The Board Game Design Course

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Game Design

A day in the life of a game designer

As I mentioned in my article last week on balancing game design, I wanted to share an inside look at a day in the life of the board game designer.

But the thing is, every day is a bit different than the last. At least for me. While I do schedule my work and do my best to prioritize my tasks, I’m not always doing the same thing every day.

For me, that’s a great thing. I don’t want to have a job where I’m doing the same boring, monotonous tasks day in and day out. I love the variety as well as the challenges that come with being a full-time game designer.

Since going full-time in the game design world, I’ve also branched out quite a bit. I design games, publish games, do other development work for others, consult with game designers, write blogs and books on game design, and teach game design courses. It’s a wonderful amount of variety but all within the same amazing industry.

So, this will read more like a week in the life of a game designer in some cases, but either way, it will give you a feeling for what it’s like to do this full-time.

Another day in paradise?

As I said, every day is different. There are some things that I do pretty much every single day, but most of my day is focused on whatever the main tasks are at hand.

Here’s what one day may look like for me:

6:00 AM (yes, I get up that early): Wake up, stretch/exercise/meditate, get ready for the day and have breakfast

8:30 AM (or earlier): Check emails, follow up with publishers and co-designers on current projects

9:00 AM: Work on business and administrative tasks

10:00 AM: Development work

12:15 PM: Take a break for lunch

1:00 PM: Game design work/publishing work

2:00 PM: Call/game design work with co-designer

3:00 PM: Game design work

5:00 PM: End of work day – dinner and family time

Every day really is different

It was difficult for me to outline a typical day because no day really is typical. When you are a game designer (and especially when you’re also a publisher, developer, etc. as well), no two days are exactly alike.

Depending on what current projects I’m working on, I could be spending a whole day doing any one of the following:

  • Playtesting my games and games from other designers
  • Working on my own game ideas
  • Meeting up with and working on games with one of my co-designers
  • Interacting with my course members
  • Developing new course materials
  • Recording course content or an audiobook
  • Working on my website
  • Creating or revising sell sheets
  • Recording or editing overview videos
  • Writing or updating rule books
  • Assembling prototypes
  • Reaching out to publishers to pitch games or schedule meetings
  • Collaborating and talking with artists, graphic designers, and my editor
  • Reading books and articles, and listening to podcasts on game design and business (I tend
    to most often listen to podcasts while driving, working out, or putting together prototypes)
  • Working on other business and administrative tasks

What surprised me most

When I started doing game design full-time, I had a bit of a transition period.

I was hired to teach game design and development at Wilfrid Laurier University on a one-term contract to cover another instructor’s leave. It was a great experience and this allowed me to ease into my new career while having some additional income and stability.

However, once the term ended, I was able to completely focus on game design and growing my business. I developed my first course right after this (an idea I wanted to try before even hearing about the Wilfred Laurier position).

Being a designer of tabletop games, I didn’t realize how much of my time would actually be spent in front of a computer. Not just creating files for prototypes and writing rules, but also all the time necessary to write, develop content, work my website, and other tasks related to running a business.

Not only that, I found that despite the fact that I was a full-time game designer, I probably spend less than half of my time actually working on games.

That surprised me quite a bit!

A lot of that is due to the fact that I’m not simply a freelance game designer. If that’s all I was doing, then I’m sure that almost all my work time would be put into working on my games.

However, I realize that it’s quite difficult to make a living strictly based on licensing your games to publishers. It takes a long time before they are actually released, and your earnings can be very sporadic.

I’ve always loved teaching and helping others, which is why it was so natural for me to write books and develop courses to help others trying to get into game design. I’ve learned a lot and have so much to share with others.

I don’t want new game designers to make the same mistakes that I did. These missteps cost me time, money, and energy. So, if I can help even a small number of new game designers, then I know I will have done my part.

Closing thoughts

There really is no typical day in the life of a game designer, at least not for me.

Granted, I’m doing a lot of other things beyond just designing my own games.

Almost all game designers have a regular day job and just do game design on the side. Very few do this for a living. To make it as a full-time game designer, in most cases you need to have other sources of income. It may be teaching game design, editing rule books, doing development work for publishers, doing paid game previews, or something else of this nature.

Did anything in this article surprise you? Any questions?

Please leave a comment below.

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    Very helpful, thanks.
    Reading that half your time is on the computer is a real Reality Check, but also comforting.
    I already know that is the reality for my other businesses, so I know I can do that.
    Game Design, I can do but I don’t know profitably.
    So while annoying, it’s comforting.

    Thanks, Robert! Yeah, tabletop game design done on computer. Sigh. 🙂