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Filmmaker Diary: The Story of Codenames, and the “Making Board Games” Documentary

by E. Papadopoulou

Long before my job as a video content creator for Czech Games Edition, I was personally grateful for that company’s game Codenames as it enabled me to have a common reference with the non-gamers around me. When people ask me what I do for a living, I finally have a better reference than Monopoly to explain the subject of my work and my hobby.

This has been one of my motivations behind the creation of the CGE-focused docuseries “Making Board Games” — to make our hobby more known as well as to give more visibility to what actually defines the board gaming culture we represent.

I am particularly excited that the series has reached the point where we can share the behind-the-scenes of how Codenames was created as it’s one of the few games that manages to bridge the gap between gamers and non-gamers, bonding people over some good old-fashioned fun!

Youtube Video

But let’s rewind a little and take things from the beginning.

My first contact with Czech Games Edition was in 2015 when two of my gamer friends were raving about a game called Through The Ages. It was early in my board gaming “education”, and it was the first time I had heard of the game — and of CGE.

What got me so intrigued was the fact that it appealed to both of my friends, even though one of them was a hardcore euro gamer and the other was mostly into thematic ameritrash games; they rarely agreed on liking the same games. Then when I played Through The Ages for the first time, even though it went terribly as I didn’t know what I was doing, I remember looking at the CGE logo on the box with a sense of wonder; I was impressed with the depth of the game and the care that clearly went into making it.

That same year Codenames hit the market, and everybody was talking about it. I was very much enjoying the game, and when I noticed the logo on the box, I couldn’t believe that it was the same publisher that brought Through The Ages and all the other heavy complex designs that my post-Through-The-Ages-curiosity had led me to discover on BGG.

Fast forward to two years ago: In 2021, I applied for the position of content creator that CGE was looking to fill. As you probably know, it’s not common to have a content creator in-house in our industry, and that was for me another sign that this publisher has its own way of doing things.

Already one year at the job, after meeting the entire team and hearing stories about how certain games were created, I decided that these stories are worth sharing with our community. Most people see the finished product of a game, but they don’t know the actual process of making games: why certain mechanisms and themes are chosen, all the production challenges that come along the way, and even how the size of the box can sometimes influence game design-related decisions.

Without having a detailed plan in mind, I started interviewing people inside and outside of the company and the idea of a docuseries slowly began forming in my head. I was curious to know how it all started and how they went from one game to the next, considering the new things each one brings to game design and how completely different they are from one another. After all, you should always be making the content that you yourself would like to watch, and I felt that a docuseries was something missing from our community — and also that CGE was the right publisher to start with.

During my interviews with people, a common theme arose that validated the hunch that I had since I first looked at the CGE logo on the Through The Ages box. People have been pointing out how CGE has been doing things differently than most other publishers in the industry, from releasing just one or two games per year and cherishing the freedom of expression through games, to being among the first publishers to use a companion app, or to doing party games with the same passion as heavy games.

However, “Making Board Games” is not only about games from CGE. For me, it’s a love letter to our geeky culture and the people that are part of it: the designers, the players, the media, everybody in our community. The story of CGE is similar to most other board game publishers out there, the story of people driven by their passion for good games and memorable moments around the table. I don’t know whether there are many other industries where people are having business meetings behind overflowing trash bins at SPIEL Essen or working by playing until sunrise just to test a game out of pure joy and dedication. “Making Board Games” is about telling those untold board gaming stories, and I hope that it celebrates the board gaming culture we represent.

So join CGE and numerous people of our industry offering their funny, original stories and insights on the creation of some of your beloved board games. The series consists of eight episodes in total, five of which are already published, with three more to go in the coming weeks, covering almost all of the CGE games published so far!

Eleni Papadopoulou

Youtube Video

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