Slate’s pitch slam winner: Steve Krause, board game enthusiast.

“Why Do Board Games Smell So Good?” An Interview with Slate’s Second Pitch Slam Winner.

“Why Do Board Games Smell So Good?” An Interview with Slate’s Second Pitch Slam Winner.

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Nov. 13 2015 11:43 AM
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“They Just Stick to Your Brain”

Board game obsessive Steve Krause on winning the Slate Plus pitch slam.

A game of Takenoko.
Steve Krause shares and reposts pictures of unique board games on his Instagram account.

Photo illustration by Slate. Photos courtesy of Steve Krause.

Back in July, we held our inaugural pitch slam, in which our editors reviewed hundreds of submissions from Slate Plus members. Steve Krause proposed a piece about his obsession with board games—and it runs today in Slate. You can read his original pitch here.

Steve also took the time to chat with me and share his thoughts on the world of games.

Tell us a bit about yourself. What do you do?

I am a copy editor and page designer for the Oakland Press, a newspaper out of Pontiac, Michigan. I’ve been working for papers for about four years now, mostly at the Oakland Press and a yearlong stint at the Charleston Gazette in West Virginia. I had some training with the Dow Jones News Fund, which is where I fell in love with the art of headline writing.

You were introduced to the world of board games in high school. How has your passion transformed since then?

At the outset it was just a hobby, specifically a way to keep in contact with high school friends in the area. But board games have this ethereal quality to them, like a good book. They just stick to your brain like a good brainteaser, so it quickly became a passion. I found myself unable to stop thinking about them, so I decided to focus my interest entirely and not look back.

On Instagram, you share and repost pictures of unique board games. Your collection is pretty impressive. Out of all the board games you’ve seen, which is the most challenging?

This is a tough one. From pure looks I’d say anything by Stefan Feld or Vital Lacerda is always intimidating in the best way, but I haven’t personally spent much time with either designer. In my own collection it would be Terra Mystica. After nearly 50 plays in the last year, I am still perplexed by the system and excited to play. Even with my firm grasp on strategy, every game is thrilling and tense. There’s so much there in that box, I really can’t praise it enough.

Why should people play more board games?

One reason is because it’s a medium oft ignored by big thinkers and dismissed as childish or boring, but it’s obvious that it’s as complex an art as poetry or painting. It's literally an idea in a box, and you get to wade around in there and experience, almost directly, what came out of the designer’s brain. That’s incredible.

A second, more obvious, reason is that it’s one of the best ways to spend time with friends and family. There’s a game for every occasion, for every mood, for every person. There’s nothing more intimate than crowding around a game board and interacting in a tactile way with the people you love most. It’s magic.

Why did you pitch this piece to Slate?

I love Slate. I feel like it’s one of the last bastions for good journalism on the Web, so when I heard about the contest from the Culture Gabfest, I felt an obligation to contribute. I initially pitched some general board game culture pieces, but with some consultation from Dan Kois, I landed on a more personal story of how I was introduced to this wonderful medium.

Tell us about your experience with Slate editors.

Speaking of Dan Kois, he was wonderful! He really helped me focus on how board games make me feel and how that day in particular made me feel. He was kind and welcoming when dealing with such a personal story. I’m thankful for his work—I couldn’t be happier about how it turned out.

Would you pitch to Slate again?

Absolutely! I’m already prepping my #SlatePitch: “Why Do New Board Games Smell So Good? A Slate Investigation.”

But seriously, I can’t wait to pitch again. It was a lovely experience.