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Subject: Advice for an upstarting board game designer rss

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William Umstattd
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Note: First of all I am new to board game geek and this is my first post.

I have two questions about getting started in board game design.

First, I am still in High School but I am wanting to go into the board game industry after collage. What degree plan do you suggest. I was thinking about a business marketing degree.

Second, I have just recently started prototyping and designing board games and I was wondering if anyone had advice on how to start.
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Nate K
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Welcome to the Geek!

I don't think there's any degree path that will help you both learn how to create compelling games and teach you how to make money off your creations. I'd say study what you enjoy, then find a way to make money doing that. (Or, find a way to make money doing something else while you do what you love as a hobby.)
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LudiCreations
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WilliamUmstattd wrote:
First, I am still in High School but I am wanting to go into the board game industry after collage. What degree plan do you suggest. I was thinking about a business marketing degree.

Whichever degree plan allows you to have free time and disposable income to buy and play as many different board games as you can. This is will save you the trouble of inventing something that already exists. Also, it will help you get an idea of the different types of games and players out there. Finally, read BGG 4+ hours a day.

WilliamUmstattd wrote:
Second, I have just recently started prototyping and designing board games and I was wondering if anyone had advice on how to start.

http://www.bgdf.com/
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Ben Wand
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You should check out and follow my game marketing blog.


http://gameofmarketing.blogspot.com/

I'm happy to answer any marketing questions you have, especially relating to career prospects and such.

Good luck!
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fin coe
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As far as a degree goes, it's hard to find one for board games specifically, considering computer/video gaming is the Game Design Degree du jour. If you polled the designers on this forum, I'm sure you'd find a truly impressive range of degrees held; and relatively few in game design. The nice thing about board game design is that it's a fusion of art and science; it makes a great hobby, and it doesn't have to become a consuming passion.
So study whatever you want. Art and Math (Comp Sci, even) are two things that will help with board game design, but creative writing, history, business - all can be useful.
Your real Game Design education will probably be self-driven. Play games. Follow the designers whose games you consistently like. Read the books. Check out the stickey'd threads at the top of this forum. Keep a scratchpad handy. Get involved in PnP so that you understand component control. Read this thread for a good grounding on the jargon you'll hear thrown around. Ask questions.
Good luck!
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Terence Jones
Australia
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As Fin so nicely pointed out about degrees
I'm currently designing 2 games and attempting to get a third published at the moment and I've got a degree in Biomedical science which really doesn't have much to do with board gaming.
My advice is after highschool focus your education on what your good at as well as what you enjoy.
Find yourself a regular tabletop gaming group that meets on a regular basis every 1-2weeks and sit back and enjoy the games so you can see what works and what people enjoy.
Get on first name terms with the staff at a local tabletop games store and talk to them about the various games. (also handy sources of info on artists, and good to spread the word about your game)

If your good at art then you have a bonus on a lot of designers
i can draw you glucose molecules or
even hydrogen tetrachloroaurate (III) trihydrate (a gold based acid)

but get me to draw anything remotely artistic not a chance.

oh nd follow Fin Coe's advice theres good advice there
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Lewis Wagner
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WilliamUmstattd wrote:
I am still in High School but I am wanting to go into the board game industry after collage. What degree plan do you suggest. I was thinking about a business marketing degree.


Board game design is an avocation, not a vocation. There is little reason for your vocation, that which pays your bills, to have any bearing whatsoever on your avocation of board game design. Most successful board game designers don't make a living at it.

So, get a credible vocation. Get a degree or certification in something you like that will pay you a decent salary and leave you free time. It should be something that makes you readily employable after 4 years or less of schooling past high school. Examples include, but are not limited to: computer science, nursing, plumbing, and becoming an electrician.
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Justus
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lewis wrote:
WilliamUmstattd wrote:
I am still in High School but I am wanting to go into the board game industry after collage. What degree plan do you suggest. I was thinking about a business marketing degree.


Board game design is an avocation, not a vocation. There is little reason for your vocation, that which pays your bills, to have any bearing whatsoever on your avocation of board game design. Most successful board game designers don't make a living at it.

So, get a credible vocation. Get a degree or certification in something you like that will pay you a decent salary and leave you free time. It should be something that makes you readily employable after 4 years or less of schooling past high school. Examples include, but are not limited to: computer science, nursing, plumbing, and becoming an electrician.


I might add, it does NOT include architecture.

(snarky profession-deprecating comment aside, think about how few people actually make a living designing games. I suspect the odds are about as good as those getting to play professional sports).
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Chris McGinty
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A lot of good advice precedes mine, but I do have my own take on your question. I would say that you should major in either mathematics or business and minor in the other. A business degree will help you fall into any job you might want or need. The mathematics will help you understand complex systems.

