GGJ 2020 Impressions

End of Februari the international Global Game Jam was once again organised: teams make a game in 1 weekend, inspired by a theme. This time the theme was ‘repair’.

In Groningen this was the 5th time the event was organised. 180 participants showed up and made games. I had the honour to be one of the ‘judges’ to walk around on Sunday and offer feedback. Teams could sign up for 1 category to be reviewed in. I looked at the game design (a very broad category) and luckily had still some extra time to play the games of others. It was great to see how many games were created. And cool to see many alumni students again.

The prizes created by Ornate Design are an eye-catcher. Big shout out to the organisation, sponsors and the many volunteers that made this possible. Well done, game on!

A new initiative: Dutch Tabletop Game Designer Award

In our goal to stimulate the local tabletop design scene there is a new initiative under the rallying banner that is the ‘Spellenmaakgilde’ (Dutch Game Design Guild). Dennis Merkx, a few designer initiated this and together with Jeroen Geenen and Ellis Hendriksen we kicked off the first annual Dutch Tabletop Game Designer Award.

The goal is to stimulate (new) designers and put a spotlight on the fact that games have an author. We will iterate the process and see how to improve/expand it, but so far I think we are off to a good start.

Here you can read more about the initiative (in Dutch).

SpelAuteur Prijs NL

Looking Back: Test & Chill – December 2019

At our study CMD at the Hanze Applied University we held another playtesting event. With around 50 participants multiple student projects were experienced by guests, lecturers and fellow students. In addition, several companies came over for user testing and showcasing, including the academic hospital UCMG with their LEAN game, the big governmental organisation DUO with their app for students and Big Bang Studio with their mobile game. Plus we had some guests over from Tokyo, Japan and Ohio, USA that could check out the prototypes.

Day Jam November Impressions

Once again a few students took up the challenge to develop a game with a preset theme within 24 ours. Design muscles were flexed, custom art was made, the 3D printer set in motion and the lazer cutter burned wood. In the end, with various amount of night time playtesting, 3 games reached the finish line and were played by everyone. Feedback to improve the concept was offered and some games as prizes to all teams. Nice work!

Looking back: Test & Chill October 2019

Just before the student Autumn break we had another edition of the playtesting event ‘Test & Chill’, co-organised with the student association Glitch. With around 80 participants -from all study years- we had a great turn up! It meant year 1 card game concepts were played, as were digital games. Check out the pictures below (made by Vasil and me).

Next block we will have 1 or 2 more playtesting events. And before that, to get your design juices flowing, we will have a ‘Day Jam’ on 14 and 15 November. Make a game in 24 hours!

Monster Problems: Co-creating a ‘serious’ game

Spring 2019 I was contacted by the municipality of Groningen. Their Kids Council is involved with serious topics and currently they had discussed poverty for kids and their families. They wanted to make a game out of it. Could I help? Together with a co-designer I asked to join, Robert Brouwer, we set out with the group to see what the topic is, what kind of game we could create and what design restrictions there are.

The result is a ‘serious’ card game for age 8 and older, in which players learn about problems caused by poverty and potential solutions for such situations. This is done by seeing text one side of the cards, the other side shows monster heads (problems) and limbs (solutions) that can be combined if they are of the appropriate color (type). The design challenge was to make use of all the information the Council had gathered and have the game be playable by kids without a parent, teacher or other supervisor to direct them or teach.

This was a co-creation production with fellow designer Robert Brouwer, the municipality of Groningen and their Kids Council. Drawings were made by the Kids Council, under art direction of Robert. Graphic design and art implementation done by Marco Westerkamp, who really enhanced the looks of it! The game will be distributed to primary schools in the city.

It was a blast to do and we are proud on the results!

 

News bulletin of the Municipality on the project during development:

Raad van Kinderen bedenkt armoede-monsterspel | Gemeente Groningen

Göttingen Game Designer Convention 2019 Impressions

In the first weekend of July once again the yearly game designer convention was organised in Göttingen. The SAZ has taken on the organisation and the location changed to the Lokhalle. Together with a fellow designer and a game illustrator we participated on Saturday. Time to look back (for more tips and tricks see this blog on a visit 2 years ago).

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Some rough numbers: around 160 designers were present and around 80 publisher representatives. Some publishers were represented by 3 or more, while other publishers had 1 scout that stalked the hall. There were also agents, who scout for prototypes they then pitch to publishers all around the world. It was a very productive event for us, getting interest in many of the prototypes we brought.

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Some personal impressions:

  • We talked to publishers and agents from Germany (most were), Switzerland, Austria, Lithuania, Belgium and Russia.
  • The SAZ indicates who will be there (some companies were not mentioned but still were present). Emailing those companies in advance helped with making appointments. I was a bit late (1 week in advance), and should have done it sooner. Luckily, compared to big conventions like Spiel Essen, it was still possible to make some appointments. Publisher have a full focus on meeting (new) designers at this event.
  • Making sell-sheets, to pitch concept(s) works really well. These can be used to place on your table, hang on the pin-board and put into publishers’s folders they will look into. This year I made them just before the weekend and not emailed them
  • Sunday is relatively less busy with publishers and this year we decided to be only present on Saturday. That did feel a bit short and rushed. Sometimes it was asked whether we would be there Sunday as well, to play a concept or talk more. For next time, I will consider going the full weekend again.
  • When being present on Sunday: the event is then open for the public and they might love to play your game. People enjoying your game is great advertisement, but do keep check if publisher would also like to talk to you.
  • I brought 2 published games that are available for sub-licensing outside the Netherlands. While most publisher look for new concepts I did get some interest in these and could then introduce them to the original publishers.
  • Another Dutch designer could not join, but send me demo-copies of his kickstarted game (Rollecate). 5 publishers were interested in checking it out and accepted a copy to take away. Whether this results in anything we will have to see, but this does seem to work to a degree.
  • Going as a team makes it much more fun. We had experienced this prior and is true still. And we could help each other out with playing a demo and by referring publishers to each other.
  • Some designers had a prototype in a rough state, not much playtested or developed yet. They got useful feedback but I heard one publisher also say they were being polite and not see these talks as useful for them. Seeing how making games takes a lot of effort and time I get that. It is stating the obvious perhaps, but do playtest and bring fleshed-out games. They certainly do not have to be finished, however. Some concept I brought I could indicate what still needs to be done (or how to improve it). There should be a good core of a game that can be assessed.
  • Note to self: make better conversation notes. After 15 talks some scribbled down key words is not ideal to remember what has been discussed and what follow-up has been agreed upon (extra nice: a spreadsheet with names, contacts, summary of talks and what actions you need to to next).

In short: preparation and representation will lead to better meetings!

 

Based on our experiences this is a really good event to pitch and to network. Once you have established a lot of contacts with publishers it might be less needed to go there. However even ‘big names’ are there to pitch (Friedemann Friese, Michael Kiesling). That is actually what makes this event more special: first time designers and veterans are there, all passionate about games and their newest concepts.

This was our 3rd visit and we each brought more different concepts and improved our preparation. In the end all our prototypes got some publisher interest, actually. Of course, the path from interest to publication is perilous, so we’ll see what comes out of it. It is encouraging for sure.

Game on!

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