Q&A Interview with Russ Hapke from The Gaming Geeks


I recently caught up with Russ, who is the co-founder and co-owner of The Gaming Geeks. Last year, I teamed up with the craftsmen duo to recreate an artifact from my book series, The Chronicles of Avilésor.

I love collaborating with small businesses, especially since The Gaming Geeks are local. We’ve done several events together in northwest Indiana over the past couple of years… and will likely be vendors together for many more as we continue to grow as creative entrepreneurs!

In this interview, Russ shares insights into his business, the unique challenges that creative entrepreneurs face, the steps involved with our recent collaboration, and more. Check it out!

The Gaming Geeks Trading Post

Tell us about your business and what you do.

As The Gaming Geeks, our mission is to create pieces that help set the mood. Whether it be in tabletop gaming pieces, or hand-sculpted containers, poster art, or what have you, our first thought is always, “What would we like to see in a game room?”

Pictured below: Dan (left) and Russ (right), the founders, owners, and craftsmen behind The Gaming Geeks

Russ and Dan from The Gaming Geeks

What inspired you to start a creative business?

We’ve both helped others realize their dreams and decided we needed to start doing that for ourselves.

We wanted something that we could continue to do as we age, whether it be at festivals or hopefully one day at a ‘brick-n-mortar’ location, that we could look back at with a smile as others enjoy our work as well.

How is being a creative entrepreneur different from other small business owners who resell products they didn’t make or design themselves?

Although we don’t begrudge someone who has found a niche reselling products, it’s just never been for us. We like the whole process, from the initial design
 to figuring out how to make it a reality.

That being said, it’s a heck of a thing
 putting yourself out there; putting your ideas out there and wondering if people will like what you’ve created. So far, we’ve been quite fortunate.

Products made by The Gaming Geeks

What unique challenges do you face as a creative entrepreneur?

The toughest bit to be sure: putting yourself out there – your work, your ideas, your labor. The next bit, for us at least, was to be able to create pieces with what we had on hand.

We didn’t start out with a large budget or backers. Not a lot of machinery bits or tools. We started small and continually re-invested (and still do) into our business.

Both of us are very creative, so coming up with ideas has never been that great of a challenge; rather how to bring those ideas to the table in a timely and professional manner that we could create again and again. We’re still learning, and to keep yourself in the mindset to continually learn would probably be the third bit.

Pictured below: Sara A. Noë (left) cosplaying as the protagonist from the Chronicles of Avilésor and Russ (right) in their booths at the 2023 Oktoberfest in Michigan City, IN

Author Sara A. Noe and Russ Hapke from The Gaming Geeks at their Oktoberfest booths in Michigan City, IN

What steps did you take to recreate an artifact from the Chronicles of Avilésor book series?

  1. We used Photoshop to create mock ups that replicated the author’s custom symbol on the front and the hand-carved names of the two characters on the back.
  2. Once the 2D mock ups were approved after several back-and-forth drafts, Dan recreated the designs in a 3D modeling system. He experimented with different sizes, curvatures, widths, and line depths to achieve the ideal combination.
  3. The masters were brought to life using a 3D printer. The first test masters had some undesirable lines cutting across them, but after readjusting the plates, we were able to produce viable masters.
  4. We cast the molds using high-grade silicon. We followed the side seams with clay below, blocked the hole for the cord, and then poured the rubber.
  5. After the molds had cured, we removed the clay on the back, applied a release agent, and poured the second half. Finally, we conditioned the mold and injected the resin with syringes to work out any air bubbles that might ruin the cast.
  6. From there, we had molds that were ready for resin pours whenever the author was ready to order another batch! The resin we used had a natural heft and was able to imitate the look of ivory, which is what the original pendants were made of in the books.
The Gaming Geeks creating the Kit and Rayven Aminyte pendants from the Chronicles of Avilesor series

What were the most satisfying and difficult parts of the collaboration?

Kit and Rayven Aminyte pendants from the Chronicles of Avilesor: War of the Realms fantasy series

Definitely the end results of seeing the medallions in their final form, hanging from those silken black strands, and seeing Sara’s face of adding another piece toward the book series.

How does it feel to bring fictional elements to life in a tangible form?

In a word
 satisfying. And then you move on
 and then, when you’ve brought numerous works from ideas to tangible form, a different sense of satisfaction comes over you.

Products made by The Gaming Geeks

What advice do you have for other creatives who are interested in turning their passion into a business?

 get frustrated
 and learn.

Don’t stretch yourself too thin to begin. Start small and work up if you’ve not run a business before now. Try different things. Don’t be afraid to fuck up, and you will. And once you’ve done that, get over it and try again.

Additional links & articles

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I'm an award-winning fantasy author, artist, and photographer from La Porte, Indiana. My poetry, short fiction, and memoir works have been featured in various anthologies and journals since 2005, and several of my poems are available in the Indiana Poetry Archives. The first three novels in my Chronicles of Avilésor: War of the Realms series have received awards from Literary Titan.

After some time working as a freelance writer, I was shocked by how many website articles are actually written by paid "ghost writers" but published under the byline of a different author. It was a jolt seeing my articles presented as if they were written by a high-profile CEO or an industry expert with decades of experience. I'll be honest; it felt slimy and dishonest. I had none of the credentials readers assumed the author of the article actually had. Ghost writing is a perfectly legal, astonishingly common practice, and now, AI has entered the playing field to further muddy the waters. It's hard to trust who (or what) actually wrote the content you'll read online these days.

That's not the case here at On The Cobblestone Road. I do not and never will pay a ghost writer, then slap my name on their work as if I'd written it. This website is 100% authentic. No outsourcing. No ghost writing. No AI-generated content. It's just me... as it should be.

If you would like to support my work, check out the Support The Creator page for more information. Thank you for finding my website! đŸ–€