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It’s a new dawn, a new day, a new life…
All things must come to an end, even (or especially!) games.

Last week I had an ending of my own: I spent my last day at my permanent job (working as a risk manager for a small bank). And in some ways it was even more of an ending; for over ten years I made my living in financial services, but no more.

Endings make space for new beginnings.

Playing two games at the same time is hard and frustrating for most. So we tend to not start a new game until we finished our last. Ending a game creates the opportunity to play a different one. It might be more fun, or less. But you won’t know until you play it.

Ending a job creates the opportunity to start a new one. I didn’t quit my job to sit on the couch and do nothing, while slowly (quickly!) seeing my saving fade as snow in the sun. I quite because I got an offer for something that seemed like it would be even more fun than what I was doing before.

As of now I’m working for a company called oneUp (yes, that’s the right way of capitalizing). What they do is run projects within big companies as though they are startups.

Big companies and startups have things in common (they want to make money, they hire people), but there are also a lot of things quite different in how the two are run. And it’s not easy to convince a corporate manager that she should throw away the project plan, fail fast and break things. But these are essential ingredients if you want to copy the stellar rise of Snapchat, Spotify or Uber.

Boxart for the Startup Thinking Game (v1.0)
So oneUp wants something that helps them explain these and other concepts in a fun, engaging and interesting way.

”Fun, engaging and interesting you say? That sounds like….”

Yes, it does. It does sound like they should be using a board game!

And that is exactly what their thoughts were.

Which is where I come in.

I’ve been writing this blog for my own entertainment and educational purposes. I’m happy that other people seem to enjoy reading it as well and that I’ve gotten some very nice compliments (thanks all!). But I never thought it would actually lead to anything.

I’ve never been so happy to be proven wrong!

It turns out that writing about board game design can put you in the searchlight of a company that is looking for a local designer, eager to have you help to create a truly unique educational and marketing tool.

So… As of now I am an official (in the sense of getting paid for it(!)) game designer!

So now what?

I know the gist of what oneUp wants to have created and I know some of their ideas around this: I’m to build them a board game that explains how startups function. It should be fun, engaging and interesting. And it should play in half an hour or less.

That should be easy right? Piece of cake, walk in the park… Right? Right?!

Yes it’s a challenge. But one I’m very happy to be taking on. One I’m excited to take on!

And I’m looking forward to taking everybody along in the design process. That might be on this blog or I might start up something new specifically for the project (I’ll have to discus with my new paymasters on what their preferences are. Getting paid is awesome, but it does put a bit of a dent in your freedom to do whatever you like… 🙂 ). Either way, I’ll be sure to keep you posted!

Closing thoughts

Step by step – and with a little help from others – anything can be achieved
I never really had a concrete plan, but I had sortof been hoping to be able to slowly scale up my game design work while I scaled down my “actual” work. That slow process got jump-started with this incredible opportunity.

I’m not spiritual, don’t believe in karma (even though Los Buenos makes heavy use of it!), have always thought that the law of attraction was nonsense. But I can’t deny that the job came to me because I write this blog. And it’s all completely logical: I go out there and share what I do, so of all the people who are doing something similar (or more awesome!), my work shows up more easily. Still, it feels like a reward somehow…

So perhaps two take aways that will hopefully inspire you:

  • Good things sometimes really do come to those who do good
  • It’s not impossible to turn a passion into a job

Further reading

This is a blog about game design, even though the above isn’t that much. Luckily I have two old posts that sortof makes sense:
All in-game resources are temporary (which is because games end!)
The time value of resources

About the author

Bastiaan_smallHi, I’m Bastiaan. The goal of this blog is to learn about game design. That’s hopefully for you as the reader, but just as much for me as the writer.

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Board game design, Guest post, Learning, Player Interaction, This blog

I wished I had board game design classes in school!
Why do I write this blog? To learn about board game design (it says so right in the sub title!). But also a little bit to inspire people to make more and better board games. So I was extremely happy when Matthew Bivens (you can mail him at: mtgreenb@yahoo.com) reached out to me saying that my posts had been a great help not just to him, but to the kids he’s teaching board game design as a summer school project! Not only that, he was kind enough to write down his experiences. So without further ado, let me give the word to Matthew:

This summer I approached my board game design unit as a series of projects that would be constructed over the entire six week period. Prior to the start of this time I had encountered the Make Them Play blog and found a post on Player Interaction that felt like a good
introduction to the game design process for my high school students. As summer school was in process another article on Player Experience came out from the same blog. These two articles became activities that I had for my students.

