INTRODUCING: JAMES VAN NIEKERK
Paul Saxberg - Community Manager, Roxley Games
Team Roxley are proud to introduce our latest addition to the team - James Van Niekerk! James showed up at our door, attracted by the smell of fresh baked cookies and the chance to work on amazing miniatures. We convinced him to stay by dangling Super Deluxe Radlands pledges in front of his nose, as well as an employment deal in front of him that would result in more cookies down the line.
Tell us about yourself, James!
I am a friendly Graphic Designer, Illustrator, 3D artist and game designer who works in the frosty little city of Winnipeg. I am very tall. I enjoy biking. I have two very small children and a lovely wife. But at the epicenter of the “Who am I?” puzzle, I am a gamer. I think about games all the time. I’ve been into miniature wargaming, Magic, RPGs and board games my whole life. It’s what I do with all my friend groups once the kids go to bed.
My most recent creative project is a zany RPG board game series I created called Valor & Villainy, a project which started as an evenings and weekends hobby, and grew into three published games and a full time endeavor for me.
What draws you to a game?
I love all sorts of games, but I definitely gravitate towards ones that are beautiful and dripping with theme. There is a special place in my heart for dungeon crawlers and RPGs. I love D&D and anything that feels like D&D on the table, but that’s kind of only where it begins.
I have an ancient history with Games Workshop games (Warhammer 40k & fantasy, Mordhiem, Blood Bowl, etc.) and painting miniatures. I also love the whole “dudes on a map” genre of board games (Khemet, Blood Rage, Innis, Chaos in the Old World, and such). Mostly I am just a sucker for anything that looks beautiful.
It looks like you’ve been in the industry for a while. How did you get started, and what kind of experiences have you had so far?
I’ve done a lot of traveling in my life. Gone on adventures to India, Thailand, and Cambodia. Got to attend a Games Workshop convention in the UK, but I’d guess you meant more professionally?
Way back as a young fledgling, I got my start in the web design industry at an ad agency. From there I moved into the video game world for 7 years, working as an Art Lead on mobile and PC games. Over that time I also created Valor & Villainy: Minions of Mordak as a hobby project. When that was finally ready, I found a great partner in Skybound Tabletop, and together we Kickstarted it and had a pretty great campaign.
This gave me a fanbase that was asking for more, and a unique opportunity with Skybound to create another title in the series with a guaranteed publisher. So I left my job in video games and dove full time into creating Valor & Villainy: Lludwik’s Labyrinth, which we later Kickstarted into further success. That’s the point where I met Gavan Brown. I was looking for what was going to come next, and as it so happened, Roxley was also looking for somebody with my special set of skills!
What was it about Roxley that made you want to join our team?
Earlier I mentioned how I’m a sucker for beautiful games. Over the years, this has meant that Roxley’s catalog has caught my eye time and again. Roxley partners with the best artists in the industry, and their games have some incredible ratings.
Cards on the table, my goal here is just to scheme out a scenario where I can make a living creating beautiful and excellent games all the time. So a career at Roxley where I could do exactly that was a no brainer!
How has the experience been so far? Have there been any major surprises?
It’s been fantastic! The team is so welcoming and the atmosphere is casual and inviting. They have lots of good systems in place to make remote working more personal. I can tell it will be a work environment that will foster lots of good friendships and great professional growth.
Is there any special significance to your choice of the fennec fox as your avatar?
My 3 year old daughter Ivy loves foxes, and has a tiny fox stuffy she’s slept with every night of her life. So it was a cute surprise to show her my super cool fox pix.
(Fennec fox baby. K. Whiteford, public domain.)
What other hobbies and fandoms do you have?
I love music, and attend folk festivals at every opportunity. I love biking and swimming. Camping and hiking. Painting miniatures. Travel and chocolate. Dark comedies, mysterious shows, and a good heart-strings drama film.
Thank you so much, James, for taking the time to introduce yourself! We’re so happy you joined Team Roxley, and that you’re already adding your expertise, perspective, and hard work to our upcoming projects. WELCOME ABOARD!
More of James’ past works can be found on his portfolio site at https://www.artstation.com/jmachine. For more information about valor & Villainy, visit https://www.valorandvillainy.com/.