Why We Should Play Games #2 Parents and Children

Games have the power to teach young children basic concepts, encourage time spent playing with their parents and fulfill a child’s need to master new skills. Children can play games that help them master skills like number, letter and color recognition.

Games provide a setting where parents and children and spend time together working towards a common goal. Games allow for a quick turn around on failure. Games provide a structure that allows for parents to guide their child through a task that has and end game in mind and can allow their child to feel accomplished when they reach a goal.

Games don’t have to be overly difficult to teach children the skills listed above. When parents are able to guide their children through a playing experience, both parent cna child go through a shared experience of not only learning the game but learning each other. Parents can look at this activity as a method to learn their child’s learning skills. Maybe their child learns better with words games or visual games. Games give parents a way to identify their child’s skills and being able to identify these skills can help a child exponentially over time.

Games are also great exposure for both parents and children to modern board game mechanics. If the parents are not hobby gamers, they have the opportunity to learn modern game mechanics along with their children. As both parents and child get used to mechanics, they can “graduate” to more complex mechanics if they want to further explore the world of modern designer board games.

Games ultimately, have the ability to strengthen the bond between parent and child. We will explore more benefits for parents and children in future posts. For now, these are some of the best “starter benefits” board games how to offer.

Do you have any experience playing games with your children? Are there any particular games that have worked better for you with interacting with your child or games that seemed to be more helpful for your child? Can you think of a game that you would suggest to a friend or family member to play with their child?

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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

Board Games Used For Education #2 Creative Writing

I never liked creative writing time in school because I could never visualize the worlds we were asked to create and write about. I never really got into reading until Harry Potter was made into a movie and I had visual aids to help me generate the images in my head. What I wonder is, what if you gave students the goal of generating stories and worlds that could give their classmates a game experience? What if creative writing time was an exercise in both creative thought and game generation?

I am not sure what grade level this would be applicable, but I like the idea of instructing students to write about a game experience they would want to have if they were playing a game. The idea would be to have students write short, two or three paragraph idea that would be about a game theme and the experience they would want their player to have.

Seed Idea: Everyone in the game is trying to build the best tree house in the neighborhood and there are several things everyone must overcome in order to build their tree houses.

Teachers could instruct the students to write about this idea and the limitation they might face. The students writing would have to think about all the things that could make building a tree house.(time, money, tools, skills) Teachers could even provide some extra help with idea offshoots. Maybe students could be reminded that they don’t need to limit their ideas to the trees and the realities we live. Tell the students to think of building a tree house on another planet or in another time period. The overall goal should be to keep the creative thought to creating world/game limitations and abilities so a game can be built around those parameters.

This creative writing can be brief and left for later when students can flesh out their ideas. I like the idea of students having to generate their own world limits and thinking about what it takes to overcome those limitations. This kind of thinking could have some real world applications depending on where in school students are and if they make the connection to the ideas they are working on and the real world situation they might apply to. I also like that for students like me, where generating my own world visual is difficult, with this style of creative writing, students only need to build limits and ways to work within those limits.

After this initial round of idea generation, students can flesh out the ideas with more parameter depth and/or theme. Getting students used to generating small limits will prime their brains to think about larger game ideas down the road.

If you have any ideas on how games can make great educational tools, please share them in the comments section or email us at c.renshall.tgik.games@gmail.com

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What Games Mean to Me #16 Games Give Me Hope

Games make me smile, games make me interact with people in new and interesting ways and games give me ways to spend time with people from all different walks of life. Games give me hope that people can come together and enjoy a shared experience.

These days, we are surrounded by all sorts of bad news. Granted, bad news sells and gets clicks, but I could do with some more good vibes in the world. We are also in an age where it is easy to be a troll due to the anonymity the internet provides.

My experience with games has given me hope that people can come together and smile. I don’t think that games can solve the worlds problems, but I think that games can bring people together. When people are brought together to share an experience, they can see that dissimilar people are not that bad. There are people with different kinds of humor and people that have different life experiences. Games are and can be a starting point for conversation and when people talk about games, they tend to listen better because what is at stake in a game is trivial compared to the rest of the world. But listening to another person share their strategies is a chance to learn a way to play that game better. I firmly believe that if people would listen to one another, there would be a little less fear of the unknown and a little more understanding.

Games give me hope because they can facilitate these conversations, the listening and the smiles and enjoyment that is playing games.

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How to Build a Game #56 Bring Your Own Style

Part of being a designer is being inspired by the games we play. I have met designers that feel discouraged because they play a game that really fits their designer mind and they don’t think they could design the game any better. I don’t think designers should worry about published games that are similar to the projects they are working on.

