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Subject: Board Game Design Career rss

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Aaron Morton
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So I am currently in the middle of college career thinking about what precisely I want to do after college, when it dawned on me: You know what, I love board games, and I have plenty of ideas for board games (even some very very very crude prototypes), why not see what is involved in getting a career in board game design.

So I came to the place I thought would be best to ask about what is involved in becoming a board game designer. So I ask you fine folks here at BBG; what tips, advice, sources, etc. would you give to some interested in board game design?

I know it is likely this is a question asked here several times before, but there is always new people who have new answers and prospective.
Thank you for anything you offer.
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Kai Scheuer
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I'll tell you a secret, boy:

Do you want to know the best way to have 1 million dollars on your account, just by designing boardgames?

It's easy: Start out with 2 million dollars ...



Kind regards,
Kai
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Iffix Y Santaph
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Yeah, I hate to tell you this, but unless your first name is Bruno, or your last name is Knizia or Rozenberg, or you design cheesy trash they sell at Walmart, you probably won't make any actual money from board games. I know this since I spend a lot of my free time designing board games, and though I sell them too, I've never actually seen a penny that didn't get put back into board game design.
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Ian Richard
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Up front, "Career" is a strong word and for a large number of us, it's more of a "Game Design Paid Hobby" alongside a full time boring job. With that in perspective, I can answer.

The most important piece of advice I can offer is "Make Games". Not just prototypes, but learn to work yourself through the full process. Build the prototypes, gather playtesters, balance and rework the game. Continue until you have a real game that just happens to be in prototype form.

You need to be in the habit of finishing games, not just having ideas. (This is the hardest thing to learn)


After that, don't be afraid to reach out to publishers and take further steps. I know alot of people that believe they aren't good enough and therefor they don't try. Smart, dedicated and talented people that sell themselves short and will never reach their potential.

Here's the thing... nobody is less qualified than I am in pretty much anything. But I've gotten to do all sorts of crazy awesome things in my life because I'm too dumb to see my own limitations.

As for what to learn? Anything and everything. Being able to learn will matter more than specific points of knowledge.

I've literally used everything from computer programming, to history, to stage magic to develop games.

A few particularly useful topics to at least understand: Business, Statistics, psychology (Specifically cognitive biases), and writing courses.

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Charalampos Tsakiris
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This turn to a career once its financially successful as a creative outlet.

The thing that you can do though is consider publishing which means business administration, marketing, logistics, human resource skills, negotiation, selling etc and for that you either have to learn from your efforts as trial and error and money you might not have, or you work at a company learning to do that as you get paid, letting others teach you taking the above risk, whike you prepare for your own thing.

Meaning there is not much money in design alone, but if you combine it with business, thats what will bring you the money, if you play your cards right...
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Jeremy Lennert
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To reiterate with a little less drama: very few board game designers make a living from it.

A Kickstarter for one of my games raised about a quarter million dollars, and I'm still nowhere close to making a living from board game design.
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Bojan Prakljacic
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Antistone wrote:
To reiterate with a little less drama: very few board game designers make a living from it.

A Kickstarter for one of my games raised about a quarter million dollars, and I'm still nowhere close to making a living from board game design.


There is one way you could make a living from that situation.
Run off to some island in Brasil or some obscure poor country with a Kickstarer money. Live like a king for the rest of your life.
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Jeremy Lennert
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8Oj4N wrote:
Antistone wrote:
To reiterate with a little less drama: very few board game designers make a living from it.

A Kickstarter for one of my games raised about a quarter million dollars, and I'm still nowhere close to making a living from board game design.


There is one way you could make a living from that situation.
Run off to some island in Brasil or some obscure poor country with a Kickstarer money. Live like a king for the rest of your life.

You are assuming that I ever had that money in my possession. The Kickstarter was in the publisher's name. For some reason, they have not given me carte blanche access to their financial accounts.
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Joe Salamone
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aaron778 wrote:
So I am currently in the middle of college . . . what tips, advice, sources, etc. would you give to some interested in board game design?


