If you have a FLGS you can go to on a semi regular or regular basis, talk to them about the business side of the industry. That doesn’t mean ask them about their financials, but ask them about the industry.
I went to a game night at my local store and the owner happened to be manning the shop. Since no one else was in the shop, I started asking questions. How did they decide how to organize their shelves? What kinds of games are people picking up and looking at the most? Are people looking at or looking for the hot games in the industry or the games featured on Table Top? Do they notice a different sort of customer starting to make their way into the store as the board game world grows?
Another time I went into the store and I started talking to one of the employees and started asking the same questions. Asking the same questions to a person who might have a different perspective or works different hours and meets with a different customer set…there is no such thing as a bad question(within reason) when asking the people who work in the store.
There are some things you may not have to ask, just look around. I have spent an hour “reading a rule book” when I was actually watching what games drew people over to make them pick up the box(not creepy at all!). I would stare at the wall of games to see what jumped out at me, go over and pick them up to see if the game could draw me in even further. I would take mental note of what about a game would stop me from buying the game. Even if I knew about the game because I am paying attention to the industry on a daily basis, I would throw out what I already knew about a game, apply this “system” and take away the information I thought was most useful.
There is a lot of useful information to be collected just be spending time in your FLGS (again, if you have one) asking questions and making observation, just don’t be creepy about it!
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If you have made it this far, would you like to go a little farther? We are thinking about starting a regular Google hangout with other designers. We can try to design a game together, we can talk about designers we are working on, you can ask us questions. We can make it whatever we want. What we really want to do is get to know the people that are willing to read all the way to the bottom of our posts. Please contact Chris on Twitter or send him an email and if we are able to get a minimal amount of interest, we can work on putting something together.