Monday, April 4

Find The Fun

A couple of weeks ago someone on twitter linked to this video by Eduardo (Edo) Baraf: So you want to make a game. He talks about game design in terms of six headings (see below).

I found the video very interesting, very thought provoking and it made me think about my games design efforts both past and present. During the six years I ran Reiver Games, I started out making games by hand, and then made the leap from time-intensive hand-crafting games in my spare time around a full-time job to quitting my job and running a professional publishing company as my full time job (spectacularly badly, by the way).

Over the last three or four years I've got back into games design and last year I made another hand-made run of a game with Zombology. Back to my roots. Once again I'm doing it in my spare time around a full-time job (and a young family as well this time!).

Edo's six points each made me think of why I spend so much of my free time designing games , so I thought I'd go through my thoughts on each of his points here:

Know what you're good at

I'm not a particularly good game designer, and I'm a pretty pants artist. I think all the evidence of Reiver Games goes to show that I'm rubbish at advertising and marketing. So what am I good at? I think the thing I'm best at is actually the hand-crafting of games. Ten years after Border Reivers was released I'm still proud of the physical quality of the games and the components and the effort that went into making them (3 hours each for those 100 copies!). And I'm proud of Zombology too. It's simple, but it's well done. Lovingly hand-crafted.

Know what you want

I'm not in it for the money, or the fame. I don't want to do a KickStarter, or run another publishing company. I'd like people to play my games and enjoy them, but even that's not the be all and end all for me. I enjoy the process. I like designing games, doing the graphic design in InDesign and Illustrator, playtesting with friends and at Newcastle Playtest, and I love making the games. Both the one-off prototypes that get played a couple of times and are then superseded and the hand-made runs like Border Reivers and Zombology. I enjoy hand-crafting games - I find it relaxing and therapeutic.

Find the fun

This is the bit I need to improve at. My games are fairly esoteric. They are never going to be mass-market hits, they aren't good enough and don't have wide enough appeal. But there are people who enjoy them. Mal loved Border Reivers (even more so once he finally beat me at it!), Paul from Newcastle Playtest gets very excited during Zombology. It's great to know that I've created something that brings other people joy, even if it's just a couple of them.

Find your audience

This is something I always have in mind when working on my games. Zombology was always intended as a filler for the beginning or end of a games night. Something simple and silly to while away a few minutes before playing something meatier. You need to use the intended audience as a filter when receiving feedback to ensure the feedback from your playtesters doesn't take you in a direction that you don't want to go.

Your journey

As I mentioned above, for me the journey is the important bit. I don't really mind whether the game sees the light of day, what matters to me is the joy I get from the journey. Making the prototypes, doing the graphic design, playtesting with friends, and should it get to that stage, introducing strangers to my game. Making the game is almost more fun than having a final product that can be sold.

Their joy

Edo talks about this in terms of the multiplication of the hours you put in to the hours of joy that your audience will get from the game. None of my own games have had enough distribution to achieve that, I'd be very surprised to find that the hours I put into Border Reivers or Zombology were more than the hours of play from my customers. But to me that doesn't matter. I've enjoyed making them from start to finish, and if someone, somewhere has enjoyed playing them, that's just icing on the cake.

Thanks for the video, Edo, made me take stock of what I'm doing, why and who for.

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