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Subject: What do game designers want in a design workshop? rss

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Eric Engelmann
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I run small board game conventions, and have traditionally had a board game design event at each con. These typically draw about 12 designers plus con attendees who drop by to play with the designers. Unfortunately, the design group which led these events the last few years surprised me by not participating this year. I'm now running the event on my own without the benefit of much experience or know-how.

What do designers look for in a small con event? I can do signage, already have lots of bits, dice, chips, boards, etc., can post notes on the con web site, arrange votes/awards/prizes for best design, etc., but would like to optimize benefit/(work+cost). Any suggestions?

BTW, con date is Sept 24-25.

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Matt Knaack
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At my local con (GrandCon), there is a design competition sponsored by the Game Crafter. Basically, a participant pays a flat fee ($20?), gets a set of design components, and comes back at the end of the weekend to pitch their design to a couple of judges. Winner gets something from the Game Crafter, I believe.

Besides that, there is a prototype room that designers use to playtest. Designers can submit their events to the itinerary and be listed so attendees can play and schedule in advance.

There's not much more than that to GrandCon. But if you're more designer-focused, there's certainly more you could provide. Thanks for supporting us with your endeavors!
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Alex Houghton
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I can second Matt's recommendation with the Game Crafter. Their prototyping design components are amazing!

A brief word of warning/advice:

Earlier this year I helped set up a board gaming convention and a friend and I talked with the Game Crafter and asked for a small kit to have there for people to make their own games. The kit was/is fantastic and contains all kinds of useful little components.

However, it was just my friend and I at the convention who were designers*. This is a rurally-located convention and wasn't known for having many of them.

We set up 2 tables with components and 2 more with room to use them. And there were signs with a brief description of what people could do with them. There was the Game Crafter logos/advertising too, of course.

My friend and I had obligations to other parts of the con and didn't have time to watch the table. And so what we didn't have was someone at the table to watch it, or any real promotion besides the signs and a note on the website. There also wasn't a contest or anything. This was just a build-as-you-please situation.

We both regret this and wish we'd allocated our con time to this... VERY FEW people actually used the supplies. There was one school teacher who made plans to have her students make something and took some supplies for that and another person who made her own version of a classic game. Other than that though, not much.

At the end of the con we were left with a treasure trove of supplies and no one besides us two to use them. We can't return them, of course. The two of us can obviously make use of them, but it's a guilty feeling.


Well it felt good to type that out. I hope it wasn't too much of a pain to read. Again, thanks to JT and the Game Crafter staff for being so helpful with the supplies (and not yelling at us for wasting them, haha).


TLDR: Make sure you or someone puts effort into supporting the side-event when it's actually happening. It looks like you've got a good start with the contest setup (and it helps that your con already attracts some designers).

Good luck and I hope your event goes well!
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Eric Engelmann
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_mackinac wrote:
At my local con (GrandCon), there is a design competition sponsored by the Game Crafter. Basically, a participant pays a flat fee ($20?), gets a set of design components, and comes back at the end of the weekend to pitch their design to a couple of judges. Winner gets something from the Game Crafter, I believe.


Thanks! This is what Kaarin Engelmann did at Congress of Gamers many years ago. She named it "Iron Designer" As I recall, she had a great turnout and attendees said they had a wonderful time. Unfortunately, I can't run something this labor intensive while managing the many other aspects of the con. I'll see if I can find an enthusiastic volunteer.
 
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Eric Engelmann
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houghtona wrote:
TLDR: Make sure you or someone puts effort into supporting the side-event when it's actually happening. It looks like you've got a good start with the contest setup (and it helps that your con already attracts some designers).


We don't have a contest set up yet. Was imagining just play testing, with confidential voting and feedback, maybe an award a designer could impress their spouse or even a publisher with. "Gold medal for new strategy game, Congress of Gamers, 2016" or some such.
 
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Schema Man
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Given it's the Congress of Gamers (which, by the way is a con I have always enjoyed), maybe make the award some kind of resolution like you'd see in Congress. Well like you'd see in Congress if they actually did anything I mean. Sort of like a "Be it known that on this 25th day of September that..." I think it would be fun. Did you check to see if the Unpub guys were willing to do something or were they the ones who backed out? I like Unpub activities. If not them, maybe you could do an arrangement with Protospiel?

In any case I will be at Congress of Gamers again this time and look forward to it!
 
