Step 2: How to stay Motivated


I like to credit my success to this acronym: MVP. Seems like any good “How To” Blog needs to have an acronym!

So what do you need to do in order to be an MVP?
You have to have
Motivation
Versatility
Persistence
This post is about Motivation.
First of all, what’s your motivation in making games? If you’re main motivation is to make money, then you are in the wrong line of business. I can’t count how many people respond to me telling them that I design board games by asking how much money I’m going to make.
I think everyone knows the Trivia Pursuit story by now, and ever since then everyone equates board game design with hitting the jackpot. Think of it in terms of authors. For every Stephen King and JK Rowling in the world, there are a million other authors who can’t scrape together a couple of nickels.
As a side note I’d like to say that we all do dream of a day where our side interests and hobbies can provide for us financially, but I’m just saying that it shouldn’t be your main motivation.
So what is your motivation? For me it’s the need to share my creations with the world; to spread joy and entertainment to as many people as possible! Ah so selfless!
That’s the first aspect of Motivation. The second is: how do you stay motivated? It gets challenging some times, especially after a poor play test, to go back to the drawing board and make yet another prototype.
My main motivation is my partner, Sen. We’ve been gaming buddies forever and like many of you, decided we could make our own games. At the time we were living quite close to each other and it was easy to meet up to work on our game. We had an idea of making a tile laying game that also had movement, similar to Drakon. We wanted to make a game about finding treasure using treasure maps, but we wanted the treasure hidden in a different location every time you played.
We did probably what happens to most people: we came up with a super rough prototype and played it a few times, but came up with some hitches that we couldn’t solve and soon lost interest.
Fast forward a couple years and I move half way across the country due to my job. A few months later and my buddy Sen comes out for a visit and we decide we should give this game design thing another shot. Trouble is, now we don’t live down the street from each other. What to do, what to do?
We decided to start using a forum. We had a friend set one up for us and we were off to the races. This forum allowed us not only to communicate to each other across the country but also keep track of our thoughts on a variety of games.
That was one thing that kept us motivated. The other was the fact that we worked on dozens of ideas at the same time. We have one section of our forum that is called “Brain Farts” and it allows us to jot down any random idea we have that would be interesting in a game. If one of these ideas intrigues both of us then we keep writing more and more about it until it gets promoted to it’s own separate thread.
This way if our interest starts to wane on any specific game or topic then we can easily move onto another game.
I met a fellow designer who was getting bummed out on his one board game design and he asked me for some advice. I said why not shelve it for awhile and work on some other games, just to keep your interest running high. He indicated that this was his one idea – his one chance to make a lot of money. I told him that I didn’t have any more advice for him.
So having the right motivation is important but finding a way to stay motivated is also important. Let’s assume you’re in this for the right reasons (whatever reasons they are), now you just have to find a way (or ways) to keep yourself motivated.
How do you stay motivated when designing board games?
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14 thoughts on “Step 2: How to stay Motivated

  1. Have you guys experimented with Google Wave as a replacement for your design forum? It’s a nice blend between discussion and collaboration. It’s particularly good at highlighting what your collaborators have changed since you last visited a wave. It’s also got a bunch of extensions that plug into it.

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    • Seems like it would be cool. I remember watching a video about Wave when it was coming out and was very impressed. I guess since we’ve been doing this for 5 years now – we have a lot of information invested in our forum, so it seems like it would be hard to lose all that. I would love to have a reason to test out the Wave though…hmmm….

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  4. I guess for me, staying motivated means constantly cycling through ideas. Only work on what you’re interested in at the time. Eventually you’ll come across something fun enough to catch your attention for a long period of time.

    I’ve made a dozen or more completely different game prototypes and I was lucky enough to finally stumble upon ONE that didn’t fail in playtesting (to different degrees, of course). I eventually lost interest in all the broken games (even if through more work they eventually may have succeeded), but that interest has shifted towards this working game.

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    • Good to hear! Hopefully, we’ll get to see and actually play your games in the future! Don’t let set backs like prototype failure keep you from realizing your dreams. Use them as learning experiences and springboards for bigger and better things. Take what works or what you liked from them and discard everything that didn’t – the nugget that you find beneath all the dirt may just end up being pure gold!

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  5. I stay motivated mostly because I’m passionate. I think having a passion for something can be the best motivation out there, and it’s not easy to come by (let me tell you about the 100 hobbies I tried before I got into boardgaming, and now game making.)

    I really like this article because it gives me hope. It shows me that I’m kind of on the right track. I’m not in it for the money. I don’t have a single idea that I can’t get away from (Actually, I often find myself jotting down several new ideas at once.)

    I have to say, though, when I come up with a new idea for one of the games I’m working on, it’s so exciting for me!

    I’m not at the stage where I can start playtesting yet, but I’m getting there. Saving a little money for components to make a really basic prototype and all.

    Anyway, thank you for writing this series, I really love it!

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    • @Carl Frodge: I know you posted your comment over a year ago, but someone reading may find this helpful.

      About Prototyping: You don’t need very much money to start prototyping. With the current game I’m working on, I brainstormed for a couple days on the major game mechanics and how I thought the game should generally work. On the third day, I made a prototype out of dollar store poker cards that I wrote on with a Sharpie (cost $1). As the game mechanics progressed, I switched to index cards so I could better customize the shape of the cards (cost $2).

      That was with a card game.

      With a board game I worked on, it was still similar in costs. I used my printer to print out the board surface, cut it up so it would fit together (two 8.5×11 sheets with the print margins cut off), then glued them to cardboard. I then used pennies as game pieces and dice from another game (Yahtzee, I believe).

      Even if I combined the cost of materials above from both games, bought brand new, they would still be under $5. I mostly used materials I had around the house. These are called low fidelity prototypes. Because they take little to no money to make they can be thrown away without you feeling much remorse.

      The point is: If you’ve got an idea, make a prototype. It doesn’t have to be fancy; you just need something to help you figure things out.

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  6. Awesome – thanks for reading Carl! We’ve really enjoyed the process of getting a game published – and recounting it here on this blog! Good luck to you in staying motivated throughout your game designing!!!

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  8. To stay motivated I gamified my game desing process. I get small points for the work I do every day (also for reading your articles) and then I can spend them on small prices (board games, of course).

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