Prologue V – Our first BIG mistake

In the last post I mentioned our first success, which was coming to an agreement about a game that we could both be excited about.  This truly was a success because to get excited about a project means you’re going to be invested in it, and having a partnership requires equal amounts of excitement.  So my next posts are going to focus on mistakes we made at the beginning of this journey.

It’s important to remember that both Ket and I were brand new to this whole process, so some smaller mistakes at the beginning were bound to happen that could easily be identified and either fixed or passed over because they weren’t anything to worry about.  Ketner had developed a rather complex game several years before, but our focus to start out with was to be as simple as possible.  The more simple it is the easier it will be to develop, and easier for people to want to play it.  If we make a game that is overly complex then we could exclude a larger portion of the public.  This has merit in itself in that if you are truly trying to create something for the masses then make it simple for everyone to use.  The problem with this is that Kickstarter and the game board industry isn’t really the masses.  Even though the board game community is massive, really really massive, it’s still a niche group.  We simply thought, “Go simple,” and that was that.  What happened instead was we ended up making a game where the rules were, for lack of a better word, childish.  We all remember growing up, playing children’s board games.  They were simple, get your token from the “Start” to the “Finish”.  Whether it was Candyland, or Sorry, or any number of other games, this was the relative standard upon which we all first learned how to play.  Without truly realizing what we had done we made in essence a children’s game.  The object would be to get your elderly person to the Cafeteria, and along the way you’d count your steps (it took 21 steps to reach your goal) and then attack other opponents or boost yourself along the way.  Cards were played with different dice results for each card, and we thought how clever we were coming up with the different results.  Keep in mind, the game we originally made was indeed fun!  It really was.  It was simple, not complex, and we enjoyed playing it.  Do you see the problem?  WE enjoyed playing it.

Why didn’t we do more play-testing?  Why didn’t we bounce ideas off people online?  There certainly are a lot of places we could have gone to get some validation for our gameplay ideas, so why didn’t we do it?  The answer to these questions simply is this, we chose to be naive.  We decided that we had a good idea.  We decided to use each other as our sounding board.  We decided that the game was going to be great and therefore we decided not to use all the tools available to us to find objective critical assessments on what we were doing, whether online or in person, especially when we had so many friends and family members saying, “great idea!”.  So the point is that we weren’t refusing critical opinions, we just thought we had been critical already when in fact we hadn’t.

Now, before anyone thinks too harshly about us please keep in mind a few things that led to this, and if you find yourself in the same type of situation how to avoid it.  The first thing that led to our naivety was that I was in Columbus and Ket was in Chicago.  I was still working full-time, and Ket was in the middle of moving and starting a new job.  What time we had, and we had little, we did our best to work on the game and to begin the foundation of other areas that would be needed, such as research on shipping, etc.  We were naive because it never donned on us to ask tough questions about our game because we were so excited, and because we only really got to talk once a week, so being critical about what we were making simply didn’t register once the ball started rolling.

This was a hard lesson, and yet so obvious when I look back on those early days.  Having a goal is great, having vision, purpose, and especially having someone along with you who feels the same way as you do will make it that much harder for you to be critical about yourself and what you’re doing.  As I move forward and come up with new ideas for games, games that I want to play, I keep stopping and asking if anyone else would want to play it.  Before I begin to go full steam on a new game I know that I have to find out what’s good about my idea and what’s bad about it.  Some people reading this will say, “Well… duh”.  I’d love to have a pithy comeback, and defend myself, but in all honesty I have to agree.  This is probably the most important lesson for anyone starting a project, and it doesn’t really matter how busy you are, how much time you get to spend on what you’re doing, or whatever excuse you can come up with.  If you find yourself hitting the ‘Launch’ button and you haven’t 100% confirmed that you’ve made something that others are going to enjoy, and I mean really enjoy, then don’t be shocked at the results.

Moving forward in a project is a lesson in itself.  You’re going to find so many things that you either don’t know or that you think you know only to find out later how wrong you were.  That’s okay.  You don’t have to be an expert in every single area that you’re going to have to address, but the simplest thing to find out is really the most critical, is your idea any good.  Being naive isn’t an excuse.  There are too many tools, and honestly, there are too many people out there who are truly willing to give you good advice, telling you the pros and cons of your idea.  Find these people and listen.  I belong to a group on Facebook called Board Game Reivewers, and I can’t stress how great this group is.  They’re kind, considerate, and willing to give honest feedback.  Find people like this for whatever project you’re doing, it will save you a ton of headache later on.  Also, after reading this post you can’t say you’re naive anymore.  I just wish I didn’t have to be the one to teach you that.

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