The Board Game Design Course

Where great games begin

Game Design

Becoming a Game Design Pro (Part 1)

This was a post that I wrote over 4 years ago, shortly after I left my day job and went full-time in the board game world. Looking over this, it’s a solid reminder of why I chose to make the transition and some of the things you’ll want to consider if you’re thinking about making a change in your life in the future. I hope you find this helpful.

It was one of the toughest decisions of my life.

I had what most would consider a great job with fantastic coworkers, benefits, five weeks of vacation, and one of the best pension plans out there.

I had been in my job for 17 years, working my way up from an entry-level analyst position to manager, with a lot of potential to move into a director position, if I chose this route.

But something was missing.

I just didn’t feel the passion for the work that I was doing like I did when I first started.

Coincidentally, I had been introduced to the world of board game design, and it became my favourite hobby. I started spending way more time on this than playing and writing music, writing sketch comedy, or any of my other interests. I began enjoying designing games and playing other designer’s prototypes as much or more than published games.

After loving the hobby for four and half years, I finally made the decision to do it full-time.

It wasn’t easy. There was a lot of comfort and stability in my day job, and sometimes it’s hard to step away from something that is so familiar and that you are already confident about. But the status quo is also dangerous. It can keep you stagnant and from exploring and living up to your true potential.

My day job was safe, whereas with game design, I hadn’t yet gotten a single game published. I didn’t even have one signed yet. But I knew it was just a matter of time.

You see, I had been focusing on understanding the craft of game design and improving my skills and processes. Getting my games published was secondary. I knew that if I worked on them and put a lot of passion into this, the end results would come.

It’s about putting in the work. Nobody sees all the hours and effort you put in behind the scenes. So, when you finally make it big, some call it an overnight success. They don’t realize the overnight part was many years in the making!

Some of my early games were terrible. Many will never see the light of day, and that’s a good thing, because I’m constantly recognizing that my games are getting better and better all the time. Practice may not make perfect (because there’s no such thing as a perfect game or anything else), but it will make you better.

Hard work trumps talent. I’ve heard this time and time again and it definitely rings true.

If you’ve got both, you’re golden. But talent alone won’t cut it. You have to put in the time and effort. Even if you’re not particularly gifted, by working at something and consistently improving your skills, you’re just going to get better and better at whatever you’re doing.

So here I am.

I walked away from a six-figure job with all the perks you could ask for, and now I’m earning a fraction of that. But you know what? I’m so happy I did. I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Stay tuned for part 2 next week. In the meantime…

Have you ever seriously considered leaving your day job? What made you want to leave and was there something else pulling you in another direction?

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    I’m happy for your success, but I’m mystified. I couldn’t make ends meet only making a fraction of what my day job earns. It’s not an option. How is that possible for you?

    Hi Paul,

    Well, I get into it a bit more in this series, but I’ve found diversification very helpful. I teach game design (my own courses and previously at a University), write books on game design, and I’ve gotten into game development and publishing as well. Others have had success in graphic design, rulebook writing, marketing, and filling other needs in the industry. So, often it’s not 100% game design, as this can be trickier to make a living at.

    Technical architects are systems logistics specialists that design, implement, and maintain IT systems for business clients. They are responsible for designing the structure of new technology systems, overseeing the implementation of programs, and liaising with the software development team. All while maintaining full time work is hard going. So now my focus is in games and AR at that so table top is my design breaker yet I have to many mechanics to be limited across any general area of title.

    Hey, Eric! Also, there’s nothing wrong with doing game design on the side. In fact, that’s what most game designers do. I’ve been very fortunate to be able to make the transition but it wasn’t without sacrifice. Often, you need to ease your way into a big change like this.

    Thank you for sharing, here, in Paraguay, I ´m considere doing this as my mani job, but it is hard as you sayd. Your contribution is precious

    Hey, Fernando! Thank you kindly. It is a challenging transition, especially when you rely on royalties that are few and far between to survive. That’s why most game designers do this on the side.

    You are speaking to my heart! Haha I’ve also just done this… I’ve quit my day job effective in 2 weeks to go full time into game development and publishing. I’m a graphic designer so I will definitely be supplementing with that and using it in my game design. It’s terrifying. My current job is not 6 figures but it pays well, great benefits, great vacation time, great retirement and yet I’ve felt everything you’ve written here. My decision to leap into this is made easier by my faith in God! With Him all things are possible. I know He will provide for me.

    Hey, Michaela! Congratulations on making the jump. It’s not easy, but if you’re able to stick with it, this can be very rewarding. It’s also a great idea to have supplemental income and the ability to contribute in other ways.