Gatekeepers and Control

Remember the example earlier in this site, with the room of 100 designers, from which maybe one game would be published?

Twenty of those guys are going to Kickstarter, because they all know their game is the one that should have been published.


One of the reasons people go to Kickstarter is that it allows them to have complete control over their game, from rules to artwork. People like this. Many such designers are also resistant to feedback from me, and from other designers.

Control also allows a designer to design what they want, free of constraints that a publisher would likely impose. Publishers won't want games with certain business models, excessive components, or themes that are overused, fringe, or distasteful.

Some designers view their game as a personal art project, or creative challenge, and it therefore can't be adulterated by someone else. Of course, the designer will then try to publish the game — usually via Kickstarter. These designers live in a perfect world, where they can naively design what's most enjoyable for them, and have it also happen to be exactly what players want!

Dodging the gatekeepers

Maintaining control is a fatal mistake. The designer believes they're defending their game against ill-conceived changes by a publisher. More likely, it's paranoia, and signals an unwillingness to accept input. The publisher likely knows what they're doing, and is proposing sensible changes.

Like a football player running through the enemy team's lines, carrying the ball, this designer dodges playtesters and publishers — everyone who could give them the vital information they need about their game — that it's bad, or flawed.

A publisher is a brutal gatekeeper, who will force you to make better games, by rejecting your games, until you make a game that really is good enough. You think your current design is such a game, but it isn't.


Kickstarter is a way for all kinds of kids to bypass the "you must be this tall to go on this ride" sign. They will fall off the ride and die, the same way that crap games will inevitably flop.

I've always been sceptical of buying games from Kickstarter. After playing so many unpublishable prototypes, and watching them go to Kickstarter, I'm now loath to even play an unproven game from Kickstarter.

I've seen a few good games come from Kickstarter, but I've seen vastly more mediocre and unpolished drek.

What if I'm really good?

But you're not really good.

I'm really good. Radlands has been a hit, and I have other signed projects. I could ask for more power, but a publisher already offered me complete control. That was a very good decision.

Even with this freedom, I don't just lock myself in a room, like Isaac Newton. I have a team of playtesters now, and their input is central to my work.

I didn't have control with Radlands. I had to work on an equal footing with an in-house developer. That was also a very good decision, because I wasn't good enough back then, and Roxley forced me to improve Radlands.

By the time you're in a position to ask for control, you won't need to. In the meantime, be happy to work with others.

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