On the first week the students started with making some components with their initials and then reading the Player Interaction blog post as a part of another activity. In that activity they listened to an excerpt from the Building the Game podcast, where a Survival game was pitched. The reason for choosing this pitch was the use of a simple card game, 31, as the foundation for the Survival game. In the exercise the students explored three different forms of player interaction and then applied the concepts to create a modified version of a game played with a standard deck of cards.

I would like to spend more time with this exercise and include an opportunity for students to play card games prior to writing out multiple player interaction concepts for making card games into board games. Here I think that it would be good to hit on the concept of theme and discuss it in relation to the design principle of unity. Overall students did a good job at this task and those who didn’t were not in the class the day we did it or had issues with staying focused on assigned tasks and trouble completing homework.

Following the component design project the students created a modified version of Carcassone, where the tiles had unique icons to a unique set and the way that the game is played was manipulated by the addition of cards that change how many tiles you draw/place and the number of meeples used to claim an area. The students had not had the opportunity to play Carcassone, but were able to follow the video guide and make the components. There was an additional digital project on making a map based game similar to TransAmerica.

Today’s students: Tomorrow’s artists and board game designers!
As the second week came along I brought the ideas of the Player Experience blog post into an activity. In this activity the students took the ideas of the two blog posts and wrote out a paragraph to be placed onto a Player Experience Vision Board. Here they collected some images to show concepts related to the experience that they wanted to have and I think that this task needs to have some changes made. Use of graphic icons is an important part of the process, so I would like to have the students collect icons that relate to the experience and interaction of the game that they would like to design. In the version of the activity they were encouraged to find more illustrative images of the desired experience.

There were a few students who did not get the activity, but after a short discussion they were able to submit their concepts again. Moving forward all of the student vision boards were placed into a presentation and students read through each others, without knowing which board belonged to which student. They made choices in an online form on who they would like to work with based on vision boards and explained the choice. There could have been more done to match students up in groups based on these choices, but the time was limited and I allowed the students to choose who they wanted to work with.

Over the remainder of summer school we went through the process of board game design presentation, playing published games, creating prototypes, writing rules and play testing. There was a group vision statement that was the basis for the prototype/rules. In the last week of summer school student groups were demonstrating the board games they developed. I graded the categories of formal game elements, game mechanics, narrative/theme, player interaction and player experience. Attacking and taking resources were the two most popular forms of interaction, with trading and changing the board coming up too. Tension, victory and power were the dominant experiences that the students developed the games around, with the ideas of wonder and safety coming up in two different games.

Attacks being a solid form of actual interaction was an easy connection for students to make, so it saw some good results. Changing the board was the player interaction goal for one of the most unique games that was created. Trading wasn’t actually used much in the games that were claiming and players didn’t interact much. Where taking resources occurred it wasn’t much like the Euro Game style found in worker placement, but more along the lines of you got a card and you get these resources. Although we spent the most time with player interaction, it wasn’t as thought out as I would like to see that. I think that providing more examples and opportunities to explore player interaction will help out in the future.

Wonder was an interesting experience that one group of students aimed for by having a search for an item in a game where danger could be in the places that you looked or the path traveled to get there. The experiences that were most common lined up with the interactions of attacking and taking resources. A version of the victory experience was a game that had to do with keeping a secret and they had a unique way of determining how many spaces were revealed, but it seemed like it was more a game of tension. The way that the games made use of the experience wasn’t as well thought out as I would like. Again I think that it got off to a good start of trying this approach of introducing concepts through reading blog posts on the topics.

One of these might actually be quite handy for sketching out a quick prototype…
Going forward I feel that there is a need to focus on the dialog that students have about all the types of designs that they create and develop a good critical lexicon, so that they are able to apply it to their own designs. At the same time the engagement with games that the students make modifications of is something that I desire to bring in. I believe that by incorporating the game design process into the art classes that I teach there is a long term benefit that they students will receive. In bringing in the game design blog posts from Make Them Play and the clip from the podcast Building the Game, I believe that positive results came out of it.

It is tough to compare this summer school class to the class in the previous spring semester and the years before. In the years prior the class has only spent about a quarter of the year investigating the game design concepts, but my general feeling about the class from this summer is that there was a better result overall due to the longer time with the experience. I look forward to introducing this to the new group of students that I have started to work with and playing the games that they design.

Thank you Matthew! Again, I’m incredibly happy to see more people take up the noble art of board game design. And who knows, perhaps one of these students will some day create the next big sensation?

Perhaps you were also somehow inspired by one my posts or otherwise have something you feel would be interesting for this blog? If so, drop me a line on Twitter, in the comments below or by emailing to b.reinink@makethemplay.com

— Bastiaan

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