Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Paid to Play: A Review

3:01 PM by Mike ·
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I wouldn't call myself a critic or anything like that, but I am enjoying reading about game design and how to attempt to make money with it. And I thought I'd share what I thought about Paid to Play by Keith A. Myers.

He offers a lot of helpful information. Some of it is just logical, but you don't really explicitly think about it. For example, he has a section about where a game comes from or The 3 Core Concepts. These include:
1) A Name or Phrase
2) A Theme or Story-Line
3) Game Play/Thought Process
For me anyway, I think I've had games come from each of these, but I never really thought, "Hey, I could turn that name into a game." Thoughts and ideas just kind of spring up and I attempt to grab them. I have consciously thought about, as LDS/Mormon themes are my focus, "That (theme or part of the Book of Mormon) would make a great setting for a game." But I don't think I've said to myself, "I've got to think of a new theme or story line from the Book of Mormon to start a new game." Again, I think it's just something that we do but don't explicitly know that we do it. Nonetheless, it's good to get it explicitly spelled out for us (for me anyway; I know it will help me in future game designs).

Overall, I can say that I took several things away from the book that I think will affect what I do in designing my games in the future. For example, the section about writing rules had a lot of good guidance, steps to take in the process of writing it all up and important things to keep in mind as you do it (like date each document file and don't delete previous versions). One thing he said he doesn't suggest is trying to write the rules document at an early stage of game development. I can see where he is coming from; there will probably be a lot of tweaks to the gameplay and rules as you continue to develop and playtest. I do think it a good idea to write up all your ideas and how the game plays from the beginning. This will really help flesh out ideas and it makes it easier to see if something will work, even before actually attempting it in a playtest. Many times I've had some, what I thought were really good ideas as to how the game would work, only to find, as we (my wife and I; I'm so glad and thankful she puts up with stuff like this) sat down to try it all out, that some of it didn't work. So, the initial step of writing it down and kind of working through it all helps with that. I guess you shouldn't attempt to write the whole rules document, but just how the game will work and what will happen.

He had quite a bit about connecting with publisher and getting your game in stores. This was probably the least beneficial part for me (but I'm an extreme case). I don't foresee myself publishing games as he suggests, but there were still valuable insights that he had to offer in that section of the book. I do think a lot of it will be valuable as I attempt to self-publish most of my stuff. For example, I think more about how the box will look that I eventually will use to package my game. The three Ps: Placement, Packaging, and Pricing will be important to keep in mind when I get to that point.

He also gave good information on how to get your game copyrighted to protect what is yours.

Lastly, here are a few one-liners I thought were good:
  • "No matter how your game is created, take time to come up with the best name possible."
  • "By drawing up a long-term, well-thought out financial plan and budge accordingly, you have a head start on moving forward with the best possible vision."
  • "As a closing note about self-publishing, I want to add, that while it may be an all-consuming job, it is in my opinion, the best industry there is. Every day, hopefully, you will go to work at a job that you truly love."
  • "I have had the most success with games that are innovative, combined with something familiar."
I enjoyed the book and know that I learned quite a bit from reading it.


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