Red Castle has been selling games and hosting tournaments on Foster since March 2010. Now they're moving into publishing their own games, starting with Big Fish River, a great board game for kids and everybody else.
They're currently running a kickstarter campaign through January 17 to raise the funds to bring the game to market, which they expect to happen in May.
Co-owner Matthew Mičetić was kind enough to sit down and play a few rounds of Big Fish River with me.
"One of our regular customers, Cris Kelly, has been trying to get a few games developed, and he developed this one with his kids in mind, and it was a pretty good game!"
Matthew says that Cris kept getting turned down from the game companies out there, so Red Castle offered to work with him to publish it. "It took about a year of testing to refine it and now we're ready to roll it out."
The game is about fishing, and the goal is to catch the most fish. Winning involves a little bit of guessing and a little bit of strategy --where are you going to cast your line, and how fast? What kind of fish are you going to go for --and what kind do you want to prevent your opponent from getting?
"Kids understand it for the most part. Real young kids need a little help --the youngest we've had play it successfully was four. Kids aren't that into the 'what are the other players going to do' aspects --they just like to go for it and fish!"
Big Fish River’s prototype (left), which Red Castle was kind enough to play with me this week. Local graphic artist Jason Raines is working on the final game graphics in time for the rollout this May.
The kickstarter campaign is offering some great incentives for contributors. For a special "pre-order" contributor rate of $15, backers will get a copy of the game when it's released this spring. Larger contributions get things like autographed copies and lunch with the designer.
And for the ultimate gamer status symbol, a $2500 contribution will get your face drawn onto the fisherman on the box. "We have a couple of regular customers who are thinking about it," Matthew says.
Matthew and his partner, Evan Halbert, are also offering discounts to supporters just for forwarding the kickstarter link on social media.
Matthew was recently elected as Treasurer of the Foster Area Business Association, so he's seen the changes in this area. He's also a born and raised Portlander who cares a lot about how the neighborhood grows.
"My father owned the 7-11 out on 148th and Powell, so I worked in there growing up."
"I used to do some tango dancing at Tango Berretin, so I became more familiar with the Foster area from spending time there," he says. "That's how I saw this vacant storefront originally. This building is from 1928, I think. It was a grocery store way back when. The current landlord is the grandson of the grocery store owner."
As his business evolves, Matthew has some ideas for what he'd like to see for the building. "We'd like to get some improvements to the storefront and get rid of these old awnings. All of the spaces in here have beautiful transom windows and then the corner has this art deco thing, and we'd love to expose all that again."
His game room is open until midnight seven days a week, and he expects to have a cafe open in the evenings soon, introducing one of the few non-bar, non-stripper activities to draw people to Foster at night.
"The biggest draw is Magic the Gathering. It's been around for almost 20 years and it's still growing --it's the game that drives the tournaments. We have Friday Night Magic and we'll probably get 40 or 45 people in here."
"The new cafe will probably open around 4 or 5 pm and go until late --maybe 2 or 3 in the morning. It's a new adventure for us, but if you want to do something in the evening on Foster, there aren't too many options."
Matthew says that the biggest change for the store and his gaming customers is that he'll be phasing out letting customers bring in their own food, which has become too much aggravation. "I just got tired of all the Little Caesars boxes."
"Gamers are the worst eaters in the world! When we started we were really committed to having healthy food choices because so many gamers are so unhealthy. So we had yogurt and carrots --and we ended up eating them ourselves just so they wouldn't go bad! So we finally gave in and now we have lots of soda and chips. It's what they want."
The team at Red Castle always has something interesting in the pipeline, and now that junk food is here to stay, Matthew may just go all-in. "My big plan for next door is a donut robot! Have you ever seen up at Pikes Place Market in Seattle, there's a machine that cranks out donuts all day long, so you get that whiff of donuts smell. So we'll have to see about that."
For more info on all the things going on at Red Castle, go here.