The Dream – My 5 Goals for Game Design

Jamey Stegmaier at Stonemaier games suggested to start a blog, write on it for at least just 30 minutes a week, and here I am sharing my thoughts.  I have read his book that many deem “The Kickstarter Bible,” and I am currently going through his blog, post by post – reliving 2013 at the moment.  I would not hesitate to suggest his works and Mike Selinker’s book on game design.  But there are many other resources out there that are great to devour and it has been fun and exhilarating to go through them, because with each resource, it feels like they take me closer and closer to realizing my dream.

Kickstarter is an amazing tool that has opened up the market and made it accessible to anyone with an idea, the aptitude to execute it, and the willingness to see it through.  This along with the amazing generosity and the open free-flow of information from designers, enthusiasts, producers … it is like they are begging more people to get into the industry, and why not?  More fun games for everyone!  I love the welcome, I love the collegiality, and I very much want to be a part of the conversation, and to be able to put the word “designer” by my name.

But I am a methodical person who doesn’t do anything without a plan.  I am designing one game now, that has a unique theme that I think it will resonate very well, and I am learning as I go.  Learning about game balance, learning about production, learning about the industry and how to be successful.  And until I learn everything I need to learn about those things, I will not put other people’s trust in me at risk.

What do I want the reputation of my game designs & eventually my company to be?

  1. Quality Production:  I want to be proud of anything I produce.  I can still hear my grandfather’s voice, “Don’t half-ass anything.”  I think it was the lesson he reiterated every time I went to help him on a project because as a kid I was always looking for a shortcut, but as an adult I have grown into my Pappaw.
  2. Theme:  I want to design games that I would enjoy, and my favorite games are those that capture and stay true to the theme as close as possible.  I think the secret here is details, details, details.  Everything from the shape and design of your components, the flavor text on your cards, and how the mechanics are connected to the theme of the game.
  3. Complexity:  I am not going to say that I will never create a simple “party game” or “filler game”, but those are not my passion.  Not every game has to get a 4+ on the complexity scale for BGG, but in order to capture my next point, the game has to give players plenty of options.
  4. Diverse Strategies:  This speaks to game balance, but most importantly, I feel like players should be able to play a game, and pick a different evolving strategy each time they play, and have an opportunity to win with that strategy.  A game that does this best in my opinion, Viticulture.  I have seen a player win this game by producing little to almost no wines, he simply took a business strategy, purchased grapes, used cards to produce wines for him and opportune times, and took advantage of grabbing victory points in other ways of the game.  My wife likes to use the same strategy every time she plays, plant a lot of wines, create a huge cellar of wines, give tours, and ease into victory.  Myself, I never start the game with an idea of what I want to do, I just take a few moves and let it evolve from there based on the cards and buildings I have.  Does my wife win?  Yes, but we don’t talk about that?  Do I win?  Yes, and we tale big fish tales of the victory!  Do my other friends win?  Yes, and I am always interested in seeing the new way they choose to play the game.  Those are the types of games I want to play.  Games that can be played differently every time, but still have a strong sense of strategy and player choice.
  5. Ameritrash or Euro … why not both!?!:  I love the excitement and theme that comes out in the Amerithrash games, but I also want the strategy and challenge of a Euro game.  The beauty of our current generation of games is that they do not have to fit within a category or a label, and like everything else in life, those that don’t, are often the most enjoyable! … where is my cronut, my pizzaburger, and my frappaccino?!

What are the qualities of your favorite companies & game designers?  If you had to make a top 5 list, what would be the most important?

  1. One I can think of that didn’t fit nicely into my list of 5, is customer service.  I have had tremendous customer service from several companies and sub-par service from one other.  In my own experience, a good customer service experience has caused me to look up a company and buy another game, simply because they earned my loyalty.  But I will write about those experiences in a future blog.