Zombie Roller Derby

Carl Olson



Chad Knight

Chad Knight

So here we have an exclusive interview with the creators of the Zombie Roller Derby game.


Background (where are you from, what do you do, bio data)

Carl: My name is Carl Olson. I’m from Wisconsin, born and raised, but I lived in the United Arab Emirates for a few years in the early 90s. Mostly, though, I’ve only travelled in the U.S. I’m an officer in the New Mexico National Guard. We’re currently deployed to Egypt as part of the Multinational Force & Observers in the Sinai Peninsula. I’m as aspiring writer and game designer; I’ve got several books on the table right now, and in the next month or so I’ll start on one of them, to be completed and published by next year. I’m a gamer. I’ve played just about every type of game there is, from board games to video games, party games to roleplaying, and so on. I’ve been writing and designing since I was ten, but only on the side; I decided a few years back to turn my passion into a career. I’m happily married to an amazing woman, I have a two-year old daughter, and there’s another kid on the way, due in late April. I joined the military in 2005 to pay for college, and entered ROTC to continue my service to my country.

Chad: My name is Chad Knight. I’ve been to a good portion of the United States, but I’ve always lived in beautiful central Wisconsin. I like to travel, but I hate airplanes. I am a ‘9-to-5’ er with Telmon, Inc. My title is Project Implementer. I work on a day-to-day process of low-voltage cable installations. Yeah, it’s as exciting as it sounds. I’m an old school gamer. I’ve played just about every main stream and a lot of not so main stream roleplaying games out there. I am also big into board games. I have been married for 15 years to Nicole, my wonderful and supportive bride. I have two daughters, aged 12 and 10. I’ve fancied myself a poet, writer, and game designer, but until now nothing has really caught on.

How did you come up with this concept?

Carl: It was all Chad’s idea. I’ve just been designing it… and promoting it… and working out the publishing details… I kid, of course; Chad is the genius behind Zombie Roller Derby and I’m glad he accepted my offer to work on it together.

Chad: I was sitting around one day thinking about how professional wrestling I am a huge wrestling fan was so much different when I was a kid; how it’s become such a show versus a ‘true’ sport, like it was in the late 70s and early 80s. That got me thinking about other things I used to watch. There were sitcoms ”The Cosby ShowThe Dukes of Hazzard, and many more” and the memory that kept recurring in my mind was sitting and watching women’s roller derby, especially the Bay City Bombers. Then my warped, twisted thoughts said, What if there were zombie roller derby girls? This led to a search of the internet, and lo-and-behold, there is was. I thought roller derby was a fad that had since passed. Boy was I wrong! In fact, right in my area, there was not one but two leagues. So I said to myself, “I wonder if a game based around roller derby and zombie girls would work? I threw the idea at a few people, including Carl, and it stuck. The biggest problem was writing the rules; fortunately, Carl and I decided to team up, and since he can write, we’ve made it where we are now.

Have you always been roller derby fans?

Chad: No. Yes. I don’t know. I remember watching it as a kid and being fascinated by the violence these women would unleash on each other. They took hits and got back up for more, and in most cases they dished out as good as they got!

Carl: I’ve had a fascination for a sport ever since I discovered it probably four or five years ago but I only recently tried to learn about the rules, teams and culture. Until Chad brought his idea to my attention, I thought roller derby was a thing of the past, something that peaked as a fad during the ’60s and ’70s. Since then I’ve read a lot and learned a lot, and I’m becoming a big fan.

What sort of research did you do for the game?

Carl: At first, I just looked up the rules online. That’s where I learned about different positions, the role of each player, basic strategies and scoring; stuff like that. After I wrote the rules, we received feedback from derby players, which has helped a lot.  If I get the chance during the next year, I’ll go to some games so I can experience it first hand; if not, I may have to rely on online videos. I would like to add that we’re open to all sorts of suggestions; if any of your readers want to test the game and offer their view on roller derby is played, or should be represented in our game, we’d love to hear it. You can find links to the rules at ZombieRollerDerby.wordpress.com.

What was the appeal of roller derby?

Chad: Women and violence. I know that sounds bad, but honestly, I don’t know many guys who don’t want to watch women fight, whether it’s on a track, in the ring, or in a mini-pool filled with Jello. I think the biggest appeal comes from women showing that they are strong and tough, but still beautiful.

