A Book of Darts: A Mini Tale
with Randall Lotowycz and John Passineau
What’s in a throwing game? Or rather, more specifically, what’s in a dart game? The player launches sharp sticks at a cork-board in an attempt to hit the bullseye for points. Winner takes glory. Sometimes, the game is played drunkenly. Often times, I would say. But what makes darts fun? Unique? Weird?
Writer Randall Lotowycz, author of the DC Comics Super Heroes and Villains Fandex, is a fellow cohort from New School’s Creative Writing MFA program. He’s a talented smartass and a general troublemaker, and don’t let him tell you any different. We’ve bonded over horror and cult movies and a penchant for fine-tuned vulgarity. Yeah, he can be pretty cool.
But what people may not realize upon meeting him, this tattooed, self-proclaimed comic book nerd, is that he’s somewhat of a darts expert. Maybe not perfectly skilled at the game itself, but rather its lore, its purpose, its fun. Yes, darts.
Creator and writer Randall and designer John Passineau have gifted the world with The Mini Book of Mini Darts: The Book, the Boards, the Darts, and 43 Games, and just in time for the holidays. I’m going to go out on a limb and say the title explains itself. But what the title is missing is just how god damn fun this little pack actually is. The book is endlessly amusing and most importantly, awesomely addictive.
The Ink and Code had chance to connect with those two wild and crazy guys and get their take on what it means to be (or at least cater to) darts fanatics and game-loving families alike.
I&C: Ok, I have to ask: why darts?
Randall: I have to ask back: why not?
How did the idea of a mini dart book come to life?
I want to take full credit for the book, but I can’t. We’ve been doing a Darts wall calendar since 2009. Every year, I adapt established darts games or invent my own, and John brings them to life. Each board was so fantastic, and we were bummed that once each year is over, no one would see the board again. The editor in chief as well as John and I thought that compiling the best ones into a book would allow them to live on.
Now, if you’re asking how the calendar first came about… Well, at the time it was part of my job to come up with new calendar ideas. I had to pitch them at a weekly meeting. I usually waited until the morning of, riding the train to work to think of my ideas for the meeting. One eventful morning, I thought about playing darts, and making producing a calendar that could double as a magnetic dartboard. Surprisingly, everyone was enthusiastic about the idea, and even more surprisingly, our production department was able to figure out a way to do it that made sense financially.
What was the experience of putting a dart book like this together?
It required a lot of work and research. Though we were taking from the calendars, every game had to be re-conceived and expanded upon. For the tried-and-true games like 501 or Cricket, there was only so much I could do. But for all the games I invented, which represents a larger part of the book, I needed revisit the rules, find ways to make them easier and/or harder, and most importantly, needed each one to be fun and distinct. It can’t always be about just throwing at a target to score points.
In addition, I had to thoroughly research the history of the sport–yes, it’s a sport. We used little bits of trivia in each calendar, but I didn’t necessarily want to just repeat that information. And in my research, I discovered a few of the trivia bits I had previously used were in fact incorrect… Inaccurate info posted on the internet, can you believe it? To be fair, the incorrect information was widely distributed and commonly accepted, but it took diving into history books to find out the truth.
Tell us the most interesting things you learned about darts while researching the book.
Jeez, where to start? Perhaps that there’s a psychological condition called Dartitis that plagues some professional dart players, affecting their throwing technique or letting go of the dart at the right time.
Also, the existence of Bobby George, who might be a personal hero now. The man has style.
Do you consider yourself a darts expert now?
I’m well-versed in darts lore. An expert, not yet. There are plenty of actual darts experts out there, like Dr. Patrick Chaplin and Dan William Peek. Those guys are the experts. I’m an informed enthusiast.
Are you developing a dart game of your own?
I developed a few dozen over the years. The book and the 2014 calendar represent the last of them. The calendar won’t be coming back for 2015, so I’m actually done with dart games for the time being.
Darts is a big business. Do you see yourself at conventions drinking Bud Light with the bar fellows?
Bud Light… Heh.
But, of course, I’d go wherever I was invited.
What’s the next big thing for darts?
You mean other than this book (excuse my inflated sense of self-worth)? To be honest, I don’t know. Another thing I discovered in my research is that the sport is not as ubiquitous as I thought. I’d like to see that change. At the very least, it should be more popular than bowling in the United States.
What do you think of this: Holiday-themed dart games.
You’ll find Valentine’s Day and Halloween games in the book! We also had a New Year’s game in one of the calendars, but that didn’t make the final cut for the book. Shame we never got to do a Hanukkah. I could see a game where you have to light the menorah by throwing darts at the candles.
What’s your advise for anyone that wants to write a games book?
Negotiate with your editor to have more than 28 days to write it. Trust me, it’s bad for your health. And have fun. If it’s not fun, there’s no point.
John, the designer who’s illustrated Darts! since its inception in 2009:
I&C: What drew you to the concepts of each game?
John: Sometimes I would have an idea for an illustration and would conceptualize it as a game after seeing it in an almost completed stage. With these games I felt I needed to go through that process to get a clearer sense of the game’s realistic playability. The majority of game concepts however, were arrived at by adding layers of challenge to basic game ideas. An example would be one of our basketball dart games. The initial idea of a basketball themed game was just that—a “themed” dart game. It took adding elements of both basketball and traditional darts gameplay to create a truly unique game experience. This was generally the process that would draw me to the concept of each game.
What was the most challenging part of their creation?
With this question I have to refer to the fact that these games were originally designed for a 12-month wall calendar. I’d say the most challenging part was creating a game that was satisfying from both a gameplay and visual perspective. The game had to be interesting and challenging but it also had to be an illustration worth looking at for a month.
Did you inspect old dart boards from the past?
I did. I mostly researched older dart boards for their textures to aid me in illustrating traditional dart boards. The textures helped make for a visually richer illustration.
Did you collaborate with Randall on any design direction?
Absolutely. We would discuss direction before any design work would take place. Mostly it was left to me to visualize game concepts and to build them up from the initial ideas but Randall always had input along the way.
Well, there you have it. The Darts Boy Story.
The Mini Book of Mini Darts: The Book, the Boards, the Darts, and 43 Games is available now. And you should get it. Now. The holidays ARE coming up and all.