Something new and exciting has been happening in the boardgame industry that could potentially shape the landscape of how creatives will connect for the better. I, Keith D. Franks III, a creator in the industry, was super interested in this when I first heard it announced, and have enjoyed my use of it so far (I’ll post more about that at the bottom). But for now, I was lucky enough to get Co-Creator Jamie Noble Frier into an interview to ask a few questions about what this new site is all about.
Jamie: Hi Keith, thanks for talking to me today. I’m pleased you’ve heard about DoodleMeeple! We’ve been getting some great attention since we launched two weeks ago. It’s really exciting to see something that’s been in my brain for the past five years or so, and in development since January this year, to now get out to the people who can make the most of it.
Keith: So first thing, I’m curious what inspired the creation of DoodleMeeple?
Jamie: I’ve been a commercial artist for ten years. I’ve worked as a digital artist in fantasy fiction publishing to corporate stuff to video games, and in the last seven years, board games. I’ve been in a great position to compare the industries, and the toughest one to find consistent work in was the board game industry. It’s strange, because it’s a really tight community at its nucleus, but it’s growing, and quickly. The thing is, the industry infrastructure hasn’t really kept up with its own growth. Kickstarter has enabled loads of amateur publishers to produce professional quality games, by crowd-funding their production, but finding the people to help bring board games into production has remained really difficult.
Where I was finding work as a book cover illustrator through easy to use dedicated collaboration sites, and the world of video game HR is HUGE (I still get calls about video game jobs now even though I’ve been on the analogue side of things for seven years…), the board game industry still networks through word-of-mouth, archaic forums, or Facebook groups. It’s a lot of juggling to find work, and as a commercial artist, you want someone to just feed you work, and not spend half of your time blanket applying to job posts across a million different websites.
I felt there needed to be a dedicated board game hub where you could post a profile that said, “hey I’m available for work”, and interested parties could contact you.
My feelings were reinforced when in 2018, I published my own board game, Hero Master: An Epic Game of Epic Fails. I found when I needed help with services, I couldn’t find the right people. Despite having a huge network from seven years of working on other people’s games, there were roles that just seem to elude me. I ended up doing the vast majority of the game’s design, illustration, production and marketing alone, which ended up taking five years to produce. I knew to begin releasing games and staying relevant as a publisher, I couldn’t just produce a game every five years.
So I turned my attention from making my own games, to helping other people with their projects. I created a company with a fantastic web developer, Tim Simms, who has built DoodleMeeple from scratch, to allow extensive portfolio profiles, contracts, milestone payments, personal messages on the platform. It just creates a much more personal, streamlined process of finding collaborators to help produce your board game.
Keith: Well then why does the tabletop industry need an industry specific skill finding website?
Jamie: It’s a great question! Love it! There are many board game roles that function outside of board games. We host everything from artists and creative writers, to game developers to hone your design, rules editors, and proof readers to make sure it’s easy to learn, right through to marketers and social media managers to help you get your game to the right audience to make it a financial success.
A great example would be that a graphic designer in board games has a very different skillset to those working in corporate design. Graphic design in board games helps a player learn a game with the way the cards or manual, etc are laid out. Finding a generic graphic designer, without the knowledge on how players process information could set yourself up for a poor reception.
Board Game artists know how to submit files with bleeds, appreciate the need to add icons/logos etc to card art so can work within the space confines needed which works for the game.
Similarly, hiring a corporate marketer for board games is a different kettle of fish to hiring someone who has experience in the board game industry and community.
Up until the launch of DoodleMeeple, finding people who ticked the boxes of: Industry experience, who weren’t currently unable to take on work, and would respond to your requests was a real laborious task. You had to trawl non-specific portfolio websites, and vet irrelevant applications to forum posts you may have made, if they actually even got any notice.
We’ve created a platform that just allows great personal interactions to blossom, where everyone starts on the same page.
Keith: Here’s one I’m sure people are thinking already: How do you intend to help artists get paid a fair rate?
Jamie: Another question I love! But it’s important to note, we’re not just working with artists, we’re helping to connect projects to all roles in the board game industry. From the creative side like miniature sculpting and creative writing, to the technical rules and design side and finally onto the marketing and community building side.
To answer your question, one of my favourite features of DoodleMeeple is the process in which our users collaborate.
A Creator (a game publisher looking for help) will build a brief, then select up to five Creatives (professionals for hire) to quote on it for them. We’ve moved well away from the enormous soulless job post boards I got sick of fruitlessly applying to with generic applications. This gives a much more personal interaction.
The Creator doesn’t end up with an inbox of irrelevant applications to filter. While the Creatives are able to produce better quality, personal quotes, because they know they are shortlisted for a project. This in turn stops undercutting by lesser skilled Creatives, because the Creator has approached a calibre of Creative she or he is happy to work with.
We also vet our Creative pool, so Creatives who don’t offer value for money (which is more likely to be those who undercut and perform badly to keep up with the workflow), will lose visibility on the site, or be removed entirely.
We keep everything on site, it’s important for the security of our contracts that our users communicate where we can log it all, but as we are able to monitor those projects we can help guide people where necessary.
Keith: Then how do you intend to ensure that artists get paid for the work that they do?
Jamie: DoodleMeeple works with the secure payment provider Stripe (you’ve probably heard of them as most Kickstarter projects use Stripe), to hold the payments for the projects while it is in progress.
Creators and Creatives can agree on milestones payments prior to a contract, and when these are complete, the agreed portion will be released to the Creative. The Creative doesn’t have to worry that the money doesn’t exist, as we already hold it. They are notified at all times what the status of the payments are, so it’s easy to track.
As a commission based service, we wouldn’t be able to function as a business if we didn’t ensure our Creatives we’re being paid. Similarly we wouldn’t have any Creator clients if we didn’t look after their money properly. So that’s why we partnered with Stripe for security and simplicity.
Keith: How do you think a site like DoodleMeeple will help connect industry people from non-American countries with the boardgame capital: America?
I don’t think that’s a problem! DoodleMeeple is a UK based company and as a UK based board game artist, I rarely actually work with people in my home country. Most of my clients are US based (which illustrates your point about the US market share), and quite a few in Australia, but there’s never been an issue. It surprises me when a Creator is looking for a local Creative, because all the tools we have now mean you really don’t have to meet in person. It’s only become more apparent with the pandemic that we do most of our business online these days.
At DoodleMeeple we welcome folks from the entire world, and do our best to accommodate our board game community from every background. We’re actually working on an alternative way of paying our Creatives from some nations that aren’t able to use Stripe, such as Chile and Ukraine.
Thanks so much for talking to us! I hope you’ll come and check us out, you can make a free account at https://bit.ly/DoodleMeepleATTG
And so, here’s my brief foray into investigating DoodleMeeple for myself.
The setup process was super painless, but like any dating site you’re prompted to make an account before you can have a browse through the talent within. Filling out the profile with the prompts and specific categories is a breeze, and comes together quite nicely when it’s completed.
Each skill you add to your profile, or that you’re searching through is neatly categorized specific to exactly what you could need as a person in the boardgame industry. The only downside however, is at the moment, you are limited in how many you can list for yourself, so a mega awesome talented super star like myself has to pick which boxes I want to squeeze into the most. For now.
As I already had a stripe account, connecting payments to DoodleMeeple to be ready to go was a one-click process. When my next project is seeking an illustrator, or I can finally replace myself as my head graphic designer, DoodleMeeple will be the place that I look. I’m very excited to see what this site does for the industry going forward.
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