As far as the game design part of your question, I'll paraphrase Adam Carolla, "If you want to do anything in life, just start doing it. You won't be good at it at first, but you'll learn. If you want to be a comedian, do every open mic you can do. If you want to be an actor, volunteer at your local theater."

So my advice is this, if you want to design games, start designing games. But this is more important. Don't over design. Start play-testing as quickly as you can.

My friend Nathan and I are about to start a Kickstarter for our board game in May 2013. We had one brainstorm session, I wrote a quick starter set of rules for us to test, and after the first play-test, we nixed about half of the rules. These were rules and mechanics that seemed like they would be fun, intuitive, or balanced. One play-test session proved that wrong for most of them.

The extension of play a lot of games to see what works is to play your games a lot, and be honest with yourself about whether it's fun or not. Don't get attached to rules or mechanics because you created them. Be willing to test and revise to the point that the rules and mechanics that survive are a low percentage of the rules and mechanics that you create, because then you'll know you're playing with the best ideas.

Chris McGinty
http://www.riseoftherockstar.com/
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David Cheng
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I suggest if you have time & money, take a course of graphic design unless you are sure you don't get the talent.
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John
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lewis wrote:
So, get a credible vocation. Get a degree or certification in something you like that will pay you a decent salary and leave you free time. It should be something that makes you readily employable after 4 years or less of schooling past high school. Examples include, but are not limited to: computer science, nursing, plumbing, and becoming an electrician.


Sensible advice. Make sure that it's something you're reasonably good at and enjoy, as that will make getting a degree in it easier (and allow you more time for gaming & designing).
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John
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floydmcmondo wrote:
"If you want to do anything in life, just start doing it. You won't be good at it at first, but you'll learn. If you want to be a comedian, do every open mic you can do. If you want to be an actor, volunteer at your local theater."

That is excellent advice.
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Daniel Howard
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WilliamUmstattd wrote:
... I am wanting to go into the board game industry after collage.


There's a collage industry? Pasta shapes and Pritt Stick?
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Jack Bennett
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I'd echo the sentiment that you should study what you like and go from there. If you pick a degree based solely on its relationship to boardgame designing it's very possible you'd end up disappointed with your study and either change it, stop, or not do well. Pick something you enjoy first, do that, and figure out how to apply it to boardgame design later.

That said, there are elective choices you could make that'd help. Or classes to take outside of school.

Firstly, I'd take an intro to stats class. This will cover things like probability calculations, probability distributions, basic combinatorics, and in general give you a better sense of the type of math that is very important in game design.

Also, as was recommended above, some sort of basic grahpic design class. You don't need to be an artist, but knowing your way around the basics in photoshop and desktop publishers will really help when it comes time to make your first prototype playtesting cards or boards.

Lastly, technical writing. Writing clear and concise rulebooks is an art that is, in my opinion, pretty lacking even at the biggest of game companies today. Learning how to organize your thoughts in a logical manner and put it to writing will be a great skill.

ALL of these skills are things that you will probably need help from other people to do at some time or another. I've got a Master's in stats, but I still talk with my cousin about complex probability calculations. My minor in school was multimedia arts and sciences, so I know my way around most Adobe products, but I still hired other people to do the art for my games. And my BA is in literature and creative writing, but I still send all my rules to my sister who has her Master's in publishing and is a great editor.

But having a cursory introduction to these would help in getting a start on doing any of this (mock-up cards, first draft of the rules), and also give you the ability to have a more informed conversation with the people who you DO get to do these things for a final product.

Again, though, do what you love first. If classes like this sound like something you'd enjoy, go for it. I think they could be helpful. But it makes no sense to spend your time and money sitting in a classroom trying to suffer through learning crap you don't enjoy.
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Terence Jones
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ChowYunBrent wrote:
There's a collage industry? Pasta shapes and Pritt Stick?


what else do arts students do after highschool
except work at every coffee shop known to exist
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DoctorMike Reddy
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WilliamUmstattd wrote:
Note: First of all I am new to board game geek and this is my first post.


Oh you brave, brave man...

WilliamUmstattd wrote:
I have two questions about getting started in board game design.


Only two?

WilliamUmstattd wrote:
First, I am still in High School but I am wanting to go into the board game industry after collage. What degree plan do you suggest. I was thinking about a business marketing degree.


You will, no doubt, have seen proof-readers spotting your typo. Tehy can't help it Very few people actually make a living from game design. Choose something useful to a steady career and interesting/challenging to you; you only get one degree. If you really want to look at game design, there are a very few actual design courses (other than those that teach art asset production, which is normally geared towards digital games), of which the Computer Game Design award at what was Newport, now Uni of South Wales, is one. We think it rather good, but I do work there, so take with a pinch of salt.

WilliamUmstattd wrote:
Second, I have just recently started prototyping and designing board games and I was wondering if anyone had advice on how to start.


