The Board Game Design Course

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Game Design

Why having a good reputation tomorrow is better than having a good game today

It was a lock-in. A shoo-in. A nearly done deal.

They loved the game, took the prototype, and asked that I not share it with any other publishers because they wanted to sign my game.

They didn’t have contracts with them but assured me they would be sending me one shortly after they returned from the convention.

Over the course of the next few days, we chatted at their booth and via email about some minor changes that could improve the game. I made the changes right away and sent them updated files.

We were already working so well together, had a great rapport, and they love my game.

Everything was going so well. What could possibly go wrong?

Second thoughts

We kept in close touch via email over the next few weeks. We talked about other minor changes we could make and even possible artists for the game.

However, less than a month after our initial meeting, they chose not to enter into an agreement with me and sign my game.

Unfortunately, after taking a copy of my game and playing it with their gaming groups, they weren’t getting the kind of response they needed in order to be able to feel confident publishing and marketing the game. It’s a tough market.

Of course, it was hard for me to hear this, as it would have been the first game I would have signed with a publisher, so I was really excited (this was about 5 years ago).

But I could also tell it was hard for them to have to say this because they truly loved the game and we were working so well together. I don’t blame them at all. They are running a business and they have to decide what’s bets for them. Publishers have to reject way more submissions than they accept, and it can’t be easy to dash a game designer’s hopes.

Handling rejection

Rejection isn’t necessarily an easy thing to handle, but it’s something you need to get used to as a board game designer. I wrote more about this in my article Dealing with Rejection and Using This to Make Your Game Better.

I was nearly promised that my game would be signed with this publisher, but it didn’t work out.

Could I have gotten upset or made a rant online?

Sure. But where would this have gotten me?

They still wouldn’t have published my game and I would have potentially damaged my reputation as well.

People talk. Publishers included. You want to be someone who people want to work with.

What I did instead

Knowing that the publishers felt bad about not being able to follow through with signing my game and that we got along really well, I knew there would be plenty of opportunities to work together in the future.

I’d heard good things about this publisher and had an otherwise great experience with them up to this point.

So, I let them know that I understood their decision and hoped that we would have the opportunity to work together on another game in the future. They were glad to hear this and agreed that they would love to work with me again as well.

In the years after that first meeting, I’ve met with the publisher multiple times and had a couple of games in the works that I felt would be a good match for them. So, I shared sell sheets for two of these games with them. They felt that both looked quite interesting and actually asked me for the print and play files so they could try them out for themselves.

It didn’t turn into anything, but the door was open and they were receptive to future pitches.

Fast-forward 5 years.

I now have a game that I feel is a really great fit for the publisher and they’ve had a chance to play it. They had some wonderful and very helpful feedback to make it even better, and they’re interested in seeing the game again in the future. So, I’m optimistic this will be the project we work on together. But even if it’s not, I know there will be more opportunities again in the future.

No problem. 🙂

Don’t worry about what other people say

Have you ever seen someone go off on a rant online that made them look petty or unprofessional? I think we all have at one time or another.

It can leave a bad taste in your mouth and you may decide to avoid that person or business.

Some may feel justified. Or that they are protecting their own image.

They may not realize how badly they are hurting their own reputation.

I’ve been put in a position where someone has questioned my abilities or experience level. Sometimes it has been direct, while other times someone has said something hurtful that I’m pretty sure was directed at me but without actually naming names.

When you have an online presence, and especially when you’re trying to build a following, you’re going to find people who don’t agree with you or your methods. It’s easy for others to hide behind a keyboard and criticize someone when there are no repercussions.

While it’s tempting to defend yourself, unless someone is asking for a direct response, it’s usually better to leave it alone. Leave the trolls under their bridge.

I like to say that I’m not a fish, so why would I take the bait?

Have you ever had an experience where taking the high road led to an even better result?

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