Mark Jackson used to be the “Conductor” of Game Central Station – a quirky little gaming website that’s suffered through three different hosts & sad, sad neglect. For the last six years, he’s been blogging as aka pastor guy… writing about “Everything including the kitchen sink… but with special attention paid to board games, Jesus Christ, my family, being a “professional” (and I use that word loosely) Christian, and the random firing of the 10% of the synapses I’m currently using.”
Mark is also the self-appointed Keeper Of The Five & Dime Playlists (now archived on his blog & published here on the Opinionated Gamers website) as well as the head honcho behind The Apples Project, an attempt to compare “apples with apples” when it comes to board & card games.
Mark has been a gamer since elementary school (for those keeping score, that would be the mid-70’s). Thanks to a grandmother who would play anything he bought and an aunt who kept all of the old games her sons had owned, Mark had access to an amazing variety of American mass market games: Video Village, Monopoly, Conflict, King Oil, Broadsides, Sinking of the Titanic, Dogfight, etc.
A different aunt (he had great relatives!) bought him his first Avalon Hill game as junior high student (Outdoor Survival), which started a nearly 10 year obsession with AH and SPI wargames. As a charter subscriber to Games Magazine, Mark tried desperately to be the coolest gamer on his block… which led to nearly 4 years of playing D&D, primarily as a DM. (Oddly enough, the map of the D&D world was the board from AH’s Outdoor Survival.)
College brought on endless Friday nights of playing Spades, Risk, and penny-a-point backgammon… and through Games Magazine, a growing awareness of games outside the mainstream outlets. It was during this time period that Mark began acquiring Ravensburger games like Hare & Tortoise, Scotland Yard, and Flying Carpet. As well, this was the heyday of MB’s Gamemaster series, and these saw a huge amount of playing time with his best friend, Tim, also a gamer. Finally, as he started seminary, Mark & Tim fell in love with the Games Workshop boardgames: Fury of Dracula, Dungeonquest, and Warlock of Firetop Mountain.
It was some years later (the mid-90’s) when Mark discovered “the German invasion”. Primed by the red Spiel des Jahres pawns on the Ravensburger games he owned, he purchased copies of Line 1 and Manhattan in a game store in Cincinnati, OH (and paid way too much for them)… about the same time that Mayfair began releasing Modern Art and The Settlers of Catan. What had been a lifetime hobby became a major obsession.
Over the past 15 years, thanks to the magic of the Internet, Mark’s collection has grown past 1200 games, stretching the gamut from silly American fluff (for example, Small Soldiers Big Battle Game) to obscure German titles (Hui Spinne, anyone?). Mark has had a hand in starting two gaming clubs: Game Central Station (in Nashville, TN), which is still alive & kicking, even though Mark doesn’t live there anymore; and the Fresno Gamers, which meets nearly every Tuesday night in the social hall at the church Mark pastors.
Speaking of that, Mark currently lives in Fresno, CA, where he is pastor of NewLife Community Church. His eldest son (age 10), Braeden, loves to play Summoner Wars & Heroscape, while his younger son (age 6), Collin, loves Monopoly: Tropical Tycoon & Flowerpower. Mark just considers himself lucky to have two gamers in the house… and a wonderful wife to keep all three of them in line.
Mark is now tired of writing about himself in the third person.