One of the first things Rob said to me when we set out on this adventure was: “We should talk to Mike.”
Then, when I hopped a plane to visit Rob to finalize the initial slate, he said: “We should go visit Mike.”
As we pulled into the driveway, Rob tells me: “You won’t believe what Mike’s got in his basement.”
And then I saw it:
Who’s “Mike”? What is in his basement? Hold on. Rewind.
In 1978, Michael Gray started working for Milton Bradley, where he designed 36 games in 3 years! He was lured away to TSR by the Gary Gygax, where he designed games, acquired books, and wrote DL16 World of Krynn for you Dragonlance fans out there. In 1984, he made the jump from TSR back to Milton Bradley, which was acquired by the newly renamed Hasbro, Inc. As the toy giant looked to get even bigger, Mike started out as a straight-up game designer. Perhaps you’ve heard of some of his designs:
I know, right? Well, it didn’t take long for Mike to work his way up the ladder. By 2004, he was the Head of Global Games Acquisition for the largest game company in the world. Let that sink in for a minute. If you could take a time machine to, say, 2010, to a random house in a random city, where they just happened to be playing a game, chances are Mike had a hand it bringing that game to the table in some way or another. The number and breadth of the games Mike has fingerprints on would just stagger you. I know. I’ve seen Mike’s basement.
So Rob and I wend our way through bucolic rural Massachusetts to Mike’s house. He answers the door. He’s a mountain of a man. Great handshake. Stentorian voice, but a disarming smile. He leads us downstairs, and my first thought is:
Now, in reality, Mike’s basement is slightly smaller. Slightly. But it’s floor-to-ceiling with, well, artifacts. Sure, he’s got just about every game you could imagine. But I’m sure there are lots of people with great game collections. I’m talking artifacts. Handmade prototypes of top-100 games, an early manuscript of Forgotten Realms, personal correspondence from bestselling authors, and, yes, original paintings of the art from Dragonmaster by Bob Pepper. We were contemplating Daytona 500 at the time–he had every version of it and even some hand-drawn custom maps and variant rules designed by a world-famous designer who shall remain nameless. Then I came across a box with the words, scrawled in marker across the top: UNPUBLISHED HEROQUEST EXPANSIONS.
**shake, shake** Wake up, Justin. **shake, shake**
So, after I came to, we spent the afternoon playing an assortment of games, talking history and design, and rummaging around the basement. Followed it off with a lunch of greasy burgers and grand plans. When Rob dropped me off at the airport that evening, I turned back to him and said: “We need to get Mike on board.”
Well, I’m ecstatic to announce that Michael Gray is officially on board.
So what is Mike going to do for Restoration Games? Advice on design and development. Putting us in touch with the people we need to talk to. All kinds of stuff. Mostly, though, it’s his wisdom. There is, quite possibly, no one on the planet with Mike’s breadth and depth of experience and knowledge of board games.
His official title is Game Restoration Guru, but I just refer to him as our Yoda. Please join us in welcoming Mike to the team.