Carl: Let’s see… women on roller skates, flying around a ring, beating each other up. What’s not to love? In all seriousness, the first thing that drew me in was the intensity. I’ve always liked violent sports, like rugby or tlatchtli that’s the Mesoamerican sport where players tried to get a four pound ball through a small hole without touching it with their hands. As I did my research, however, I came to appreciate the dedication and fervor of the players and fans. I never understood how people could be so crazy about football or basketball, but I’m starting to get it with roller derby. It just looks fun.  I have to admit that part of the appeal, for me personally, is the fact that it’s a woman’s sport I know there are male and mixed teams, but the impression I’ve gotten is that it’s still mostly played by women. And the women who play it are strong, independent and… attractive. And I don’t mean that in an inappropriate way! I’ve suggested to my wife, several times, that she join a derby league; she has the build and determination to be a good player and she agrees. I think there’s something powerful and awesome about roller derby, and I’m happy to be involved in promoting the sport in any way I can.

What has been the hardest part of getting this game off the ground?

Carl: Well, just getting it off the ground, really. Truth is, we’re still working on it. Initially I thought the design was going to be the easiest part, but play testing has proven me wrong. There are a few kinks we need to work out before it’s a solid project. Once I accepted that we’d have to work hard at this, everything else seemed to come naturally. We’re both new at publishing, so there’s a heavy learning curve, but we’re taking our steps one at a time and doing our research. I could go into more details, about publishing or distribution or warehousing, but there probably isn’t time for this interview. Anyone who wants to know more about the things we’re leaved should check our blog,ZombieRollerDerby.wordpress.com.

Chad: Play testing. I have spent many hours watching the game play out. From our first attempt where the game was truly unplayable and it took my test group almost three hours to figure that out to the current rule set which is almost perfect, I think; but until we finish getting results from our play testers and look them over, I guess we won’t really know. The hardest part overall is getting all of this prep work out of the way, in advance of our Kickstarter campaign. Carl has done a lot of the foot work on that, and for that I am thankful. Another hurdle that was hard but enjoyable was the artist selection. We saw a lot of great art work from a lot of wonderful artists. Not everything fit our vision, and in the end we could only choose one or two, but they all have talent that far exceeds even what I pictured in my mind’s eye.

Do you have anything else we should keep our eyes peeled for?

Chad: I am heading up a world setting project for the game. I enjoy writing and reading, and we have put out an open invitation for writers to submit their short stories for the game’s setting. We’ll read them and select the ones that fit best, and once we have enough content we’ll launch a site for it all. This is a great thing for the project in that it will allow fans and followers to have a say in the direction of the overarching story, and it’ll help us scout out people we want to work with in the future. Check out our current website, ZombieRollerDerby.wordpress.com, for more information.

Carl: Personally I want to make more board games; I think World War Z, by Max Brooks, would make for an amazingAxis&Allies style war game. Naturally we’d need the rights to publish it under the same name, so if anyone happens to know Mr. Brooks… In the meantime, keep watching our site for updates.

When will the game be available?

Carl: Our first plan took into account certain factors such as production time and play testing results, but since then our situations have changed drastically. I took an opportunity with the military to make some money, and network for a better job in the future, which has delayed my involvement in the here-and-now. Chad has also changed careers recently, so we’re reworking our schedule. We’re aiming for production around Christmas of this year. The best we can do for the moment, though, is promote the game, gather play testers to our ranks and evaluate our product. Once we have a solid game, we’ll have a better idea when it can hit the market. I’d also like to note that we plan to fund this project through Kickstarter, so people should be on the lookout for when we start the campaign. Again, our website will have regular updates.

Anything else that you want to let us know?

Chad: Just keep following us on our blog and Facebook’ search for Zombie Roller Derby. We hope people are as excited about our game as we are. And we’re always in the market for more play testers. You can find the rules and game components through the blog.

Carl: I’d like to extend our thanks for this chance to talk about our passion. We love games, we love our families and friends, and we want to bring all of these things together. So thanks again for your help and interest, and please let us know if there’s anything we can do to make this project even more awesome than it already is.

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