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Jon Vallerand
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From my (limited) experience running in that circle, what designers need most is (1) playtesters, (2) exposure, (3) playtesters, (4) a chance to network with other designers, and (5) playtesters. Possibly presentations/Q&A's with big shot designers, if you can get that. A chance to pitch to publishers is also a big thing, or a chance to get a prize you can stick on your pitch sheet.

As per the "box o' goods", I'm not sure if it's meant as a "take what you need" (in which case, I would have done so, but it's not a selling point), or a "here's stuff, create a game with it", which sounds uninteresting, as more ideas/projects to work on is not what the average designer needs.
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Eric Engelmann
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schemaman wrote:
Given it's the Congress of Gamers (which, by the way is a con I have always enjoyed), maybe make the award some kind of resolution like you'd see in Congress. Well like you'd see in Congress if they actually did anything I mean. Sort of like a "Be it known that on this 25th day of September that..." I think it would be fun.

Good idea!


schemaman wrote:
Did you check to see if the Unpub guys were willing to do something or were they the ones who backed out? I like Unpub activities. If not them, maybe you could do an arrangement with Protospiel?

We worked with UnPub for many years, but something(s) apparently came up this year. They did recently list us on their schedule for a Saturday 10-10 UnPub event, but we'll be having Break My Game! lead that event and a Sunday event this year.

schemaman wrote:
In any case I will be at Congress of Gamers again this time and look forward to it!

GREAT! See you there!
 
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Carl Frodge
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More than anything, the number 1 thing I would want to see/hear in a game design workshop would be how to keep going when you hit a wall, when you can't figure out where to go next. Basically how to finish a design. Finish, meaning get it to the point where it can be made into a playable prototype.

Edit:
Perhaps I misunderstood the OP. Oh well.
 
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Eric Engelmann
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JVallerand wrote:
From my (limited) experience running in that circle, what designers need most is (1) playtesters, (2) exposure, (3) playtesters, (4) a chance to network with other designers, and (5) playtesters. Possibly presentations/Q&A's with big shot designers, if you can get that. A chance to pitch to publishers is also a big thing, or a chance to get a prize you can stick on your pitch sheet.

I hear you!

JVallerand wrote:
As per the "box o' goods", I'm not sure if it's meant as a "take what you need" (in which case, I would have done so, but it's not a selling point), or a "here's stuff, create a game with it", which sounds uninteresting, as more ideas/projects to work on is not what the average designer needs.

The "box o' bits" is an effort to get players to visit the design room (What active gamer isn't missing a part for some game he owns?) and also to provide components a designer might employ. A nominal fee ($.10 per bit?) is targeted at reducing the abuse a "commons" resource suffers.
 
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Eric Engelmann
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agentkuo wrote:
More than anything, the number 1 thing I would want to see/hear in a game design workshop would be how to keep going when you hit a wall, when you can't figure out where to go next. Basically how to finish a design. Finish, meaning get it to the point where it can be made into a playable prototype.

Edit:
Perhaps I misunderstood the OP. Oh well.


That should be supported, as much as it can be, through interaction with designer peers. More than just ideas, peers provide inspiration to move forward.
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Ben Pinchback
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The thing I want most is players. Might be tough given your short time window but incentivising playtesters with entrants into free games raffles or % off of games purchases have been ways I've seen to gather more players.
 
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Eric Engelmann
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Actually, the designer events at Congress of Gamers and Winter Game Fest (the cons I run) always seemed to have plenty of playtesters, at least it appeared that every designer was always playing with a table full of people. I like the idea of incentives to play. Need to think what would be appropriate (universally interesting). Maybe a gift certificate to the con's vendor area.
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Candace Mercer
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My concerns as a fledgling designer would be networking, talking about, seeking advice on my project, playtesters etc.

I just took a multi week design workshop - my first - and based on that experience - the best time I had was choosing a bag of misc. components, including some from various games and making a game from it. They had paper and craft supplies, like scissors and pencils etc. It was incredibly confidence building for a newbie. [My teacher, the fabulous N/A had developed worksheets that guided the process.

But again, my concern will be does anyone want to use that time to do actual design? It needs quiet, as there is a cognitive load involved. Personally I think I would be far too excitable to get in that headspace when all these cool games w cool people are waiting.

w/r/t the issue of commons - perhaps you could put out a call to gamers to bring things that could be used for components so it would work more like a community art studio. I bet lots of people have games that could be cannabilized for whatever reason. I know I got a couple.

 
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Candace Mercer
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Also thanks for the heads up about Game Crafters - I had not found that resource yet! Yay!
 
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