Sounds like you have! The trick is to "finish". That is, to get a game to a stage where people can play it without you there, and then (ideally) actually want to!

Loads of advice on the Board Game Design forum here on BGG. Searching old threads is a good start. (You'll get people telling you to do that a lot here BTW so why not do the leg work, as they'll be more willing to answer specific questions if you appear to have done your part.) Oh, and do lots of testing. It's the only way to learn.

DoctorMike
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Rob Harper
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DoctorMikeReddy wrote:
You will, no doubt, have seen proof-readers spotting your typo. Tehy can't help it


Twitch... twitch...
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Michael Iachini
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I agree with the "degree doesn't matter" comments, but David Cheng's suggestion of learning some basic graphic design is fantastic. As a game designer, you will be making tons of prototypes of cards, boards, reference sheets, rules, game logos, etc., and being able to make nice-looking versions on your own will be a huge boon.

I'm not saying that your prototypes for testing have to be retail ready; that's the job of the publisher once the game design is complete. I'm saying that having nice looking, easy to graphically understand prototypes will make it much easier for people to try your game and to offer useful feedback on it during the development process. Plus, it will help you get the attention of publishers if the game has good graphic design, even if the publisher will ultimately change everything.

Michael Iachini
Clay Crucible Games
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John A. White
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I agree with the above post.

Get into board games as a hobby to release your inner inventor. Not to get really rich.

If you go to school you don't NEED it for board game design. The best thing to take is MANY business classes for 2 reasons. 1. if this doesn't workout you got something to fall back on that companies like. 2. To make "better" money you should run your own game design titles out the door. With that said look at graphic design for a few side classes and get serious about it. This is an expense you don't really want to afford.

I am more then certain you were hunting for magic mechanical mathematics and engineering breakdown Classes. If you make that "Visible" on a game it won't work. Human interaction and tendencies are not required and a book or 2 would get you there.

The creator of Pandemic and myself are UI Designers by day (glorified web designers that partitions complex 2.0 services based on users needs, or UCD).

Here is how you find out if you're a Board Game designer.
A) You like new NEVER BEFORE SEEN card actions and love Zombies and MtG and can't wait to retread a theme.

B) You create High Arching mechanics that create memorable moments that have a strong marriage to its unused theme.

Rant
Spoiler (click to reveal)
You "COULD" find your way into the mass market secret hand shake world of crap design! and make a few more dollars for shaking hands and patronizing roll-n-move crap


Answer
Spoiler (click to reveal)
A. will be over it in 2 years B. could be a designer


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Jonathan Challis
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aaarg_ink wrote:

think about how few people actually make a living designing games. I suspect the odds are about as good as those getting to play professional sports.


Less. Hugely less.

It's often quoted that there are far more astronauts than games designers, and far more that have actually been to space than designers who actually make a living at it, rather than having a day job.

As others have said, pick a degree you like in something with a career attached that will support your ambitions. Play games on the side, design games on the side, and if you are very lucky and you are talented, some may see publication. If you get that far over the next 10-20 years then you can come back and think bout how to turn it into a living.
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John A. White
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Kelanen wrote:
aaarg_ink wrote:

think about how few people actually make a living designing games. I suspect the odds are about as good as those getting to play professional sports.


Less. Hugely less.

It's often quoted that there are far more astronauts than games designers, and far more that have actually been to space than designers who actually make a living at it, rather than having a day job.

As others have said, pick a degree you like in something with a career attached that will support your ambitions. Play games on the side, design games on the side, and if you are very lucky and you are talented, some may see publication. If you get that far over the next 10-20 years then you can come back and think bout how to turn it into a living.


Successful designers are hard to come by yeah but "board Game designers?"
There are 800 - 1000 games that are published each year and many more that are left on the cutting room floor.

I can not agree that there are more Astronauts then board game designers. Unless 10 guys are making 100 games each year. Or there are 10,000 Astronauts wandering around. hmm sounds like a board game.

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Martin Maisey Sjöberg
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I have a degree in game design, yet I really agree with what has been said here. The only real way to get good at something is by doing it, regardless of what degree you have. Play games, study games, create games.

The best thing I got out of getting a game design degree was that I got to study together with like minded people with similar interests.

What you need to do is ask yourself, how badly do I want it? How badly do I want it now? Is it something you can do as a hobby and fiddle with during your sparetime and maybe end up finishing something in the end or something you want to devote your life to?

It is not an easy career, you will probably fail alot. But success is not measured by how many times you fall, but by your ability to get up and keep moving forward.

The single most important thing is that you are happy with whatever you choose to do. Don't do it just to make alot of money. Success is not the key to hapiness, hapiness is the key success.
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DoctorMike Reddy
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Maisey wrote:
Success is not the key to happiness, happiness is the key success.


Nailed it!
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