No Post on Sundays…..

…..and everyday is Sunday this week!

Just a programming note for the blog. I will be everywhere but in front of a computer this week and I suspect most of you will be in the same position. Therefore, we will not have any new posts until some time after next weekend. I hope you all have a good week and you all get to make and play many many games.

We now return you to your regularly schedule web surfing.

What Games Mean to Me #5 My Games Are Part of My Legacy

I would like to leave the world a better place then I found it. I could plant some trees, pick up litter on my way, donate to a nature preserve etc. If children are in my future, I can teach them to be good people and carry on with the combination of my ideas for making the world a better place, mix it with their own and part of me will carry one. While I plan on doing all those things, I want my legacy to reach out to more people.

I look at the games we create as a way for people to come together years from now and enjoy spending time with one another. I want our games to teach people, young and old, about the teaching benefits games have to offer. I want people to understand the social benefits  a game has to offer. I want people look at one of our games and have a good feeling of friends and family, and maybe a few feelings of crushing the soul of their buddies because not winning a game for the sake of ruining your buddies day is sometimes more important!

At some point, I will be gone, but our games can live forever. The name on the front of a box, our company logo or the titles of our games can all stand for the fun and joy that can be had with family and friends. I like the idea that people can be playing out games a century from now. Students can learn, friends can blow up space ships and families can have a laugh. My games are part of my legacy and knowing that people could be playing our games many years in the future; helps give me motivation to make our games the best they can be.

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If you have any comments or questions, leave a comment here or email Chris at c.renshall.tgik.games@gmail.com

How to Build a Game #43 What are Your Local Cons and Events

Let me start by saying that I live in California. I bring that up first because my approach to Cons is greatly influenced by this fact.

When we started out, the idea of travelling to all the major cons was out of the question. Between a mortgage, the time required and convincing our wives that going around the country several times per year for board games was a good use of vacation time….well, we needed to find another way to get started in the industry.

We then learned about local cons and events and now we are hooked. We looked up a list of all the cons up and down the west coast and we have been targeting various events we want to attend as we have games become available to play.

I have to admit, when we started I was really disappointed with fact that is felt like all the cons were on the other side of the Rockies, but it turns out we have some really good cons/events we can attend in the Los Angeles area and the bay area. There was also an UnPub event in San Diego this year.

This is a bit beating the dead horse, but finding your local events and getting your games played by the public is a big deal. Just to have your games in front of the public is a big deal. Most of all, IMO, the confidence you can take from playing your game with one event goer who really likes you games and want to share it with their friends is worth finding out where your local events are and making a point to attend them and get your games played.

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If you have any comments or questions, leave a comment here or email Chris at c.renshall.tgik.games@gmail.com

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.

What Games Mean to Me #4 Get Me Out of My Natural Shell

I know I have already said I am in introvert and that games are a social experience worth having.What I want to get across here is that even in a group of people I know, I say very little. If we are in a one on one situation I am a complete chatter box, but when my wife and I attend a holiday party or a basic get together, I am the quiet one. I am happy to stand in the circle, but I don’t really say that much.

Board games act as a way for me to interact with the people I am close to, yes that sounds weird….but…..it is what it is! Board games give me a chance to be myself in a setting where everyone is pre-programmed to have some fun. Aidan and I are always trying to beat the living daylights out of each other and while this means we will never win the game we happen to be playing, I get to be myself. Conversations are started from the games we play. We will spend time talking about the games we played last week and we will talk about the games Aidan and I are working on. Our friends have a genuine interest in what we are doing and that really help in the confidence area.

Board games enable me to be a better friend because board games are a fun and irregular topic where people get excited to talk about them and I have a lot of knowledge about the subject because of what we do as a side business/hobby.

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If you have any comments or questions, leave a comment here or email Chris at c.renshall.tgik.games@gmail.com

How to Build a Game #42 Learn How to Recruit Play Testers….Lots of Them

Getting your games play tested can take a long time and finding a reliable group of people willing to play your game over and over can be really tough. Due to all the various challenges of finding play testers, designers need to find way to recruit and build a network of play testers.

Friends

The common line about testing with your friends (I left out family on purpose) is that the feedback you will receive is not genuine because everything you do your friends will say is great. This might be true, but I can tell you that my friends find great joy in telling me what is garbage about my games. Not to mention, friends are generally willing to play a game more often that one would expect because they are your friends. If you utilize your friends in the right testing format, they can be incredibly valuable.

Game Store

When you go to game night at your local game store, or if you have a regular game night, ask around and see if there are people in the group that are willing to give your games a go. You might even be able to organize a prototype event at your store. The benefits of asking at your game store are that you know the people that like to play games and you all have a common place to play and test your games. The drawbacks can be that people in the game store like to play finished published games (that is what I run into) and you might not be able to get a regular group willing to play your protos. Because of this, you will need to ask a lot of people but that is part of building a network of willing participants.

Other Designers

I really like testing with other designers. They are really good at looking through the hand-written cards and can easily see the game. The problem is, designers are difficult to find in the wild in any sort of concentration, at least for us. Asking designers to join a play test group is really easy, in our experience, it really comes down to availability.

