An Interview With Art Director Matt Hildebrand

With the nickname “Big Bald Matt” you have an idea what to expect from our Art Director, Matt Hildebrand. That doesn’t mean we don’t want to get to know him better! So we took some time out from his (very) busy schedule to get the lowdown on what the Goodman Games master layout artist has to say.

Let’s hear him in his own words!

Let’s get the basics out of the way: who are you and what is it you do for Goodman Games?

My name is Matt, but my WYSIWYG internet “handle” is Big Bald Matt. I chose that name because I’m big. And bald. And, most of all, Matt. I do lots of layout and art direction for the DCC and 5e lines. But I also create graphics (and motion graphics) for Twitch shows, and the Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns. And signage. And t-shirts. You get it.

How did you get introduced to gaming and Goodman Games in particular?

This might be a familiar story: I started with Moldvay’s Basic Set way back when. Someone in my scout troop brought the Holmes set to a campout. I was enthralled and quickly set upon my parents with a campaign of shameless begging. Luckily Santa treated me right that year. I played the crap out of that and 1e Gamma World. Soon I was on to Champions, Rifts, Vampire, etc. I admit to experimenting with Call of Cthulhu and Paranoia at college, like you do, but then came the deep freeze where gaming receded into the background. 

Years later, I was brought back into role-playing during the 3e boom. I bought a few modules of that era, including DCC #27 Revenge of the Rat King by Harley Stroh and loved the vibe, but not the mechanics of that edition. One thing led to the next, as they usually do. Soon, I embraced the OSR scene (RIP Google +), and I started to read about an old-school art-filled sort-of-but-not-really-a-retroclone called DCC RPG. When I first paged through it, I fell in love — first with the look, and then the mechanics, and eventually the community around the game.

How much gaming do you get in during your personal time these days?

I am currently involved in three regular games, and try to run a few of my own here and there. And the occasional Road Crew game (in between global pandemics). The groups I play in like to try different systems, which is a blast for me. (We’re currently kicking the tires on Mörk Borg and having a blast doing so.)

DCC RPG has a reputation for its visual aesthetic. How would you best describe it?

First and foremost, the artwork we use has its genesis in traditional media. Work that leaves behind an artifact of some kind. Ink-smudged, paint-spattered, pencil-marked artifacts. These things set DCC RPG off from the majority of the role-playing products out there. Nobody else embraces this type of work like we do.

In my opinion, the look of DCC RPG is a mash-up of lots of classic influences but viewed through a modern lens. There’s room in the pot for vintage comics, old horror movies and magazines, talented artists from the age of illustration, heavy metal, Weird Tales covers, the DIY aesthetic of old punk zines, etc. Our talented artists can reference these influences and filter them with reverence to things like diversity and modern sensibilities. There are some ideas and opinions in the references I mentioned above that need to be left behind. The artwork in DCC RPG is influenced by vintage artwork but embraces contemporary ways of thinking. 

You’re also the lead Graphic Designer for the company. What are your daily responsibilities there?

I do the layout for most publications that Goodman Games publishes. Anything DCC, 5e, OAR, MCC, MA, even the recent Deluxe Collector’s Edition that features the amazing work by Jennell Jaquays. Routinely, I follow up that layout responsibilities by commissioning artwork and eventually doing the print production work as well. So my fingerprints are all over the files by the time the printer sees them. Daily, I feel humbled to work with so many talented and generous folks. Everyone on the team, at every level, just wants to make the coolest stuff they can. Writers, editors, artists, and everyone else all chipping in to make amazing books that inspire and fascinate. (It’s a great gig.) 

Your company email signature also lists one of your titles as “Doughnut Enthusiast.” This sounds like a very coveted position. How did you acquire it?

Many can lay claim to this title, but much like the Highlander, there can be only one. In truth, doughnuts are much maligned as non-nutritious and some folks even think they’re “bad” for you. Nothing could be further from the truth. I can cite piles of recent medical studies that prove the anti-nutters false. I’ll be happy to share my 73-slide Pro-nutter PowerPoint, if you’re interested.

I have never encountered a greater argument for the existence of a higher power than hot black coffee and a maple-frosted doughnut. (Strong words, I know.) 

You made your first official appearance as a Goodman Games employee at Gary Con. What other shows can people expect to see you at this year?

I’ll be at Gen Con again, GameHole, and Pax Unplugged. Origins was a near-miss—that one conflicts with the family vacation, I’m afraid. But next year, for sure. At these cons, I have run a few artist- and art-heavy seminars that are usually a blast to attend. It’s a great chance for fans to rub elbows with the incredible artists that Goodman Games employs. There’s portfolio show & tells, deep dives into inspiration behind the artwork, and lots of time for Q&As.

Thanks for taking a bit out of your (I know) very busy day to talk to us! 

It was my pleasure, sir. 

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