I think situations like this are an opportunity for designer to bring their own style to the party. I look at published games as a starting point for similar ideas and use them as guideposts for what works. I like to play the games that are similar to my ideas and figure out what works and what doesn’t work. I think about what I would change and I make mental notes of what I want to do with our game. I am not saying designers should look to make a second edition of the published game. Nor am I saying that designers should look to “fix” what they think is wrong with the published game. I still think designers should strive to be different enough with their projects.

What I am saying, is that designers should use the published game as inspiration and a guidepost to help them work through their own idea. This is an opportunity for designers to let their creativity shine.

Have you come across a game that was similar to a game you were working on? For us, it is Space Cadets. We had a rough idea to build a co-op space game and two months later, Space Cadets was released. We told each other, if we wanted to design a space co-op game, that is what we would want to design. Slowly we have been working on our own space co-op game and hope to make it a primary project soon.

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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.

Why We Should Play Games #1 Intro

Board games have a lot of secrets. I am not talking about the hidden tiles on the board. I am not talking about the unknown cards in other players hands. I am not talking about the monsters yet to be revealed.

I am talking about the the benefits board games have to offer.

Gamers already know the benefits that games have to offer. What I want to do with this new series is present the benefits of gaming as reasons for more people to get into games. While I spend most of my time focusing on board games, I don’t think the ideas in this series apply strictly to board games.

I was inspired to start this series because I run into the same thing when I tell people I design and make board games. They ask me if I make games like Monopoly and Scrabble. Sometimes I will get a person who will ask if I make games like Apples to Apples or Cards Against Humanity. Regardless of where the conversation goes from there, I have concluded that people who are not in the hobby have a frame of reference where games are just what they played as a kid or offer little more than a few laughs reading off funny combinations of cards. Most of the people I tell that I make game express an excitement at the idea of knowing someone who designs games, but the next problem comes when they see the games I design. People will make reference to their assumed complexity of the game or will make reference to not understanding the mechanics involved. There is a built in barrier to the games we make and love and this is what I want to change with this series.

But, I want to take a different angle.

Rather than try and explain the themes and mechanics of the games we love; I want to talk about the benefits board games have to offer.

I think the major block for getting new people into the games hobby is the lack of reference people have for modern game mechanics and themes. I think the task of learning rules while looking at a board full of pieces in a game where the theme is about farming can be too much for people to want to learn, especially when the alternative is look at a hand of funny cards and pick one.

In order to break through this wall, I want to tell people about the benefits of games. I want to tell people about the educational benefits of games, the social benefits of games and the medical benefits of games…no joke…medical benefits. I want to give people a different frame of reference in order to make games more approachable.

I want to give my gamer friends (that’s you!) something they can share with their non-gamer friends that will give them a reason to sit down to play a board game. If we can use an alternate reasons to get people to the table to play games with us, the barrier is low. People will be more receptive to the fun and interest that modern games have to offer. If  we can expand people gaming horizons a little bit at a time over the course of a lifetime, the benefit to them and to the hobby will grow exponentially.

I hope you are able to share this with your friends and use this series as a starting point to get more people to get into the hobby we know and love.

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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

Board Games Used For Education #1 Intro

I firmly believe that games (including board games, RPGs, video and others) could be the basis for a good education system. We recently wrote about why we like games as an educational tool and after the comments we heard from people we thought we would start a new series about our detailed ideas for what could be done with games in a school setting.

Let me place my disclaimer here. I am not an educator or a child development specialist. I realize there are details that would make some of our ideas very difficult to accomplish. So, if you want to tell me why my idea is crazy, please leave me a comment and I would be happy to make adjustments to our ideas to make them more realistic.

What I do want to do is get the ideas out in the world for people to think about, talk about, and possible take action. While I am not in a place to make direct changes to classrooms, maybe one of our readers is a teacher and they think one of our ideas, or an idea they get from reading our posts, is worth giving a shot in their classroom.

Both Aidan and I have a passion for the education system. We have spent a good amount of time thinking about ways to make a games based school a possibility. While I don’t think we will get to a point where we are running a school based on gaming systems, we will continue to think about the possibilities that games offer to students as another method to learn and reinforce the subjects taught in school.

If you have any ideas on how games can make great educational tools, please share them in the comments section or email us at c.renshall.tgik.games@gmail.com

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What Games Mean to Me #15 Make Me Think Bigger

The board game market is small, very small. I am well aware of this and yet I still want to try and make a career out of being a board game designer and publisher. What I concluded very early in this process was that I need to think bigger. I need to think of ways that can grow the hobby and bring in as many people as possible. I need to think of different games I can design for all kinds of potential fans. The ideas I get might be crazy and total garbage, but at least I am thinking big.

Before board games came along, I normally kept my scope of thought to my immediate sphere of influence, aka not very big.

