I’ve realized something today, as my kids are waking up and heading for school and the college students, staff and faculty that surround me get ready for their day. I’ve just enrolled myself in a school of sorts as well.
I’ve always been a tinkerer of games, mostly RPGs in the past. I’ve enjoyed deconstructing and then reconstructing game ideas, and going off into wild tangents with magic items and strange characters. Over the past few years I’ve also found myself falling deeper under the spell of board and card games. So I’m going to lump all of this into one massive category, called Table Top Games, focus more on board and card games and with that, let’s swing open the doors of Game School and find out what we’re in for.
I’m not proposing to teach you how to build a game, or the best methods for finding illustrators. I’m certainly not a professor in Ludology. Like most of you, I’m a student as well. I have put together a few board and card games, some of which I’m quite proud of and many of which we shall never speak of again. Really though I’m just scratching the surface of what there is to know about table top games – their history, construction, evolution and the underlying concepts that keep them balanced and appealing. That’s why I’m officially opening this game school and inviting all of you along for the ride.
This is where I’ll be talking about what I’ve learned – anything from math and statistics that underly the games we play, through finding artist, publishers and the old do-it-yourself Print on Demand route. My goal through all of this is to increase my understanding of table top games and how they really work, from the crunchy bits underneath to the human psychology that drives us to play them and enjoy the experience. I won’t attain that goal, at least not unless I live through a technological singularity and buy myself a lot more time.
What I do hope to realistically achieve though is a dialectic with you all. On this blog, I’ll be the conversation leader, dropping ideas, mechanics and related topics into your laps with the hope of fostering some great conversations and learning a lot. That doesn’t mean that you can’t carry on the conversation in other social media or your own space. I’ll happily follow along just about anywhere you want to lead in this! To that end, this will by my portal into Game School. I’ll set up a group over on Google Plus and I heartily invite you to use that as your portal to post your own ideas, discoveries, thoughts and opinions. If you have your own sites, blogs and forum posts, please feel free to link to them through this group. Linking is encouraged!
Primary: Information should be free, and you should be able to find it! There are a few blogs that I follow where designers and hopeful designers post great stuff. I’m always discovering more! My biggest problem though is finding new resources and then keeping track of them. I’m hoping that the Game School group will be a jumping off point where others can discover great online resources and discuss their findings. For those using Game School as their online resource, I hope to foster meaningful conversations, usable criticisms and a safe, fun and interesting environment in which to learn and expand the skills of game creation.
Secondary: To get me off my duff and into learning and creating mode. By starting off this community, and creating a category specifically for it on my own blog, I’m forcing myself to be active and write about this. It’s a way to kick myself into gear and keep me there. I plan on using this, and using all of you to keep my ideas flowing and new stuff coming into my head as ideas and coming out as partially or fully formed games. I hope you do the exact same thing. If I come up with something you like, use it!
Tertiary: I’m taking a page from two presences in the game design and publishing world that I really admire, Daniel Solis and Fred Hicks. They’re both very open about the business of gaming, whether it’s design and mechanics or fulfillment and shipping. Our world of table top games can use more people like this and I hope to foster just that spirit through Game School. Like them, I plan on posting as much as time and circumstances will permit me about my own ideas, thoughts and the progression of the games I’m designing.
I also honestly believe that ideas are cheap and easy to come by, while good games are not. Games are what happens to ideas when someone or a group of people have invested a lot of time and effort into an idea. With that in mind, I’ll be sharing as many of my ideas as I can. They may or may not work for me. Perhaps they’ll inspire you!
Here’s a few topics I plan on talking about, with a few talking points built in. Really anything that has to do with the art, business or science side of game development, up to and including my own and other’s ideas will be posted here.
- Art – where to find it, how to commission it, free art.
- Layout & Design – what makes a good component or card? Iconography and symbology, rules and readability.
- Mechanics & Design – The stuff that makes the games work, rules, statistics, the evolution of game mechanics and more.
- Revisions – When and why throwing stuff out is good, trying to spot that ‘new thing’ by how others react to ideas, and spotting when a game is ‘finished enough’.
- Play Testing – Solitaire play, testing through spreadsheets, finding blind test groups, print and play as a means of testing.
- Publishing – To self-publish or not to self-publish, who’s taking submissions? How to prepare your game to be seen by others, conventions and the elevator pitch.
- Online Resources – From font files and public domain art to great people to follow online.
- Psychology – why people play the games they play, what keeps them coming back, and pushing the right buttons for an enjoyable experience.
- Business – Don’t lose your shirt, basic business strategies for table top games, publishing 101.
That is enough to get me started. I hope it’ll jump start some ideas and energy from all of you as well!