Spare Us Your Trash

Where's your game going? Getting published by a regular publisher is out of reach for many designers.

What to do with a game

Some people's games are a labour of love, and they don't want all that work to be for naught. They just want to get the game out there somehow. It seems silly just to waste it all.

So, they take the game to Kickstarter.

If you take your game to Kickstarter, you might think you're doing something constructive. Consider very seriously that you're sending your game to hundreds of backers, or more, who are parting with their hard-earned cash. You obviously think your game is good enough, but you should suspect that it isn't.

Let me tell you that your evaluation of your game is almost certainly incorrect, and you've just bypassed the publishing system, that would've given you a definitive answer. You're also likely misreading feedback.

Even if your game is reasonable, whoever bought your game just missed out on buying a better one. The world does not need more games. It needs better games. All that's needed is a list of 1,000 amazing games. Everyone can just play those games. I expect all my games to get in the top 1,000 on BoardGameGeek, and will regard games that do not make that cut as failures.

It's not about you

You need to sit down, and have a sober conversation with yourself, about your game. Why are you even putting it out there in the first place? Perhaps you shouldn't.

Just because you've spent 500 hours making your game, it doesn't mean other people should spend 50,000 hours playing it.

Once you've made twenty games, it might be worth people spending their time playing the best one of those games.

About 1 in 300 games gets published (by someone other than its designer.) This keeps the quality relatively high.

Is your game really that one game?

I've made roughly 35 games, and put significant work and thought into many of them. One or two at most, are that one game.

Your goal for your entire board game design career should be to get one of your games published. That's an achievement. That will inevitably leave plenty of your cherished projects unpublished. That's normal.

It's likely you will never design a game worthy of publication. I almost didn't. This applies even if you're above average, and take it seriously. And this is just the bar for publication, not anything more.

Go to a publisher

If your game really is good enough for people to spend their money on, then it's good enough to be published by a proper publisher.

I've completed six games. Two found a publisher, and the other four were rejected by all publishers. Let me tell you something that I didn't understand or want to admit at the time: those publishers were right to reject those games. Those two games were worthy of publication, and the other four weren't.

If two or more publishers try your game and reject it, then your game simply isn't good enough. Put a whole lot of work into that game, or do something else. Don't just keep trying to get it published. It's not good enough!

My games

My games are the survivors, after I've killed so many of my games. I've put them through my own honest and exacting appraisal. I've subjected them to the criticism of my design buddies, and sought negative feedback from random teenagers on Tabletop Simulator. I've listened to people, and tried to give them a better gaming experience. A hard-nosed publisher likes my game more than so many others. They like it enough to risk real money on it. The company's artists have used their own skills to make great art, and the creative people have given the game a great new name and theme.

I design my games for others, and they're vastly better for it. It's a great challenge, and I'm now a successful game designer.

Because I'm not just aiming for borderline publishability, I scrap most of my own games. Some of the games I've scrapped are better than published games I've played at the board games club.

Someone I playtested with many months ago recently got back to me, and asked how my game was going. He said he liked the game. I told him I'd scrapped it.

Please spare us your trash.

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