I Thought I Was Good

I thought my games were good enough to get published. I was wrong.

Now that I actually have had multiple games signed with publishers, I can see that my previous games weren't good enough. I dismissed their flaws and issues as being unsolvable compromises in otherwise-excellent games.

There were so many things I didn't understand, and omissions I had no idea about.

At no stage in my game development career have I ever believed my games were anything less than publishable.

Where people go wrong

People play games, they understand the mechanics of games as a player, and they think "I could do this myself." However, they don't have a deeper understanding of why the game is the way it is. I've tried deconstructing my favourite games, and I often can't work out why they're good.

Some designers make fundamental errors in their big-picture approach. Others just omit some factor entirely. Many people think the way to making a great game is just to work endlessly on the same game until it's excellent, rather than trying something new.

Few people dig beneath the surface, and really try to understand what makes games tick. Why is a game fun? This is a very complicated question I'm still wrestling with.

The competition

Unless you have a published game, you're almost certainly not that great a designer. You're also not experienced or good enough to understand how not good you really are. You may one day see this in retrospect, as I did.

You might be smart, but being smart is not an advantage. It's a prerequisite. Almost all game designers are smart. Being a good game designer is an acquired skill, on top of that.

There seem to be as many game designers as game players.

Serious board game design is a competition. How are you going to beat all those people? How are you going to beat me?

We can't all win.

I see many people designing games, with the full intention that the process will end in publication of the game. That's not how it works. The bar is really high. It's not about making a game that's functional, fair, and balanced. Anyone can do that. It's about making a game that's better than everyone else's functional, fair, and balanced games.

What you need to do

You will need to spend a lot of time on your game. Sometimes, it will be boring.

Successful game design takes years. Do you stick with things that long? Be honest. I don't want to go dispensing life advice on this site. If you can't stick with board game design that long, or you're not particularly serious, you won't succeed. You might enjoy yourself, but you won't succeed. Sort yourself out, and come back.

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