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Game Design

Lessons learned from Origins

Wow! What a week.

I recently got back from Origins Game Fair, one of the biggest board game conventions in North America, and have had a bit of time to think about and reflect on my experience, so I wanted to share my thoughts with you.

To make a long story short, I had a great time and definitely felt it was a successful event from a personal standpoint.

Three different games of mine or my co-designer’s creation went home with publishers, and a fourth will be mailed to a publisher shortly.

In addition, I got seven of my other games to the table in front of other designers and playtesters. I received some fantastic feedback and suggestions to improve them all and was able to observe and identify some minor gaps and issues that I can improve upon.

I was also able to demo my upcoming release, King of Indecision, to two different reviewers, who were both impressed with the game and posted about this on social media as soon as the game finished. They are also completely on board to review or preview the game when the Kickstarter campaign goes live this fall.

So, how was I able to pull off such a successful week? Was I just lucky?

Sure, luck sometimes play a part, but they also say that luck comes to those who work hard.

Here is my take on why I was able to accomplish everything I did at Origins.


About six weeks or so before Origins, I began reaching out to publishers. I had a number of games that I felt were well playtested and ready to show publishers, so I tried to make contact with as many as I could that I knew would be at Origins and might be a good match for specific games.

In some cases, I was able to set up meetings in advance, others I didn’t hear back from, and some indicated that their review process could take up to three months, so arranging a meeting with them wouldn’t quite fit into these timelines. I was able to arrange 4 meetings and received an invite to stop by another publisher’s booth as well.

I also logged into the event registration as soon as it opened to purchase a ticket for the publisher speed dating event. I had attended the previous year and although it didn’t lead to me having a game signed, one publisher was very interested in the game and took it home for evaluation.

There weren’t a ton of publishers at the event the previous year, but simply getting your game in front of multiple publishers all within a couple of hours gives you an opportunity you may not otherwise have. Even if nobody takes a keen interest in your game, you may get some helpful feedback and suggestions that will help you with your next steps. Also, if you ask a publisher what type of game they are looking for, it may even turn out that you have another game they could be interested in seeing.

Remember, it only takes one publisher who is interested in your game to eventually get it signed.

One thing I realized was that whereas some publishers identify problems, other publishers see opportunities.

Some of the first few publishers I met at the speed dating event commented on how big and potentially expensive my game might be to produce. I could definitely see theirpoints and took notes about how it could be improved.

But then things turned around. Three of the publishers I met with after this really liked the game and could see potential. They looked past any potential cost issues and started to think about how minor improvements could be made to make the game more feasible and how it would fit with their catalog.

Not only did I have one publisher request that I send the rules so that their other division could evaluate this and request a prototype if it was a good fit, a second publisher said they would gladly accept prototype if the first publisher took a pass. Then a third interested publisher contacted me a few days later.

Stepping out of my comfort zone

I far prefer scheduling meetings in advance so I can have dedicated time with a publisher that could be a good match for my game. However, sometimes you just have to go with the flow.

I met with Jonathan Gilmour at Pandasaurus to pitch a few games that he initially showed interest in. It turns out they were a bit too abstract for their line, but he suggested I speak to another publisher who could be a better fit. I had been in contact with this other publisher through email in the past, but had never met with them in person.

I, like many other gamers and even game designers, am a bit of an introvert. So, I really had to step out of my comfort zone to go up to a publisher’s booth and ask if I could meet with someone from the company to show them a couple of games.

The representative was already in a meeting when I arrived, so I was asked to come back in 40 minutes. When I did, the representative had stepped out, and I was asked to come back a little later. When I returned, and the representative was in yet another meeting, I asked if I could book a specific time so that I wouldn’t miss out on this opportunity.

Fortunately, I was able to get that meeting, and the representative liked the game I showed him so much that he asked for the prototype right then and there. I was also able to show him and discuss the game I had previously submitted to them. He assured me that they would follow up about this previous submission.

Not only did he like the games I had to show him, it was the start of a working relationship. A few hours after this meeting, he was also in attendance for the speed dating event and was the publisher who requested the rules for my other game. Having met earlier in the day definitely wasn’t a bad thing!

Between having games that were solid and ready to pitch, scheduling meetings in advance, and finding opportunities while there, Origins turned out to be even greater than I could have expected.

My best advice is to be prepared, but also be ready for the unexpected.

Did you go to Origins this year? What lessons did you learn from this or any other event you recently attended?

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    Congratulations, sounds like it was really worth your while! I didn’t go to Origins this year, but I am going to GenCon and have been doing outreach to set up meetings with publishers while there. It’s really helpful to know how this works out in real time at a convention, and that you need to be both flexible and persistent!

    Thanks Emily!

    Keep setting up those meetings but also be ready to approach publishers at their booth if necessary. I hope you have lots of success at GenCon!