My first experience with an Island was the summer I spent building trails on Apple Island in Orchard Lake when I was in High School. We’d fill trash cans with wood chips, load them on a pontoon boat, drive them to the Island, and spread them out. There was plenty of time to wander, and I remember that first magical feeling of being in a place with finite boundaries, but many stories.
Several families had homesteaded on Apple Island, and it was fun to imagine being in a place all your own, away from civilization. It is much like the feeling you get when backpacking: You carry your house with you, like a turtle, and all you need to do is worry about living through the day and enjoying the scenery.
Barbara and I spent a honeymoon of sorts on South Manitou Island in Lake Michigan, and have been back several times since. Being a wilderness area of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, there you are truly on your own, but with the ghosts of the former residents and with current wonders around every turn.
The Island setting was helpful, too, when designing Mackinac Island Treasure Hunt, because it makes it easy to contain where players can move and what information to focus on. Other games have figured this out, as our game collection can attest: Settlers of Catan, Forbidden Island, and even Risk are a few that use Islands as theme constraints.
Islands have power, and though no person is an Island, it has always fascinated me that many heroes of power in fiction are orphans, separate from the human mainland as it were. Frodo, Harry Potter, James Bond, Lyra Belaqua, etc. all have the ability to put everything on the line for their fellows because they have no physical connection to the world.
These characters, like the Islands I have known in Michigan’s waters, are quiet, full of intricacies and nuance, and worth exploring.