Interview: Miranda Markley, comic artist and designer of The Con-Carnival

Miranda Markley, otherwise known as Miranda Artz, joins Diagonal Move today to talk about her new print and play board game, The Con-Carnival

DM: Thanks for joining us today, Miranda. Could you tell us a little about yourself and how you first became interested in board games and game design?

MA: Sure, I’d love to! First off, thank you for taking the time to interview me, Neil!

My name is Miranda Markley and I am a 22 year old, Christian digital artist and author of the graphic novel series, The Spirit Seeds. I enjoy drawing, animation, video games, and work full-time as a Customer Service Representative in my dad’s business.

I became interested all because of a simple doodle I drew at 13 or so. It was an anime girl holding up 3 fingers and text saying something like: “Roll 3!” I cut it out and it looked like a small playing card. That inspired me and opened my mind to the possibility of making my own board game someday… but because I was unaware of how to make it, didn’t have any ideas for a board game, and lacked the experience needed it just never happened and I didn’t think about it much.

But now, because of my graphic novel series, I got the idea, because of my recent awareness of Print and Plays I got the how, and because of my growing as a digital artist I finally had the experience to make this dream a reality, and honestly, I owe it all to God for orchestrating it in this way to where all of the “pieces” lined up and are continuing to do so as I go along.

There is a traveling carnival rumored to be a front for con artists & thieves…Is THIS that carnival?” 

DM: Your first game, The Con-Carnival, is now available. Please tell us more about it.

MA: The Con-Carnival is a free print and play mystery board game which includes 3D foldable game pieces such as a rollercoaster that players can ride in, and carnival stands such as Jumbo Popcorn, The Puppet Show and more! This makes the experience so much more engaging and interesting to look at. It prints out all in black and white so it’s low ink and you can color anything you’d like, however you’d like! You can even draw your own players if you wish.

Because of this, it not only works great as a fun game that can be played over and over with few or many people, but also as a great group or solo art/craft project. Plus, anyone from ages 7 – 65 can enjoy this game as it is engaging enough for both.

The object of the game is to find out if the carnival you are standing in is the infamous Con-Carnival or if it’s just plain FUN, but you only have until 8:00 pm which is when the carnival closes.

Preview art from The Spirit Seeds Book 2

DM: In terms of the design, The Con-Carnival uses a ‘roll and move’ mechanic where destination spaces link to cards that potentially modify the board or add mini-games, dexterity challenges and even physical tasks. What inspired such a mix of elements?

MA: Both my graphic novel, The Spirit Seeds, and The Con-Carnival are biblically inspired allegories – like Lord of the Rings or Chronicles of Narnia – that can be enjoyed by anyone regardless of their beliefs.

There are things in the world that are obviously harmful but also things that fool you into thinking they are not. Like a wolf in sheep’s clothing… dressed up as something fun and exciting that you should want, like a Carnival, but the more you partake in the harmful activity, the more you become hooked and addicted until finally, you not only waste your time, but also become conned out your own life, losing what is most precious to you whether that be relationships, values, morals, your job, talents, abilities -you name it. An obvious example of this might be: a drug addict.

This inspired many of the cards because The Carnival itself can be looked at as a representation of the world and its many lures and temptations.

In the Con-Carnival, these ideas are represented by cards. For example, ‘Lure’ cards force you to go somewhere. ‘Activity’ cards give you an objective or game to play. ‘Precious Items’ are things of value to you that you could potentially lose while playing.  ‘Tempt’ cards in the game are designed to be hard to say no to as most temptations in real life are. Like when you’re on a diet and that chocolate cake at the grocery store is calling you…

With that said, there are also ‘Clue’ cards in the game that help you determine the kind of Carnival you’re in, but you still only get half of the picture and most of the time it feels like a guessing game! How are you supposed to get it right every time? And with all of the ‘Events’ life throws at you that you have no control over, how can you possibly win?

When you play The Con-Carnival, you’ll understand more how all of this fits, but the importance of “leaning not on your own understanding” and “trusting God” is the main message I’m trying to convey.

What inspired the minigames/physical tasks was my many young nieces and nephews. I wanted to make the game more engaging for them. The 3D standee elements represent games or places you would go to do an activity at a Carnival, so how about we do something like that in real life? Of course, I was limited to what people normally have in a household, so I needed to make sure the activities were things anyone could play without them having to get something special from a store.

DM: The Con-Carnival is available as a Print & Play download. Why did you take this approach, rather than a retail or crowd-funded release?

MA: I wanted it to be accessible to as many people as possible for free so they could learn more about where it comes from, which is The Spirit Seeds. The game is tied into the plot of the story so it’s not just a little easter egg in my series which is why I went a little crazy when creating this game.

DM: You actively encourage players to make The Con-Carnival their own, by creating their own colour scheme and inventing characters. How important is this to the overall experience?

MA: I think having the 3D stands, players, and board colored at least a little bit is important since it creates a unique sense of atmosphere for each person.

Do you want a pastel wonderland? A spooky nightmare? Or maybe even a jungle-theme! You can color it however you’d like! It gives people a one-of-a-kind, custom game that they created which makes it more theirs and special. Sure, someone else may print out this game and own a carnival, but they won’t own YOUR carnival! But you don’t have to color it if that’s not your thing.

I added the option to create your own players because as an artist myself, I think it’s cool when games do stuff like that and who doesn’t like custom characters/avatars? You can even draw mini versions of yourself, friends, or family and stick them in the Carnival! Or, if drawing is not your thing, you can use the players that are already drawn and there are MANY to choose from! So, you shouldn’t have a problem finding one you like.

DM: Could you tell us about the ‘Missing Pieces’ and blotted out rules?

MA: HMMM… That my friend, is to be discovered throughout The Spirit Seeds comic books, haha!

But… if you’re curious for more info… find the DOLL at

She seems to know something…

Preview art from: The Spirit Seeds Book 2

DM: The Con-Carnival is linked to your graphic novel, The Spirit Seeds, please could you tell us more about this and the cross-over into the game?

MA: In ‘The Spirit Seeds Book 2’, the main character, Lacey, finds a stray game piece that she suspects came from The Con-Carnival. Upon opening it, she expects to find an ordinary tabletop game but is quickly proven wrong when the pieces fly from the box, out of her hands, and transform the room into a real, life-size Carnival!! She is quickly enamored and taken in by it. But unfortunately for her… she didn’t read the back of the box.

You’ll have to find out what happens after that in The Spirit Seeds Book 2…

DM: Can you share anything about other projects you are working on?

MA: I am currently working on The mini Con-Carnival free print and play, finishing up some art commissions, and working on The Spirit Seeds Book 2. This mini version of The Con-Carnival will be more compact with less cards and pieces, easier to print out and color, and if you decide you’d like to add more pieces to the game later, you can print out the many expansion packs that will be available free also until little by little, you have the full Con-Carnival game. It’s a way to ease people into it.

DM: Do you have any advice for aspiring artists and designers?

MA: If this is what you have been called to do, then you better not give it up!

A great famous man and speaker by the name of Charlie ‘Tremendous’ Jones often said this:

“After 35 years of experience in business the most important thing I’ve learned is this…. NOTHIIIING WOOOORKS!”

Which was then proceeded by lots of laughter from the crowds. And he was right hahaha! I am experiencing this more and more through my project journeys, and you will too! So don’t get discouraged and hold tight to this verse which has helped me a lot when I have felt helpless and hopeless in my own life:

Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”