Get a job that aligns with your major. Design games as a hobby and maybe pick up some extra income doing it.
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John duBois
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Given that you understand that this is an extremely difficult endeavor and that very, very few people actually get to do this, I have the following recommendations:

1. Make games, and lots of them. Your early games are likely to be bad, but you learn a lot from making bad games, so make them anyway.
2. Understand that you will need to be constantly producing content to do this. If every game of yours sells for $25 each, and you get 5% royalties (common in this industry), and you want to make $50,000 USD a year, that requires that 40,000 copies of your games are sold every year.
3. Get on social media, start making friends, and spend more time listening than talking. Game design communities on Twitter and Facebook are full of experienced, smart people talking about their successes and failures for free.
4. Meet people in person if you can. Your BGG profile puts you in Nevada, and I'm not sure what the convention scene out there is like, but every convention or event with Protospiel or UnPub in the name is somewhere you want to be, even if you just attend as a playtester.
5. Find (or form) a design group local to you.
6. Play lots and lots of board games.
7. If your college gives you access to resources like professional-level graphics editing and design software or a 3D printer, learn how to use them now while it's cheap to do so. Future You will thank Current You.
8. Get politically active. Your ability to make a living as a game designer depends on you either getting hired by a company that has good benefits (rare) or having good options for things like health care and retirement accounts that can be bought as a self-employed person. I've heard from *multiple* designers who do this as a career that this simply would not be an option for them without the Affordable Care Act.
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Peter Kossits
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...and in case you're wondering, doing game apps for a living is pretty much the same thing.

You usually need multiple successful games to make a living off of it. That takes time to do. And while you're spending that time doing it, you need a huge safety net underneath you to keep you afloat.

Best advice is to keep your energy level as high as you possibly can and start out doing it as a very serious hobby.

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John "Omega" Williams
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There is also the luck factor.

Its nearly impossible to tell what game will take off and what wont. Or even what game will interest a publisher and what wont. Sometimes it really is a matter of being in the right place at the right time.

Design games and stick at it. Dont let failures or rejections discourage you. You will get ALOT of rejections unless you luck out early and mesh really well with a publisher and are picked up right out the gate.

That allmost never happens and its more oft you get accepted after alot of footwork and/or the occasional run-around.

Listen to criticism and suggestions from publishers. And be VERY aware that many publishers change the games they pick up. Or refine them.
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Craig Stockwell
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TL;DR : Do something to pay the bills, and make games on the side.

1A. Get into a career/job-path that pays the bills, and do game design as a hobby (but smartly & enthusiastically).

1B. Get hired to do digital game design work as your career (and work on analog game design as a hobby).

1C. Get hired at a tabletop board game company doing other work.

2. Keep making games and pitching them (or Kickstarting them) until you build up a reputation as a good/great game designer.

3. Get hired by a company to do game design work. Alternately, invest your life savings into starting your own tabletop game publishing company (once you understand what's involved in doing so).

It's really, really, really hard (or up-front expensive) to make a career in tabletop game design. About 25 years ago, I was offered a then-reasonable wage to become a full-time game designer ... which represented a 30% paycut from what I was making at the time in another industry. With the collegiate debt I had, I couldn't "afford" that reduction in pay. =(

Best of luck to you!
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David Janik-Jones
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Craig's right ... Make a career doing something you love just as much as board game design to pay the bills, and make and/or publish games on the side.
 
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Andrew Lowen
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8Oj4N wrote:
Antistone wrote:
To reiterate with a little less drama: very few board game designers make a living from it.

A Kickstarter for one of my games raised about a quarter million dollars, and I'm still nowhere close to making a living from board game design.


There is one way you could make a living from that situation.
Run off to some island in Brasil or some obscure poor country with a Kickstarer money. Live like a king for the rest of your life.


As you are walking off the plane in Rio de Jianero, a d20 drops from your pocket onto the tarmac. You roll a 1.

Bandits capture your luggage and run Your bank account dry.

And then what happens is...
 
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Bojan Prakljacic
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One d20 roll for that kind of a test is too harsh. You need something to mitigate the luck factor a bit.

Btw, if you want to start a career as a game designer, dress well, take your game prototype with you then go to Asmodee offices, wait for a lunch brake then enter the building with the rest of their workers whistling nonchalantly, once inside find an empty office, sit there, put your game on the table and start playing it. If someone enters you just say that you are testing the new thing and you think its ready for publishing, and that it should be sent to the printing department. Act like you work there for years.
If you play it right you might continue working there for a month before they deduct that you are an impostor. Hope that your game is good enough, because, depending on that, you gonna either get a job for real, or an ass whooping and the night in the slammer.

That's basically one d20 roll for real.

In any case, you will have one great story to share.
''The look on the Corey Konieczka face when he entered his office finding me there with my game spread on his table... ''
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