The project that is building a board game company has forced me to think bigger and think about others that are currently outside my scope of influence. I now look at the outreach, marketing and advertising projects of other companies and organizations in a different way. There is a lot to learn from the ways other people and organizations reach out to new customers. I can’t look into the future and know what this change in the way I think means in the long run, but what I can tell you now is that I find myself more willing to take the time to hear more points of view when it comes to board games and other topics outside of board games.

I do this because I know that the games we make will need to appeal to a wider audience and their opinions matter. This ins’t just about making the games I want to make. This is about making games for the people that want games that don’t know they want games. Of course, I will still design games that I want to play and I will make games for the fully immersed hobby gamer, but there are a lot of people out there who have yet to be exposed to a game that is right for them and I need to think bigger in order to get the awesomeness that is board games to their table.

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How To Build a Game: #54 Guest Article: Testing Your Idea Without Prototyping

Hello loyal followers of TGIK. I’m Jon Chambers, and today we are writing on each other’s blog.
Prototypes are valuable and vital to game designers. Bringing a game from start to completion without a prototype is like trying to fix a car wearing a blind fold, listening to heavy music with a pair of thick gloves. It can be done in theory, but not practise. However, prototypes take a while to build, and they can’t be tested in the shower or while driving. This is why it’s good to test your game before you build a prototype.
Imagine Your Idea In The Shop
Whether you first see new games in a physical store, Kickstarter, your favourite online shop, Board Game Geek or being held by your favourite reviewer, imagine it there.
You want to buy this game. Yes you, poor game designer, struggling to make ends meet, your electricity may have been cut off last week, and your last bill is now on payment arrangements. That won’t stop you. You are switching to instant coffee and putting the savings aside each week until you’ve got enough money.
Imagine The Good Review
This comes back to the context of how you shop, but imagine your idea getting a good review. You probably haven’t fleshed your idea out that much yet, but that’s fine. Just imagine Tom Vasel hitting a blank box with a gavel yelling “In To My Collection”, “Title Undecided” hitting the #1 spot on Board Game Geek or a shop assistant reaching for a blank box on a shelf saying “based on what you’ve told me, this is clearly the game for you”.
Now Work Backwards
Why does Tom like it? Why did it hit first place on Board Game Geek? Why did the shop assistant recommend it? What features were written on the box? What was the experience of the players? Were they relaxed or on the edge of their seat? Do they know each other more intimately now or are they itching to play again to have their vengeance for what was done to them last game? What does the guy who won think about the game? What about everyone who lost? How many people were there?
If you are the sort to take notes, write the details of your game down now. If not, make mental notes.
Check To See If Your Game Already Exists
It’s quite possible that a game already exists with all the details you’ve written down. Go hunt it down. Set aside a few days just searching online, trying to find a game that fulfils and satisfies all the same things.
You may be delighted to find that no one has ever tried your idea before. RED FLAG!!! If you are delighted to find no one has tried your idea, abandon it now. You should be filled with distress and sorrow that your idea doesn’t exist, not happiness. You should’ve had your credit card ready, and you should already be thinking of who you were going to play it with once you found it. You should be thinking, “Now I can’t play it until I’ve built a prototype and spent 6 months picking the bugs out of it,” and this thought should sadden you.
Remember, this idea is “your idea”. If the only reason you’re not buying your own game idea is because it has someone else’s name on the box, give up now. If you haven’t switched to instant coffee in order to buy it, who will?
If It Already Exists
Great! Switch to instant coffee! Save up until you can afford it, then get a copy! Tell your friends about this new game you’ve found and live happily ever after playing it!
If the game is everything you ever wanted it to be, great. If not, I’m sorry to hear that, but ask yourself what went wrong. Try to design a game that succeeded where this one failed. Learn also from what the game got right.  Check again to see if your new idea exists.
You can find my blog along with all my other words of wisdom at www.whatmakesgamesgood.wordpress.com/

Knights Forum #1 Board Game Collections

Welcome to the community discussion of the Knights Forum. This discussion is going to be centered around game collections and how we, as gamers and designers feel about the games we play, the games we don’t play and what kind of game(s) we strive to create.

For this topic, I am going to take the designer point of view, starting with what kind of game we would prefer to design: A frequently played game that is less well known but played a lot by those who know about it, or a game that is highly regarded but doesn’t make it to the table that often.

From my chair, I would want to have both. Yes, I have a better answer than that. I would want a ratio for that answer. This isn’t scientific at all but I think I would want to have 3-4 out of 10 games to be in the highly regarded category and 6-7 games in the played a lot and less well known category. I feel this way because I think the highly regarded games that don’t make it to the table that often are good at reaching a larger crowd in terms of brand awareness. On the other side of the question, I want more people being excited to play our games more often because as they play and play our games, they will soon become spokespeople for our games. As long as there are people playing out games all the time, our games and the fun they provide will always be part of the conversation. If we have 3-4 games that are out there getting a lot of attention, those games are going to act as ambassadors for people who have not yet heard about our other games. What I think might end up happening is that the games will start feeding fans towards each other.

