Tom Filsinger: Entertaining Flagstaff and the world

Illustration by Tonesha Yazzie

Psychology instructor Tom Filsinger is popular for his engaging psychology courses throughout campus, so much so that he was nominated for teacher of the year in 2019. However, Filsinger is also known for his game company, Filsinger Games. The company produces card-based games that have been sold around the world.

Filsinger said he initially started making his own games for fun. He has embarked on several other creative projects for fun beforehand, such as writing books, comics and contributing to podcasts. Though it started as something fun, his games ended up taking off.

“Originally, I created my games to entertain myself and my friends,” Filsinger said. “As it turns out, my friends enjoyed playing and so did my brother. So, I thought, why not. I'll give it a shot. I decided to produce and market my game idea.”

Filsinger’s said his tabletop games were created to stick around due to the undying nature of board games. He said board games will always have a market that videogames cannot replace.

Due to the constant demand for tabletop games, Filsinger also said collecting tabletop games is similar to collecting vinyl.

“The reason tabletop games remain popular is the same reason record albums have made a comeback," Filsinger said. "The album art is larger, cool packaging, you can hold it in your hands and collect your favorites. No amount of virtual gaming will ever be able to replace that.”

Audiences appear to agree that there is great value in board games, as Filsinger’s company has become well known, even among celebrities. In 2005, he met Stan Lee, the famous creator of "Spiderman," "The X-Men," and many other popular Marvel Comics superheroes.

In 2008, Lee and Filsinger wrote a book called “Election Daze.” The book was a spoof of the 2008 presidential election between John McCain and Barrack Obama. The book went on to become an Amazon bestseller.

“I devoured Marvel comics as a child and feel fortunate as an adult to meet and work with Stan Lee,” Filsinger said.

Many of Filsinger’s games focus on wrestling, which likely pulled an even broader audience to the games. Filsinger was featured on LIVE! From The Armory Wrestling Show and the Ring of Honor podcasts.

Filsinger produced the card game for Ring of Honor Wrestling with cards of well-known wrestlers like professional wrestler Randy "Macho Man" Savage.

“I am also proud that my company produces game cards for licensed characters from real-life wrestling promotions,” Filsinger said. “We have released hundreds of game cards for legends of the past."

While the popularity of his gaming company can be rewarding, Filsinger said it is difficult to manage these different aspects of his life like teaching and being an entrepreneur. He described the juggling act as well worth the hard work.

“Luckily, I love game writing and all the processes that go along with releasing game products so, it's more like a hobby than work," Filsinger said. "That helps make the juggling easier. There's a famous saying that goes something like, 'If you are doing what you love you'll never work a day in your life.'''

While his two jobs seem very different, Filsinger said psychology is a major part of game development. Making believable and likable characters is essential to his games and famous psychologists have had a large influence on how Filsinger said he creates his games.

“Creatively speaking, I am influenced by psychologists like Carl Jung, who wrote extensively about archetypes and how ideas emerge from largely unconscious processes,” Filsinger said. “Jung felt that many creative ideas originate in what he called the collective unconscious, a repository of mythical symbols that are shared by the human race.”

With the help of psychologists' influence, Filsinger Games has released five games to date. The company's games are Champions of the Galaxy, Legends of Wrestling, Ring of Honor Wrestling, Evolved Wrestling and Chikara.

Filsinger said his favorite creation was his first project, Champions of the Galaxy. The game exists in the science-fiction action genre and is about an interplanetary wrestling federation of the future.

The option for creativity in creating games is something Filsinger said he takes advantage of.

“The door is wide open for all kinds of wild concepts, and I've done it all from monsters and larger than life superheroes to time travel and multiple universes," Filsinger said. "What ties it all together, just like the Marvel Universe or "Star Wars," is ongoing characters and stories.”

However, Filsinger said the process of creating a card game is no small task. It requires many different people to work on a variety of responsibilities. The different jobs include artists, writers, editors, printers and distributors. He said all of the jobs play a vital role in creating the games and getting them to customers.

“I oversee all these processes and enjoy being involved because I know it makes our fans happy to receive and play the new games and expansions,” Filsinger said.

Filsinger Games is hosting a game tournament in April, and Filsinger said he enjoys events like this because it brings together a community of people who play his games.

Due to COVID-19 concerns, the tournament will take place virtually so players can compete with one another while staying home.

“Filsinger Games fans worldwide will be playing our games and reporting their results to other players,” Filsinger said. “It'll be a way to enjoy community with others while being socially responsible playing in the comfort of your own home.”

As Filsinger Games continues to bring fun to people worldwide, Filsinger encourages the NAU and Flagstaff communities to also pass the time enjoying the games, which can be downloaded on his company's website.