Game Design

How to stay productive during a crisis

When times of crisis hit, most people have one of two reactions.

Reaction #1: Curl up in a ball, wait for it all to pass, and hope for the best.

Reaction #2: Look for opportunities, ways to help, and take advantage of some newly found free time to do something productive.

I think we can both see which reaction is a better one for us and our mental health.

Today I wanted to share some thoughts with you on how you can stay productive as a game designer, even when you’re surrounded by uncertainty.

I would recommend picking one thing to focus on and putting some effort into accomplishing that one thing. We all need to feel a sense of purpose in life. Giving yourself something to focus on will help you find that purpose.

Here are just four possible things you can do right now, depending on where you’re at in your game design journey:

  1. If you have a game idea, work on turning that into an MVP (minimum viable prototype)
  2. If you’ve been working on your game already, continue to develop and improve upon it
  3. If you need playtesting, create a digital version of your game in Tabletop Simulator
  4. If you’re looking for playtesters, reach out to me (I’m in the process of organizing events)

Let’s go into each of these in a bit more detail.

Create an MVP

If you’re fairly early on in your game design journey, you may have some game ideas swirling around in your head but maybe you haven’t actually created a game yet. Maybe you couldn’t find the time or didn’t know where to start.

Well, there’s no better time than now to start working on that game.

Just use whatever you have around you, borrowing components from other games in your collection, and creating some simple cards, boards, or whatever else you need to get started. Make sure to start off simple. You don’t need to create every single card and scour the Internet looking for the perfect art for each one right now.

All you need to do is create the smallest version of your game that you can get to the table quickly, try it by yourself, and maybe playtest with a partner or your family. If it’s a party game, just make a small sample of cards to get you started. If it’s a dexterity game, make use of other game parts or household objects. If it’s a board game, whip up a very simple version of the board either by hand or using computer software.

But whatever you do, don’t spend a lot of time on this. Make it quickly and get it to the table so you can test out what’s working and what’s not. This is the first crucial step in starting your journey.

Develop your game

If you’ve already got a prototype put together, this is a great time to do some development work.

If you’ve had feedback on your game from playtesters, then you can spend this time identifying any problems in your game and trying out some solutions that either other people have suggested or ones you’ve come up with on your own. Test them to see if they improve the game and if not, try something new.

Work on improving the user interface. Look for representative symbols and icons you can use on cards and the board to help players better understand your game. You can find free icons at https://thenounproject.com/ and https://www.flaticon.com/.

Whatever stage your game is currently at, look at ways you can improve upon it. Make sure to refer back to your overall vision for your game and continue to make changes to take it further in this direction.

Go digital

If you’re looking for ways to playtest your game and don’t have access to other playtesters or you’re unable to physically meet up with them, this is a great time to learn a new skill and meet up with other gamers and board game designers in a rather unconventional way.

The platform that I would most highly recommend is Tabletop Simulator. For a relatively low cost, you can develop a digital version of your game here, which you can playtest with other people around the world. No traveling necessary.

One of the other benefits of Tabletop Simulator is efficiency. Rather than having to reprint, cut, and sleeve a new set of cards every time you make a change, order special components, and spent a lot of time putting together physical prototypes of your game, you can make changes on your computer, upload them, and immediately be able to playtest the latest version of your game. You can also use existing components that are available to all players and designers. This will save you both time and money.

Find playtesters

I’m currently in the process of honing my Tabletop Simulator skills. While I have used it several times in the past, it has mostly been to playtest other people’s games and work with my co-designers, who have set up the game digitally themselves.

This is been on my “to do” list for a while now, and the time is right to get more involved in starting to make some of my games available for playtesting on this platform.

But even more than that, I want to help other game designers find playtesters on Tabletop Simulator. One of the biggest struggles I see other game designers have with online playtesting is actually finding other playtesters, along with coordinating schedules.

That’s why I’m going to be organizing playtesting schedules to ensure that game designers can find others to playtest their game with to keep moving their game forward.

If you’ve got one or more of your games on Tabletop Simulator and are interested in finding others to playtest your game with, along with playtesting their games, please let me know. Reply to this email and I’ll get you connected with other game designers soon.

Closing thoughts

Whatever stage you’re at, there’s always at least one thing you can focus on right now to move your game forward. We all struggle to find time to do all the things we want to, so if you’ve got a little more free time than usual right now, make the most of it!

Next week I’m going to share with you a few other ideas for things you can be doing right now to make yourself an even better game designer.

Questions? Ideas? Leave a comment for me below.

Did you know you can download my 10 Minute Board Game Design Blueprint for free? It’s the fastest way to get your game started and stay focused on your end goal.

Just click HERE to download the blueprint for free.

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