want to be a part of this industry?

(Joanna) That they should be confident about themselves, appreciate their approach to [the] medium and what they can give to it. Tabletop games are a great way to have great time with interaction with other people as well as having a challenge for the mind, and for both of these reasons, I think other girls might find themselves loving working on bringing the joy onto these tables. I’d love to see more titles made by them, and that I root for them 🙂 

(Mox) We root for them too! Thank you so much for taking the time to answer all of our questions, Joanna. We look forward to the new games and expansions you will be bringing to our gaming table.

Stop by Mox and try out some Portal Games

Make sure to stop by Mox this month and try out some Portal Games! For the whole month, we are highlighting their awesome game titles such as Imperial Settlers, Pret-A-Porter, and Detective. Be sure to check it out in-store for game demos and 10% off any Portal Games titles.

-Meet you at Mox