Friday, January 26, 2018

The Man Behind The Man Children: Le Neckbeard Interview Jonathan Rawlings

by Jonathan Bilski

On tumblr or on 4chan, maybe perusing Twitter on my phone, I saw the dumbest picture of a neckbeard on what looked like a card game. At first, I thought it was a mock-up. I mean, it looked so funny. As though someone stole a meme or a comic artist's sketch. Then, I looked it up online and sure was real. Le Neckbeard was real. This game about strange smelly nerd men, was real!

I debated getting it over the holiday season. Friends were out of town. But, late one night I put down a $20 and received it shortly after. Soon, I was trying to win the most waifus using my neckbeard skills in the game. At a friend's apartment a toss of a card hit me with responsibly after responsibility from having to take a shower to having a real girlfriend. I couldn't win the waifus! What I did do was laugh and howl at the art and the jokes as I played with my friends.

That's all thanks to one man. Jonathan Rawlings, JR. He took the time out of his schedule to discuss his creation that he came up with and did all the art for, Le Neckbeard. We went over how he made it and a bit about his life.

I asked JR how he came up with the game, a huge part of it was boredom, that and study these weird men children. He said, "It started with a fascination with neckbeards." "Before this, I made a bunch of different versions, that looked nothing like this and it took me six to eight months to come up with this idea."

JR added, "I did a lot of research for the game. I had to look up a lot of terms...I learned about what a neckbeard was a few years ago, but I was surprised not many people knew what a neckbeard was...and I did my due diligence." One of his sources being the Urban Dictionary, another Reddit.

The way JR described his interest into the subculture of our species was almost like he studied them like a host on his own documentary mini-series. "I had to find out there habits, what they eat and what they wear," he said. From that  research he constructed the attributes in the game you need to win a waifu: Appearance, Sustenance, Ego, Intellect and Skill. You need to match the specific requirements of the waifu you're after with the cards your dealt. So a waifu might want two Appearance cards and a Sustenance card, all color coded to make it easier on the players.

If it sounds complicated, it's really not. And the game can be picked up in a few minutes.

The obvious question had to be asked, "Why 'le' neckbeards?" The answer from JR, "I've seen the word "le" used a lot as a prefix to to a bunch of random words, like le gentleman..." Then JR tried to explain some meme within neckbeard culture that used it, he wasn't very sure. He told me, it just happened to workout.

"I think everyone in their own way has a part of a neckbeard inside them (don't take that literally)," is what JR told me when I asked if he was a neckbeard or had friends that were neckbeards. He told me, sure he eats junk food and stays up late and plays tons of video games. That's not enough to be the fedora headed, samurai sword-wielding, Hawaiian t-shirt wearing and eyes-always-covered-when-in-doors-with sunglasses person depicted in the game.

During the process of making the game, JR posted images of it on Reddit, he was contacted by Jason of Jason Anarchy Games. Jason wanted to publish the game right away. With Jason's help a Kickstarter was launched and the game met its initial goal and has only been out for purchase for about 4 months. With those who funded the Kickstarter getting the game first with perks for what they paid.

"He's [Jason] making a second run of the game, because it's selling out so quickly," is what JR told me, when we started talking about the games rules.

Once those sell out, a new print run will come out with updated rules for the game as your suppose to have more waifu's to acquire. JR also told me Jason Anarchy Games will eventually be selling  other waifus in packs, there's thirty waifus in all to get.

*Here's some quick tips on the updated rules if you're getting the game now or already own it:
Instead of playing to 10 stars you play to five stars and there's an alternative rule to have three waifu's out at a time, in which they're all up for grabs for a faster game. Lastly, you can only play one responsibility card on a person at a time.

JR told me he had a run of the game locally before it came out. "There was a game store on Melrose [Mega City One] it was like a card shop...comic book shop...I posted on Reddit, 'Oh, hey, if you want to test this game I created this game, you can' and so I test it with people and some random people." And they liked it and realized it was pretty easy to play.

We started to talk about if there was gonna be expansions and though none are set in stone or being developed yet, JR did toss around some names if he did.  "I was gonna make an expansion called "Le Legbeard", the girl version of everything. I did research on that too, there's a Reddit page for Just Legbeards. He also looked through his notes to tell me, "There was a good suggestion for the next game titled, 'Waifu for Lifu.' All he said was, "It could be a sequel."

Jonathan Rawlings went over a bit about his life. The 28-year-old was an animator with four years of the School of Visual Arts in New York City under his belt. Then he worked at Titmouse on cartoons like China, IL, Superjail and Motor City. He eventually moved to LA. In LA, he pitched shows to Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon, eventually getting in a shorts program. Here, he came up with Le Neckbeards. Still here in LA, he switched into graphic design and marketing, which eventually led him back to New York for a marketing job. So he's not just a game designer.
Jonathan cosplaying as a neckbeard

"Has anyone cosplayed," I asked. JR told me, "No, not yet, I wish. And I really want to go to a convention and dress like a neckbeard, with a katana, ...OMG. Fedoras, shades, over-sized Hawaiian t-shirt, sandals with socks on and walk around or just sit behind a booth and be in character the whole time."

The game recently sold out at PAX South in only six and half and hours.
Jonathan Rawlings

"I'm actually starting to learn programming myself, " Jr told me, piquing my interest. You see JR is also known for his Tumblr page, Jonathan's Amazing Blog. On it, he showcases not only stuff about Le Neckbeards, but also his pixel art. Perhaps, the next game we get from him, might be a video game? He has made three games before for the iPhone, sadly they're no longer available in the store.

We ended our chat reminiscing over places JR had eaten in LA like El Compadre, Roscoe's and of course Howlin' Ray's.

Whatever's next from Jonathan Rawlings we can't wait, but we'd still like more neckbeards or legbeards if the time comes.

You can get the game now here.