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3 things you can do right now during COVID-19 to make yourself a better designer (and 1 thing you shouldn’t do)

It’s been quite a week. I really don’t have to say much more than that. I’m sure you’re feeling it too.

That’s why I wanted to share some very practical thoughts with you today. Thoughts of optimism and opportunity during a challenging time.

First, I want to get one thing out of the way – what you shouldn’t be doing right now. And that’s doing nothing. Curling up into a ball and waiting until this is all over. That’s a defeatist attitude. And we all know that great game designers are used to overcoming problems and never giving up.

Don’t just throw your hands up in the air. Unless, of course, this is followed by waving them like you just don’t care!

Sometimes a little humour is needed in times like this. I hope you don’t mind.

This is an unprecedented time. I can’t think of any other time in our lifetime where practically everyone around the world is facing the same major challenges. We’re all in this together.

Our top priorities are the health and safety of the ones we love. I hope that you and your family are both safe and healthy right now.

Sure, designing and playing games is fun and satisfying. There are more important things right now. Yet, at the same time, with so many people home with their families, we see how important these “distractions” can be. I keep seeing more and more people talk about playing board games with their families, people who would normally hardly ever play.

That’s why you need to keep creating games. Your audience needs this right now.

While the concerns are real, so are the opportunities. So, let’s jump into the 3 things you can do right now.

Thing #1: Make use of this time

The number one complaint I hear from game designers is that they can’t find the time to work on their game. For many of us, the current situation has provided a tremendous chance to spend time working on that game you keep wishing you had more time to work on.

So, take that game (or idea) off the shelf and work on it. Make some cards, throw some dice, place some workers. Do whatever you have to do, but take advantage of this extra time you have now. You’ll probably never have this same opportunity to put so much dedicated time into your game.

Thing #2: Go digital

Yes, you will likely have plenty more time than usual to work on your game over the next little while, which is fantastic. But one thing that is going to be harder than usual is being able to playtest your game.

With most people being asked to self-isolate or practice social distancing, you won’t be able to get together with your normal gaming groups. If you have a partner or other family members who are into games and willing to playtest, that’s great! However, playtesting doesn’t stop there.

So, I would highly recommend buying and learning Tabletop Simulator if you don’t own this already. It is available on Steam and allows you to create a digital version of your game and playtest it with others. The great thing is, iterating on this platform can actually be faster than with physical prototypes once you’re comfortable with the interface, not to mention you won’t need to pay for ink, paper, cardstock, and components.

I have to admit, I’ve used Tabletop Simulator, but it has mostly been to playtest other people’s games and co-designs that others have put together. I still have a lot to learn. The good thing is, I’m going to finally take the time to learn this better myself, and I will share with you any helpful resources I either find or create myself.

I’m also looking into ways to connect designers to better organize playtest sessions, which is something I often hear others complain about. With over 1,300 other game designers on my email list, I’m sure we can get enough interested folks, and I’m glad to help organize this so that everyone can get their game playtested rather than sit around waiting for others to join. And if this works, I know there are other designers and gamers at home who would love to be a part of this.

Thing #3: Reach out and touch someone (virtually only, please!)

Are there other game designers or gamers you usually get together with regularly? Why not check in with them to see how they’re doing? They’re probably missing game nights as much as you are.

Make sure to ask them how they’re doing and if they’ve got everything they need. Now is the time to help others and make sure they’re ok.

Even a quick check-in call can show that someone else cares and is thinking about them. This could really help someone get through the day. Especially if they’re all alone right now.

I really do hope you and your family are safe and healthy.

Remember, we’re all in this together.

I’m going to be in touch a little more often than usual over the next little while, sharing words of encouragement, resources on learning and using Tabletop Simulator so that we can all keep designing great games together, and anything else I feel would be helpful to you.

If you have any questions, concerns, or anything you want to share to help others get through these challenging times, please do let me know.

With optimism that we’ll get through this stronger than ever,


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