So you want to be a board game designer, but you’re not sure about your first step? Unlike with video games, you can’t just go to university and pick a course that teaches you all about balance, mechanics, programming and design. You could, of course, go to Swinburne and study Games and Interactivity, a three year major, where you will design a board game as part of your portfolio. This is one aspect where the community has filled that need.
The Game Lab Incubator Group is a regular meeting of board game designers, graphic designers, manufacturers and hobbyists who all share the desire to build the indie board game industry in Australia.
Games Laboratory is a dice and card store in the Melbourne CBD. The founders of the Games Lab Incubator group saw that the indie scene in Australia didn’t have any resources for learning game design, collaborating with graphic designers or meeting representatives from manufacturing companies.
The members of the Games Lab Incubator group are many and diverse. If you are in need of a place to talk about mechanics in an open friendly environment with other designers who have successfully published games independently of large publishers, like Al Caynes who successfully kickstarted his game El Luchador Fantastico Grande earlier this year, there is a Facebook group full of helpful people and discussions for browsing. The social media group is also used for organising the regular meetups of the group.
This last Friday was another of the Games Lab Incubator testing days. Designers with games at varying levels of completion bring along their projects and people test them, provide feedback and discuss elements of the games that need improving or updating. Games can range from a simple game with tiles where the players attempt to make blocks of chocolate to large complex dice and card games like Spy: Goonz, a game about the goons working of an evil genius trying to complete his projects to take over or destroy the world. Even if you aren’t a designer with a nearly finished project and you’re just interested in the hobby, like me, you’re welcome to come along to play some fun games and meet awesome people.
Aaron Lim, one of the group’s organisers, is acutely aware of the needs of game designers. When an idea for a game first enters the mind of a game designer they aren’t thinking of the production of the game. This, however, is something that should be at the forefront of any designers mind when planning a game. From the shape of tiles to the number of dice, designers must be considering how their game will be made, packaged and distributed. This is something that those with no experience would probably not considered, but it must be taken into account. On August 13 Aaron organised to have the sales director of LangPack, Ning Pan, come along to the Alchemist’s Refuge to have a sit down meeting with anyone who wanted to talk with him. LongPack is a manufacturer that is just getting into the production of everything a board game will need. They are equipped or can outsource the manufacturing of cards, boxes, boards, dice, figures and tiles. Sitting down with Aaron, Ning and others from the group to discuss all these elements was immensely educational and I had not considered a lot of what was said.
Games Lab Incubator isn’t the only group of this nature around Melbourne. There’s the Game Evolution Days at Gatekeeper Games in Fitzroy. If you are looking for events and groups like this, ask your local game store if there are any. If there are not, start one. Work with your game store to organise an event where people can come to play games and discuss mechanics. Invite local indie game developers and ask them to bring along their projects. Ask your local store to put out the call on their social media pages to find any up and coming developers and graphic designers. Use the Australia wide game designers Facebook groups like Tabletop Game Designers Australia. You will be amazed with the people you will meet as well as how welcoming the community can be.