Online

If you are in a position where you are unable to get together a local testing group, you can turn to the online world. There are websites dedicated to play testing games (sorry, I don’t remember the name so no link). You can reach out to gamers online and ask them to test your games. We are part of the Indie Game Alliance and they offer a play testing service. There are plenty of play testing services and options you can find online. What I don’t know, is how often you can get games tested, what are the costs of the various groups and which ones are the best to use.

There are options for designs that are looking to build a play testing network, and designers should be working on that. Play testing takes a lot of time and the more networking you put into your play test group now, the more time you will save later on.

Find us on Twitter (Follow Us!) and Facebook (Like Us!)

If you have any comments or questions, leave a comment here or email Chris at c.renshall.tgik.games@gmail.com

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.

Is There a Designer in Every Gamer?

In episode 13 of the Whose Turn is it Podcast, the hosts were asking the question “is there was a designer in every gamer?” The hosts were of the mind that there is a designer in every gamer, but the guest, Ignacy Trzewiczek, went so far as to say that most gamers are not qualified to design games and should not design games. I will let you listen to the episode to hear what exactly everyone had to say about the subject. I am here to offer my counter to the idea that gamers should not bother designing games at all.

The main reasons I took away from the podcast as to why gamers shouldn’t design games is that designing a game is very difficult and most gamers are not “qualified.”  I have written previously about how hard it is to make a game. I have no issue with the idea that making a game is incredibly difficult. Designing a game is easy, but making that game into a physical product with finished art and getting that game to market and then have it be a commercial success….tough, double tough. Does this mean that gamers should not bother to design a game in the first place? No. I take issue with the idea that rather than set the level of expectation to where it should be, the words of wisdom are “don’t bother.”

If you want to design a game, you need to have an idea of where you want to go with your idea. If you want to make a game for your friends and family, make it, take your time and enjoy the process. If you want to shoot for the stars and make a game with the intent of commercial “success” (measure how you see fit) you better know the time and persistence required to make a game happen. Your ideas might be bad, but there are so many designers out there and designer resources (BGDF, BGG designer forums, Facebook forums, designer blogs, etc) where designers can go and talk about their ideas. Test your ideas and other designers will tell you if there is a game worth pursuing. If the community tells you that the idea isn’t that strong, make it better or start working on another idea, look for another designer to bounce ideas off of, read the good ideas of others and learn what it takes to make a game go from basic concept and turn it into a great game. There is an avenue for designers to travel where they can improve their skills and meet the people and develop the team required to make games. Very few people have all the required skills the make a game happen, but there is an established forum of designs who are on the web looking and willing to help one another.

Which brings up to qualifications;if you have played a designer game, or a mass market game, and you have a basic understanding of interesting mechanics, you are qualified to start building a game. If you are willing to build your skill set or work with people who can help you make a full game, you are qualified to make a game. The barrier to entry for making a game is minuscule. There are no qualification requirements when it comes to making a game other than the willingness to work hard.

What bothers me the most is this, it is hard enough to design a game without established industry folks like Ignacy telling aspiring designs “don’t.” How many potential designers will listen to the podcast, hear an established publisher say they are not qualified and those potential designers are shot down before they even began? I believe it is the responsibility of people within this industry to spread the word about our games and the people who design them. Telling potential designers that shouldn’t because it is hard and they are not qualified is just bad stewardship and hurts our industry. If one wanted to tell potential designers that getting a game from the idea conception phase to the published in your hands phase is very difficult, I am right there with them. Recently on twitter there was a discussion about people not wanting to design game because of the work involved, and I totally get it. That is a choice some people make and that is awesome, please keep playing and enjoying the games you love. For the aspiring designers out there, you better have a good understanding of what you are getting yourself into. That being said, it is A LOT of fun and you will meet a lot of great people. If I stopped designing games now, I can say that I have made friends, met some great people and learned a lot about how games work.

Make your games, please, please, please…make your games.

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If you have any comments or questions, leave a comment here or email Chris at c.renshall.tgik.games@gmail.com

 

What Games Mean to Me #3 Social Experience Worth Having

I am an introvert and meeting new people is not an easy exercise for me. I have a problem with coming across as aloof and disinterested. The truth is, I would prefer to skip the small talk when meeting new people. Board games offer a perfect avenue to meet and get to know people. Board games act as a go between people I am meeting for the first time. We can talk about the games we like to play, the games we have on our wish list and the game we are currently playing. We can share the experience of learning a game together or we can help one another learn the basics of games one of us has already played.

Beyond the individual interactions, we can learn about the players that seem to have incredible luck or the person that is somehow always the traitor. When people play games, they have a personality that may or may not be the same as their real life personality, but the point is that people have a personality. Small talk is boring, games bring out an unguarded side of people that is much easier to meet because we are having a shared experience over killing goblins and locating spies.

Board games are a social experience worth having. Board games cut through most of the small talk that I would prefer to skip until a later date. Being that we are social beings, having board games act as a conduit for me to meet new people and make friends is an experience worth having and sharing with as many people as possible. I have board game friends that I have never met in person, but I have played games with them. The first time I go to a con, I will have friends there already to meet and play games with. Board games make the social experience easier and more enjoyable. I consider it a privilege to make games so that people can come together and make friends while playing our games.

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If you have any comments or questions, leave a comment here or email Chris at c.renshall.tgik.games@gmail.com