The #1 reason why you should enter game design contests
There are many game design contests that happen throughout the year. Some are looking for specific games, such as social deduction, two-player, or solo games, whereas others are open to any game submission.
There is usually a small cost involved in submitting your game to one of these contests. Occasionally they will be free (mostly contests on boardgamegeek.com and The Game Crafter), but many will charge around $5-$20 per entry.
Is it worth the cost?
In my opinion, the answer is a resounding yes.
But not necessarily for all the reasons you may be thinking. Yes, some of these contests do give out prizes such as gift cards for retail game and game design related websites or even a cash prize, however, this is one of the last things I think of when it comes to game design contests.
The number one reason I enter game design contest is for critical feedback. Many of these contests are judged by game design professionals who know their stuff. Whether you advance to the next round or not, you’ll get written feedback from multiple judges, which can be really helpful to improve your game and understand the next steps to take.
There’s also the possibility that if your game makes it to the final round of judging (which may be limited to 5 to 10 or perhaps more submissions depending on the contest), it could generate interest from a publisher. A number of the judges will actually be game publishers as well, and one of the reasons they judge these contests is that they might just find their next game. So, by entering a really solid game into one of these contests, you could find a publisher who is interested in pursuing this further. They may ask you if they can take the prototype home for further evaluation, and you never know, they may end up wanting to sign your game.
If you win one of these contests, or at least place highly, this probably won’t hurt your chances of getting your game published in the future. In fact, you can let publishers know that it was a winner or finalist in a contest when you are discussing the game with them. This could be included in your sell sheet, an email, or when discussing your game in person. If you decide to self-publish this game, any award you can mention may be an additional selling point.
So, you can see that this very small investment could be very beneficial, even if your game doesn’t advance to the next round. At the very least, you will get some professional feedback on your game.
But where do you find these contests?
Well, there are a number of them running throughout the year.
If you subscribe to the Board Game Design Lab email list, you will receive an awesome email every week with links to a bunch of great game design resources, a new podcast episode, and a list of current game contests. You can sign up to the mailing list here.
Cardboard Edison also does a great job listing all upcoming game design contests, so you should check out their listings from time to time.
Here are some of the sites that offer game design contests through the year (be on the lookout for others as well):
- Boardgamegeek.com (multiple specific contests running throughout the year)
- The Board Game Workshop
- Cardboard Edison
- The Gamecrafter (many contests throughout the year)
- Haba (children’s game contest where they ship you a box of components to use)
The requirements for these game contests vary. Those on boardgamegeek.com rely more on members to vote on them and usually require a print and play version of your game.
Many of the other contests require a sell sheet, rulebook, or perhaps a play-through video for the first round. If you advance, you may be asked to submit more information and/or a prototype for evaluation.
Overall, the feedback alone that you receive from publishers and others who are judging the contest is well worth the nominal entry fee. And who knows your game may even be taken home by an interested publisher!
Have you entered any of your games in a contest? What have you learned from a contest that has made your game better?