Why Game Design? Why Now?

rjcurrie Game Design

If you look at the picture at the top of this page, you can tell that I’m no spring chicken. So why am I just now tackling board and card game design? In fact, why am I tackling it at all?

In October 2014, I was restructured out of my job as a technical writer after 23.5 years. Fortunately, between my severance package, a recent inheritance, and my savings, I could take time to think abut what I wanted to do next. And to be honest, it didn’t take long at all, I wanted to work in the game industry. I have always hovered on the fringes of that community thanks to friends that I have made as a convention GM over the past 20 years. And after so many years of documenting software, it was time for something different and a little more creative.

So I started to read some books, surf some web sites, and generally tried to learn what I could about design, but it was not until I started to try to actually design games that it all started to make sense to me. So, here I am a year later with my game Word Nerds entering blind playtesting as I decide whether to pitch it to publishers or delve into the scary world of self-publishing. I also have a notebook full of game ideas, some of which I have thought a lot more about than others and you can see that this site has categories set aside for a couple of those: Supply Sergeant and Fiction Impossible: The Game of Literary Chaos where I plan to write about those games as I work on them.

As for this category, it will be home to my thoughts and ideas concerning game design in general and the life of a game designer.

What is Word Nerds?

rjcurrie Word Nerds

For the past several months, I have been working on my very first game design ,Word Nerds. Word Nerds is a word game that features strategic elements. The idea is to actually have to make meaningful decisions as you try to form high scoring words.

Elements that encourage this are:

  • Card auctions where players bid to determine in what order they select letter cards from the available face up cards.
  • Action cards that let you affect hand contents, word values, bids, and more.
  • The ability to trump other players’ words with your own higher scoring words.

Word Nerds, as it exists today, is a very different game than when I started out. It is a much better game.  And that’s primarily because of playtesters.  My playtesters not only pointed out problems in the design but also gave me ideas on how to fix it.  Or at the very least, their comments led me down a path to the fix. And as I continue to test the game, I’m sure that playtesters will continue to both pinpoint problems and suggest solutions.

That’s enough for now. I just wanted to give you all a sense of what Word Nerds was about.  In future posts, I’ll talk about how my blind playtest is going, talk about the physical prototypes for that playtest, look back at how the game got to where it is today, discuss my thoughts on whether to sell it to a publisher or to publish it myself, and so on.

Hire Me As a Writer

rjcurrie Writing

Hi. I’d like you to hire me to write for you. With over 20 years of experience as a technical writer in the computer software industry, I’ve learned how to express ideas clearly and concisely. While I am more than willing to work in the software field again, I’d really like to explore writing for the gaming industry. While I have only written a few gaming-related pieces, as a regular convention GM at major conventions like Origins and Gen Con, I have been on the fringes of the community for many years and have a number of friends who work in the industry. So I want to join in the fun. Be it a contribution to a role-playing game or a board game, I’m more than up for the challenge.

Writing Samples

Playing the Con Game: Life as a Convention GM — an article from the HERO Games PDF Magazine, Digital HERO, that details how I put together and run my primary convention event.

HERO Designer Manual — the user manual for the HERO Games character generation software.

Word Nerds rulebook — the current version of the rules for my game Word Nerds.

Samples of my software technical writing are available upon request.

The Value of Playtesters

rjcurrie Conventions, Game Design

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned in my short “career” as a game designer, it’s the importance of playtesting.  And a very good source of playtesters is gaming conventions. You just can’t beat players who show up to deliberately test games.

I playtested Word Nerds at both Gen Con’s First Exposure Playtest Hall and the Metatopia Game Design Festival (both run by my friends at Double Exposure). I recommend both events highly if you’re a designer or just someone who likes to play games and would like a chance to contribute to games under development.  Although, I have yet to attend one,  I’ve also heard good things about the various Protospiel events which are also dedicated to designers playtesting their games. Attending events like this also give you a chance to playtest other designer’s games. And that can be invaluable as analyzing other people’s designs can give you new insight into your own.

Playtests can be enlightening, frustrating, and ego-boosting. Enlightening playtests are those where you get a player or players who can clearly articulate problems with your game and, if you’re lucky, offer solutions for those problems. Frustrating playtests are those where the game is not going well and nobody seems to be able to put their finger on it. And finally, ego-boosting playtests are the ones where everything goes great and players want to know when they can buy the game. And for a really big ego boost, you can get one player, a known harsh critic, giving you words of praise while another offers her player group for more playtesting, and a third wants to play your game again later in the convention. In any event, every playtest tells you something about your game.  You just need to pay attention.

Word Nerds Blind Playtest

rjcurrie News, Word Nerds

I am now entering blind playtesting on Word Nerds and in addition to physical prototypes of the game, I have decided to make a print and play version available as well for playtesting.

What is a blind playtest? It’s a playtest where the players learn and play the game solely from the rulebook. It’s great, not only for making sure that the rulebook is in good shape, but also for fine tuning the game.

What is print and play? Print and play versions of games that you can print out on your own printer and play. More information about print and play games can be found here.

Below is a summary of the contents of the print and play version along with a button for downloading it. Following that is a feedback forum that anyone who has playtested  Word Nerds can use to let me know how your playtest sessions went and what you think of the game.

Note: The Word Nerds blind playtest is over. The print and play version that was attached here is no longer available. It was a very old version. Future posts should clarify the current state of this game.