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#WomeninTabletop: Bianca Canoza a.k.a. @momatoes

We’re counting down to LacunaCon and Play Without Apology is pleased to partner with Women in Tabletop Gaming as we once again celebrate the incredible women who contribute to our local communities!

We’re kicking off this week by featuring an indie game developer who we believe deserves all the love and appreciation the world can give.


Hi Bim! Thank you so much for joining us in celebration of Women in Tabletop Gaming Month! To start, why don’t you introduce yourself to our readers and tell us a bit about how you got into tabletop and game design.

Hi all! I’m momatoes, also known as Bim. Since I was young, I’d always wanted to get into tabletop RPG – blame the Dragonlance books, which were a HUGE source of comfort and enjoyment for me many years back.

Would you say that tabletop rpgs (playing, running and designing) have impacted your life?

I’m grateful for the opportunity to play—and now, design—games, as it keeps me in contact with a wonderful community of people and provides an avenue for me to exercise my creative streak.

Your compilation Rivers Darkly Shining features three games that marry mental health, emotional experiences and similar themes with tabletop. Can you tell us draws you to this kind of work, as well as the inspiration behind the games you’ve made?

Yeah! Mental health is a topic that critically affects a significant portion of the population. I see it as a very pertinent, very timely issue to discuss and elaborate.

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Rivers Darkly Shining, photo courtesy of Bianca Canoza | momatoes.com

Personally, I’m drawn to this kind of work because I have personally experienced a lot of these things. I also see dear friends who are dealing with these issues on a day-to-day basis. Which led me to thinking—how can we use RPGs as a vehicle for exploring this topic, and help elucidating the mental health experience?

Tell us a bit about the games you developed which are part of Rivers Darkly Shining and what your inspiration was for each?

Sure!

Rivers Darkly Shining is a compilation of three games: Jigsaw Heroine, a game about coping with the hardships that memories can deal us; What Dust Remains, a game about realizing the high cost of ambition and legacy; and Become As Water, a game that explores the difficult terrain of life after trauma.

These games come from very personal spaces and places. When I wrote Jigsaw Heroine, for example, it was at a critical junction in my life when I was struggling with a lot of memories that I didn’t know how to process in a healthy manner. The idea for What Dust Remains literally came to me one night when I realized I didn’t have anything to my name – no lasting legacy for people to remember me by. And, well, Become As Water came from inspirations similar to what fueled my process for Jigsaw Heroine.

Can you tell us a bit about your feelings on game design and also walk us through your process? When you make a game, what would you say your inspirations and goals are?

Don’t tell anyone, but uh…my game design process is a bit out of whack.

Oh no, how so?

I usually come up with a core concept, and then spend sleepless days figuring out how to bend that concept into a curated experience governed by game mechanics. Which is longspeak for, “I get an idea and cram it all night.” Haha.

But yes, I do try to have a goal, which is to make sure that the experience is a guided story, and also to make it as accessible so that players not familiar with tabletop RPGs can jump in and play.

That sounds lovely! Especially that you think in terms of making your games accessible to people who may not have tried roleplaying games before. Let’s pivot a bit since were on the subject of game design and development: Digital platforms have opened up more avenues for local game designers to market their work. Can you share some thoughts on how you feel the community can help make local game design more prolific?

The wild growth of games in platforms like Itch has been nothing short of amazing. But how can we see that same interest across the board?

What I want to see are indie games featured prominently in events, conventions, local conversations in Facebook and the like. Perhaps a curated zine of games could be a good idea. Or, maybe a Feature of the Month showing designers and the works they have done?

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Preview screencaps from What Dust Remains | momatoes.itch.io

The possibilities are there, but the main big issue is creating that momentum and sustaining it so that there is always interest in locally-made indie games.

Speaking of indie games, do you have any favorites from other women in the community that you’d like to recommend for our readers both locally and internationally to check out?

Oh wow. I can’t choose. There’s just so much talent out there! I’m exposed to the works of the like of Jammi Nedjadi (Sword Queen Games), Sin Posadas, Noey Pico, and Pammu Punzalan, all great designers who are blazing trails when it comes to indie tabletop RPGs. Please check all of their works out.

As you know, this year’s LacunaCon features “Dauntless” as its main theme. As one of the GMs running their original work at the convention, how would you say your games embody showing fearlessness and determination?

Many of my games explore conversations on difficult topics – memory, legacy, and trauma. It takes a fearless spirit to approach these topics with maturity, compassion, and empathy. It’s something I hope can be explored safely in my games for LacunaCon.

As a game designer, would you say that you’ve experienced creating an impact on others through your games?

I won’t venture to say it’s made an impact, but every time I run “Become as Water” (the third game in “Rivers Darkly Shining”) the players open up their own experiences and stories. I feel very humbled that a game manages to spark deep conversations in that mien. I’ve had players tell me about their emotional baggage, their troubled past, and their hopes for the present and the future. And I’m greatly thankful for that.

And finally, before we wrap up, are there any words of wisdom that you’d like to share to aspiring tabletop game designers?

Instead of last words of wisdom, let me issue a challenge instead: How can we create curated experiences that draw out authentic conversations about difficult topics? How can we do so with compassion and empathy?

These are the questions that inspire me, and I hope spark inspiration with you too.

Thank you again, Bim for taking time for this interview. We encourage people to check out her games over at momatoes.itch.io! She’s got some really awesome stuff that you should try out. You can also connect with her on Twitter, just @momatoes.


Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited lightly for clarity. Featured image by Angelina Litvin via Unsplash. 

#LacunaCon2019 is this June 22 and Bim will be running What Dust Remains! Interested to attend? Hop on over to our official Facebook event page and invite your friends as well!

Noey Pico on EmailNoey Pico on FacebookNoey Pico on InstagramNoey Pico on Twitter
Noey Pico
Noey Pico is a tiny Ball of Feelings™ and an audioromantic with a passion for writing, and all things geek. A former contributing editor at What’s a Geek, she has an ongoing love affair with tabletop gaming because it’s the closest thing she's got to being a jaeger pilot. She also writes music, you can check her work out over on her Bandcamp page.

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