Digging a little deeper into the games that are not played too often, would we be proud if someone kept one of our games in their collection if they did not get to play it that often?

Let me take a moment for the obvious….I would be proud to have anyone keep any of our games in their collection.

Ok, with that out of the way, I would be very proud to have someone hang on to our game even if they thought they would not get to play it that often. That tells me that we had a fan that wanted to share our games with another person at some point in the future. I want to create a community of fans that wanted to spread the word about how great games are, and if they liked our games enough to keep them in their collection and show them to other people, even if that was only once or twice a year, I would be very proud of that.

To conclude the first section, is how important are someone’s feeling about our game(s), even if they rarely get to play it?

To this, I have to say very important. We don’t design our games thinking that they are for everyone. I want the people that play our games to be passionate about teaching them, and showing them to other potential fans. If you don’t like our game because the mechanics don’t suit your play style, or the theme is not really for you, I am fine with you taking a pass on that game and moving on to the next one.

That section covers the designer’s point of view as it pertains to how gamers view our games. Let look at how we, as designers, look at what happens to our games once they are in, or being moved out of a person’s collection.

First off, are we disappointed if one of our games is traded or sold?

This is really easy, no. This is easy because I know that while one side of the transaction is ready to move on from our game, there is another side of the transaction that wants to give our game a go. As I said before, we know that our games are not for everyone, so if our games are able to find a home that is a better fit for its future play, then I am happy. Also, just because the game is leaving one person’s collection, does not mean that it is leaving for bad reasons.

Assuming that a game is a good fit for a person’s collection, should it be a goal for a designer’s game to stay in people’s collections?

I really want to say yes to this question, but the reality is that our games are going up against the test of time and the multitude of games that are released every year. Having written that last sentence, I think what I want my games to do is provide the player the experience and the fun that the game is intended to provide. If the game is fun for the player, and at some point in time leaves their collection, I want to know that the game is being transferred from one collection to another with fond memories and a line like “you are really going to enjoy this game.” So, as long as the game always has a good home, I am ok regardless of who’s collection it belongs to.

Looking at the big picture, Should designers try and create evergreen games, or should they be looking for enjoyable experiences?

I have thought about this for a while and I have to say, yes. Designers should be trying to design a game that could stand the test of time and be an evergreen. That is not to say that if a designer never does that, they could not be “successful” (whatever your measure is) in the world of design. But I believe that designers should think big and what is bigger in our world than the evergreen game that is a good seller for years and years. Designers should also strive to design the hottest game at that years convention. I think that going into the design world with that kind of mindset will make designing games easier, but it is not necessary. If designers want to design for fun and to make games for their friends and family to play, I love that plan as well. But aiming high with something as fun as game design can’t be a bad thing for the games we create so why not?

That concludes our views on this discussion. Tell us what you think. If you are mainly a gamer, what do you think designers should be shooting for when it comes to their games on your shelf? Do you look at game designers the same way you look at authors of books or the creators of digital content? If you are a designer, how do you feel about your games being on the shelves of gamers? How do you feel about them making it to the table and how do you feel about the idea of your games be sold and traded?
Please feel free to comment on these questions or the questions we answered in the rest of the post.
We hope you engage in the conversation and share your thoughts. We would really be interested to hear what your thoughts.
Thanks for sticking it out to the end!

What Games Mean to Me #15 Teach Me to Talk with Confidence

I had a play test a few the week of writing this and while playing our game and meeting some new people was awesome, the time we spent after the test talking about games, design, and Kickstarter was the best.

In real life, I am normally quiet and reserved because I don’t have tons of confidence floating around about the subjects on the table. I tend towards knowing a little about a lot of topics, rather than a lot about a few subjects. This leads to a lot of situations where I know the people around me know more about a subject than I do and while I am in the conversation enough to know what is going on, I am never driving the conversation, or participating at the same level as everyone else.

In game life, I have a level of confidence to talk about all sorts of topics. Taking us back to the conversation post play test, I was the guy at the table that lead the discussion and had something to add to the conversation at all times. I was being asked questions about design and the time I have spent working on our games gave me the confidence to know that what I was saying was legit because I had either read about or experienced the ups and downs of game design.

We talked about what we were going to do during our Kickstarter campaign. Having spent the time reading about how to run a good Kickstarter campaign and followed other campaigns that did both good and bad things, I knew how to answer the questions with a level of confidence I don’t have in other arenas of interaction.

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