Gaming By Degrees: The Philosophical Journey of Dr. Finn's Games
Casual Game Insider|Spring 2021
Early in his career as a self-publishing game designer, Dr. Stephen Finn earned a reputation as a designer of filler games. In fact, Richard Ham, host of the well-known board gaming video series and podcast “Rahdo Runs Through,” has called Finn the “undisputed King of the Filler.” It was a title that Finn embraced. “There was a time,” notes Finn, “when ‘filler’ wasn’t a pejorative term, but I think it’s now becoming one. I was always proud to call myself the King of the Fillers, because I was thinking of ‘filler’ as just a quick thing.” “However, over time, I began to realize that it may be to my detriment and now, I try to avoid it.” Not completely. Finn continues to promote the phrase on his company’s website because “being King of anything is still a good thing.” “I was thinking maybe it would become something bigger.”
Skip Maloney

A funny thing happened to Stephen Finn on his way to becoming a well-respected game designer and eponymous publisher (Dr. Finn’s Games). Born in 1967, Finn’s early pursuit of higher education began with an interest in physics. This was followed by a brief interest in psychology, and eventually led to the pursuit of multiple degrees in philosophy that culminated with his acquisition of a Ph.D. and a full-time job as a college philosophy professor.

“I had a position as an adjunct professor at Seattle University. While I was finishing my Ph.D. work I re-discovered Risk briefly,” he says. “I happened to be walking by a game store during this time and I came across this Michael Schacht game called Web of Power, an area control game like Risk but quicker. I played that game a ton and I started buying and playing a lot of games.”

Eventually, Finn got the idea of making his own games. But in one of those “life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans” moments, he got sidetracked. He came to the realization that one couldn’t buy a custom deck of playing cards anywhere, so he decided to learn how to make a deck of cards at a reasonable price. He made arrangements with a local print shop where he used a high-end digital printer, found really good card stock, and bought a Kluge letter press, which he used as a die-cutter to cut the pieces of large cardstock that he was having printed.

“I created a little company to make customized playing cards. I made almost no money from it, so it was almost a hobby,” he recalls. “I was thinking maybe it would become something bigger. So, I’d developed this game and got sidetracked for a couple of years, making playing cards in small runs.”

They changed the name to Biblios

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Gaming By Degrees: The Philosophical Journey of Dr. Finn's Games

Early in his career as a self-publishing game designer, Dr. Stephen Finn earned a reputation as a designer of filler games. In fact, Richard Ham, host of the well-known board gaming video series and podcast “Rahdo Runs Through,” has called Finn the “undisputed King of the Filler.” It was a title that Finn embraced. “There was a time,” notes Finn, “when ‘filler’ wasn’t a pejorative term, but I think it’s now becoming one. I was always proud to call myself the King of the Fillers, because I was thinking of ‘filler’ as just a quick thing.” “However, over time, I began to realize that it may be to my detriment and now, I try to avoid it.” Not completely. Finn continues to promote the phrase on his company’s website because “being King of anything is still a good thing.” “I was thinking maybe it would become something bigger.”

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