Mark Wootton – Developers Diary #1
In 1971 I was taken on a daylong school field trip to a local country park In the UK. I had a friend on that trip that was interested in birds, and before we went, he spent some time explaining what we might see. Within the first few minutes we were treated to the sight of House Martins swooping and diving for insects and returning to their nests under the eaves of a house next to the park. I was hooked. Over the course of the next year I developed a real interest in birds.
The next year on vacation in the Highlands of Scotland I told my parents, that their 12-year-old son knew what his life was going to look like – I was going to be a ranger looking after the natural heritage of Scotland.
During my first summer vacation from college I got a job in that same country park that I first visited in 1971, leading guiding walks and putting on talks. I went on to have other ranger jobs in different parts of the UK, and the year that I turned 30 I became the head ranger for a region of Scotland. It felt like that 12-year-old boy was living the dream!
What I should also mention is that 12-year-old boy also had a passion for games, the same friends that went out birding on a Saturday morning spent the rest of the weekend playing Risk, Buccaneer, Campaign and many of the roll and move games that were around in the 70’s.
By the time the 90’s rolled around I was also in with the CCG revolution playing firstly Magic, then Legend of the Five Rings. It was in 2004 AEG asked me to undertake a development consultancy for them on Legend of the Five Rings, through their player design team. It was a blast! And from there our relationship grew and blossomed, so that it was only natural that games would become a bigger part of my professional life when I finally left rangering in 2010.
For the first part of my working life I was able to work at my passion for nature, and relax playing games. Now that has reversed and I spend my professional time on games and enjoy the majesty and beauty of British Columbia, where I emigrated to in 2014, to relax.
It will, therefore, come as no surprise that I loved it when Wingspan was released – I am a fan!
I had spoken of to John Zinser multiple times about my desire to collaborate on games that were natural world focused. Turns out 2019 was a great year for that. I was already working with John Clair on Ecos, which was going to press early that year, and in late 2018 I was presented with a game AEG was planning to sign about Monarch butterfly migration by a designer named Elizabeth Hargrave. It turned out she was about to release another game, dealing with birds and bird habitats, which we discovered, shortly after signing Mariposas, was being touted a game that “might do quite well”!
Not only was I going to be working on a great game, but also I had the opportunity to learn about a whole bunch of the natural history of the butterfly, with another designer that was clearly inspired by nature. As a relative newcomer to North America this was something different from the Orange Tip, Peacock and Red Admiral butterflies that I was used to seeing back in Scotland. Not only did I learn about the Monarch, but I was drawn through the game into the narrative that is the story of their multi-generational migration. This was going to be fun!