The Board Game Design Course

Where great games begin

Game Design

Dealing with rejection and using this to make your game better

As a game designer you have to deal with a lot of rejection.

Playtesters will dislike parts of your game, your submission to a game design contest may not do so well, and you’re going to hear the words “no thanks” from a lot of publishers.

You have to get really good at handling rejection if you’re serious about designing games. It’s just part of the process.

But how do you deal with rejection?

There’s no use getting defensive when someone tells you that your game drags on or make suggestions on how to make it better. It’s rarely the case that someone is trying to put you down, tell you that your game is terrible, or you’re a bad game designer (unless they are just generally a mean person).

They’re trying to help make your game better.

This also applies to feedback you get from game design contests. Remember, only one person can win a contest like this, and there are often hundreds of entries, so chances are you won’t come in first place. But the feedback and advice you get is priceless.

Other people want to play amazing games and want your game to become something they’d really enjoy. If you keep this in mind, it makes it easier to take feedback that could be taken as negative.

It doesn’t mean that what one player feels is also felt by everyone else or that you will want to change the game to that player’s liking, but you do want to thank your playtesters for their time and feedback. Let them know you hadn’t thought about that particular aspect and will go back and consider their ideas further.

Be thankful for the feedback you get from playtesters and let them know you appreciate it. If you encourage open and honest feedback, you’ll have players who are receptive to playing new versions of your game or other future games that you create.

Understand that the odds are against you

Now, I’ve been talking mostly about playtesting feedback, but there’s another type of rejection you’ll often face if you stick strictly to game design and want to get your games published by someone else.

You’ll need to talk with publishers, send them sell sheets, create play through videos, and provide prototypes for them to evaluate. Remember that these publishers get hundreds (or even thousands) of game submissions every year. They may only publish a small number of games annually, so that means almost all of them are rejected.
You can see that the odds are against you. But that doesn’t mean you can’t succeed. Your game just has to be really good!

Publishers can really pick and choose. Having so many options placed in front of them, they can decide which game they feel they can make the most successful, even if it means rejecting some other games with a lot of potential.

Just knowing this will help you understand the reality behind what goes into a publisher’s decision-making process and will ensure that you make your game the best it can be.

Improving your odds

Of course, having a great game that has been thoroughly playtested is the best place to start.

But this will no guarantee of success.

However, there are ways that you can increase your chances by getting to know publishers and what they want.

You can look at their existing catalog of games or if you get a chance to meet them at an event you can ask them what they’re currently looking for. If you have a game that aligns well with their product line, without being too similar, you’ve just greatly improved your odds.

Even if you don’t get a game signed with them right then and there, if you show them you are easy to work with and take the time to develop a relationship with them, it makes it easier to get a better feel for what type of game would appeal to that publisher and to get your future games in front of them.

Turning a negative into a positive

When you receive that rejection email or call (and this will happen), make sure to thank the publisher for taking the time to look your game. They put time and effort into this, and it’s not easy for them to have to say “no thank you”. Remember, they have to do this way more than they say yes.

Hopefully, they will provide some reasons why they had to give your game a pass. In addition to thanking them for considering your game, you should ask them to provide some helpful feedback. Let them know that you understand their decision, and that you want your game to become even better, so you’d love to know what suggestions they have or why they felt your game wasn’t a good match for them.

This will help you to make improvements to your game or find a more suitable publisher. They are experts in their field and have a good idea of what sells and what doesn’t. Their feedback could be instrumental in making your game better or deciding that your game isn’t ready for publication after all, so you can move on to the next one.

Being rejected by a publisher can actually be a good thing. If they aren’t the right publisher for your game, it could mean that there is a much better one out there just waiting to hear from you.

It could turn out that you sign your game later with a publisher that is more suited to your game and it will do better as a result.

If you handled yourself professionally, you will also have given yourself a foot in the door to approach this publisher with future games and get to know what they’re looking for.

Instead of letting rejection get you down, take this opportunity to use it to improve your game, your game design skills, and network of contacts across the industry.

How do you deal with rejection? What rejections have you faced that actually turned out in a better result?

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