The Board Game Design Course

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Game Design

3 Big Lessons from the Board Game Design Virtual Summit

It’s a wrap! The Board Game Design Virtual Summit ended yesterday.

Six days of interviews with some of the top experts in the field, along with an amazing Q&A to wrap things up.

I spoke to Jamey Stegmaier about entrepreneurship and transitioning from Kickstarter to retail.

Gabe Barrett talked about how he built his podcast from zero to 1,000,000+ downloads and a community of 6,000 active members.

Nalin Chuapetcharasopon showed us how to plan for your Kickstarter and find success.

Those were just 3 of the 18 amazing interviews that hundreds of game designers had a chance to learn from last week.

I always like to reflect on projects, whether it be a new course, a Kickstarter campaign, or an event like this, and think about what went well and what could be improved. In the case of this Summit, I also wanted to look at what I learned as well as sharing some of the highlights with you.

So, let’s do this!

What I learned running a Summit

Running an event like this takes a village.

By that, I mean I couldn’t have done it by myself. Yes, I was the one who organized everything, but it wouldn’t have been possible and definitely wouldn’t have been nearly as successful without the 20 amazing guests who agreed to be part of the event.

I reached out to 25 people that I would have loved to talk to and share their insights with, and an astounding 80% of them agreed! That’s a success in itself in my books.

All of my guests were so open and talked freely about what helped bring them success. They shared tips and advice. They imparted their acquired knowledge in hopes of helping others getting started in, or advancing themselves, in game design and the industry.

That’s what I love about this community. Everyone, including those high up in the industry are almost always willing to help others.

Not only that, but my guests, along with other partner organizations, really stepped it up in helping me promote the Summit and get the word out to other game designers.

I also realized that I would be tight for time putting everything together and enlisted the help of Borna Mijolovic to edit all the audio interviews and Mirta Filipovic to convert them to videos for the Summit. They did a fantastic job and the quality really showed.

I had heard it’s a lot of work to put together an event like this. I knew this going into it, but you don’t realize how much work it really is until you actually do this yourself. I learned this during my Kickstarter campaign for Relics of Rajavihara as well. Still, all the help I had really made this much smoother than I could have anticipated.

Finally, I want to thank all of my followers. Whether you bought an all-access pass or just got a free ticket and listened in when you could over the past week, I appreciate all your support and I hope you learned a lot!

Next time, I would definitely start to promote the event earlier to get the word out. I would also consider recording the interviews even further in advance and asking my guests to help get the word out a few weeks earlier than I did this time around.

I also want to hear from attendees who their favourite guests and topics were, along with who they would love to learn from at a future event and how I could make it even better. So, I will be following up with everyone who attended very soon.

Some big shared lessons from the guests

There were so many great interviews with so many fascinating guests. I learned something new from each and every one of them.

I could easily write for thousands of words here on all the great advice they shared, but I will save you a lot of reading and just share a few key learnings:

1. Being a good, kind person will get you further in this industry than almost anything else.

This was mentioned by Eric Slauson, Jay Cormier, Daryl Andrews, and many others. It was definitely one of the common themes.

Treat others like real people, not business transactions.

Network and don’t be afraid to learn the ropes from others by first offering to help them.

Even doing the small things, like offering to pick up a drink or sharing some snacks with a publisher who you’re about to pitch a game to and has been doing this all day can really put you in their good books.

2. If you want to get noticed, you have to be willing to take some risks

Brandon Rollins talked about picking a medium you can stand, whether it be Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or whatever works for you, and just putting stuff out there. Learn from your experience and hone your craft.

Gabe Barrett spoke about being consistent and doing things with excellence. He couldn’t find the kind of game design podcast he wanted to listen to, so he started it himself. Then he set deadlines and ensured he’d have a new episode every single week without fail.

Victoria Cana went into how she took an idea, created a game, and took it to over 35 conventions, looking to build up support as a brand-new game designer. Then she turned that support into a very successful Kickstarter campaign.

3. If you want to get your game signed, you have to find the right publisher

It may seem obvious that your game needs to be a good match for a publisher in order to stand a solid chance, but so many designers will show their game to any publisher they can find. If your game isn’t anywhere near a good fit for a publisher, it is a waste of both of your time.

Curt Covert talked at length about understanding a company’s brand and what his company, Smirk & Dagger, is looking for, as well as how to ensure you’re prepared to pitch when your game’s actually ready (and not before).

Elizabeth Hargrave talked about courting publishers and working with them to make sure your game fits their catalogue. Even as a new designer, she discovered that she could negotiate and even push back on ideas that didn’t make her game better.

I also spoke to Peter Hayward about how he’s designed games with a specific publisher in mind, and his levels of success in doing so (this is available in the bonus content for the Summit).

Overall, it was a fantastic week and I would gladly do it again! As I mentioned, I’m looking forward to talking with everyone who attended to see what they liked about the event and how I can make the next one even better!

Who was your favourite guest? Please leave a comment below!

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    Really enjoyed it so far but didn’t have time to watch everything yet!
    It’s difficult when you are only doing game design as a hobby, and have a job, to watch everything in the allotted time ! But what I’ve seen so far was great!
    One request would be to compile a list of links of helpful sites on the internet that were mentioned by speakers?

    Great suggestion, Simon! I was thinking of adding in links mentioned in the Q&A, which I believe would be very helpful. Thanks!

    Hi, Joe. Great job in putting all this together. Overall, my favourite guests were AJ Brandon about getting your games noticed in retail. The other is Sen Foong-Lim on finding a publisher. Very detailed and informative.

    Excellent content from front to back, Joe! Sen-Foong Lim’s talk on contracts was eye-opening and a wealth of information.

    Thanks, Peter! I was really glad to be able to get Sen for the event. He’s got a wealth of knowledge and contracts are something that doesn’t get discussed enough.

    What I found enjoyable about your summit is it was NOT a money grab. All of the information presented by the guest were insightful, useful and achiavable. I was pleased that the main theme was NOT “LETS MAKE FAST MONEY”!!! but the overall message I found to be was all are welcome, all can learn and all can achieve if willing to not be passive. Thank you Joe Slack, Thank you Speakers and Thank you Guests. We will never be BOARD with people like you. Lets continue to build our GAMES! Very impressed JOE.

    Thanks so much, Charles! It really is a wonderful community to be part of.

    I really appreciate your feedback.

    My hat’s off to you, Joe, for putting this all together. Even though there was no way I could be there, I still enjoyed hearing what was going on through your emails.