Daily Game Design Practice: Week of 10/30/2017

Had a successful last week breaking my creative block by designing a game a day — resulting in the games Sofas for Sale, What To Eat After the Apocalypse, Tackers, Pick and Plunder, Subconscious Suitcase, Abandon All Artichokes, and Rocks in the Garden. This week, I’m going to spend some time digging into the business side of games, looking at publishers, promotion, and other aspects related to shipping and profiting from the games we make.

If you’re just tuning in, you can get a great overview of Game Design Daily on the chilido.gs site.

Daily practice prompts for this week:

  • Pondering publication. Many game designers turn to publishers to help get their games into the hands of excited customers. Of course, it’s important to note that publishers aren’t a magic bullet or easy shortcut in the game design world. Most receive way more pitches and submissions than they have the capacity to print, and you still have to put in all the design legwork — building prototypes, polishing your mechanics, playtesting, and the like. But if you put in the effort, pay attention to each individual publisher’s submissions criteria, and stick to the process, your chance of eventual success is pretty high. Today, I’m taking a look at Cardboard Edison’s publisher directory (available for a one-time fee or by subscribing to their Patreon) and learning about a handful of potential publishers for my games. I’m not sure if the same sort of list exists for video game publishers — if you find one, let me know! A good place to start is to list games similar to yours, and find who publishes them.
  • Posting progress. A great way to get the word out to the public about your game design work is to write about it, and to find a place where that writing can get exposure. Your personal blog or social media is a good place to start, but you’ll really expand your reach by having your writing seen in more visible places. Make a list of five sites you could potentially write for that would get your designs, thoughts on game creation, or anything else related to your creative work known.
  • Analyze and categorize. It’s a lot easier to tell people (including publishers!) about your games if you know how to categorize them. Categorization and mechanics descriptions are by no means a hard science; it’s easy to describe most games in many different ways. Eventually, you’ll want to test a few descriptions and see which resonates more with your audience. But for now, picking one or two terms will do. This page on BoardGameGeek includes their full lists of categories and mechanics for board games. If you’re categorizing a video game, Wikipedia’s Video Game Genre page is a good place to start.
  • Sound and fury (and moving pictures!) Many boardgamers learn about the hottest new titles from non-written sources — podcasts, YouTube videos, and Twitch streams in particular. Can you use one of these mediums to your benefit, either by creating your own or joining forces with an established creator? Choose one of these mediums and take the first steps to getting started — making an account, downloading software, or even uploading or streaming some content.
  • Pull together your pitch. Elevator pitches should be ten to thirty seconds, and encapsulate what’s best about your game — unique mechanics, interesting theme, unexplored audience niche — in a way that’s super easy for your target (publisher, potential customer, fellow designer) to understand. Draft a pitch for a game you’re working on or one you’ve recently played. Remember, elevator pitches evolve over time. Don’t get too hung up on the perfect pitch — any pitch will do for now, as long as it’s fast and snappy.
  • Media personalities. There are influencers and media outlets in the games industry who can help your game and your designer brand gain exposure. The best way to build a good relationships with them is to get to know them — the kinds of things they’re looking for and what’s a good fit for their sites and channels. Once you feel like you’ve found a good match, contact them (in their preferred format) about things they might be interested in. To get started on your media relationship journey, find and follow a few of these people today.
  • Update the places you talk about your games. With your pitch and categories in hand, you’re ready to publicly post your games on your own sites. The sooner you have your ideas and prototypes posted, the sooner you can start talking about and sharing your work on a regular basis (which is a good thing!). Ideally, you’ll have one page per project that you’re actively working on, and possibly a general page for ideas/projects that you’re thinking about but haven’t started yet. If you have a place to post about your work, make a quick pass on it today. If you don’t have such a place, get started looking for one! I use Squarespace for my sites, but anything with static, update-able pages (including Medium) will work.

May the path to financial and critical success as a game designer be illuminated before you. I’ll be working alongside you during your practice — follow on Twitter or Instagram. And hit me up if you have questions or want to share your progress!