Create out loud

with Jennifer Louden

8 | Elizabeth Hargrave: Turn Your Yearnings Into Creativity

Show Notes

In this episode:

  • An inside look at what it takes to design a board game with the creator of the award-winning game, Wingspan
  • Why creating board games is inherently vulnerable (and what we can learn from that)
  • Why all notes are valuable if we search for “the note under the note”
  • How we can use our creative passions to champion social justice
  • How to be a minority within your creative space, and how to champion other minority voices


Elizabeth Hargrave is one of the world’s most respected table top game designers. The birth of her bestselling, award-winning board game Wingspan came out of a simple desire: she was tired of playing games that were about trolls, castles, and zombies. So guess what? She created her own, and it’s about ornithology. Yep, birds.

“If there had been games out there that I wanted to play, I’m not sure I ever would have become a game designer. But I sort of saw this hole. I liked the way these other games worked. But I wanted another subject matter.”

There is so much to learn about this act of creative expression. If we yearn for something, chances are, many other people do too.

Elizabeth has since published three best-selling games, all related to nature, and she’s built a strong community around those with a shared passion.

We explore why creating board games is inherently vulnerable and what we can learn from that.

“There’s a real vulnerability to it, something I really had to learn to get over. It’s terrifying the first time. It’s one thing to show it to your friends….But in a lot of playtesting situations…you’re playing it with strangers a lot of the time, and you just have to let it go…The more different people that you have play it, the better and more well rounded the game will get.”

Although Elizabeth has created breakout hits, most board game designers are hobbyists. I asked her about her transition from designing as a side gig while working as a policy analyst at the University of Chicago to making the leap into a full-time creative career.

“The year that Wingspan came out, I was still doing part-time consulting on my own on health policy stuff. And one of the big projects that I had involved a lot of travel…I got nominated for this huge award that’s given out in Germany — the Kennerspiel, Game of the Year. Everyone was like, ‘You have to go to the ceremony!’ ‘She has to go to Germany for this!’ I had a site visit scheduled at the same time. And that was the first crack. I realized maybe I’m not going to do both of these things forever.”

The following year, she chose to pass up a contract to commit to board game design and she’s been enjoying the challenge ever since.

We also talked about issues of diversity in the gaming world, how we can use our creative passions to champion social justice, the parallels and differences between the book and game publishing industries, the development process, and so much more.

Join me as we discover how Elizabeth Hargrave creates out loud.


Wingspan Expansions

Visit to get instant access to a collection of audios that will

  • help you with some of the most common struggles we creatives have to manage including fear of choosing,
  • falling into compare and despair, managing the inner critic (s),
  • and feeling too exposed and vulnerable when you put yourself or your work into the world.

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