Last September, I got an email from Tim Ferris telling me about his upcoming book, Tribe of Mentors. I was impressed by the amazing cast of people Tim was able to bring together for the book. It was a who’s who of actors, entrepreneurs, leaders, and high profile people from all walks of life who were dispensing wisdom on tons of different life topics.
And as I read Tim’s email, I remember thinking, “I wish someone would write a book like that for game designers.”
Then, I thought, “Maybe I could write that kind of book for game designers…”
His book’s premise was basically that it would be amazing if these incredible people could mentor us and help guide us through life. But since they can’t, here’s their best advice.
So, I figured I could take the same approach except instead of life in general, I could just focus on board game design. It’s unlikely that we’ll ever be mentored by the greatest game designers in the industry, but what if we could at least read the best advice and wisdom they have?
I slept on the idea, and the next morning I drafted 12 questions that I wanted to ask the best game designers in the world. The questions needed to be deep enough so that a one word answer wouldn’t suffice but simple enough so that people would actually take the time to answer them.
Here are the questions I came up with:
- What is the game (or games) you’ve recommended most to fledgling game designers, and why?
- What purchase of $50 or less has most positively impacted your game designing in the last year? This could be a tool, a book, an app, etc.
- How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favorite failure” of yours?
- How do you know when to walk away from a design or at least put it on the shelf for a while?
- What do you do to get in the designing mindset? Do you have a ritual or certain process for getting into the “zone?”
- What would you tell a designer that just experienced a really discouraging session of playtesting?
- In the last three years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your game design skills?
- If a friend of yours is about to sit down to pitch a game to a publisher, what are some tips you would tell him or her?
- What advice would you give to a smart, driven, fledgling game designer just now getting into game design? What advice should they ignore?
- When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do? (If helpful: What questions do you ask yourself?)
- What do you wish someone had told you before you got into designing board games?
- What’s one of your core philosophies in terms of how you live your life, and how is it manifested in your game design?
I felt like these questions hit on pretty much everything I wanted to learn and provided enough depth that I would get very different answers from each different person.
Then, I started reaching out to designers. First, I contacted the best designers who had already come on the podcast. They already knew me, so it wasn’t a hard sell.
After that, I went through the highest rated games on Board Game Geek and contacted every single designer in the top 100. All in, I contacted 110 designers, and more than 60 responded to the questions.
I asked them to answer their favorite 3-5, but most answered far more than that, and I was blown away by the awesome insight and advice that they shared.
Since then it’s been a matter of compiling all the responses and turning the whole thing into an actual book.
I’ve learned a ton from what the designers had to say, and I think you’ll get a lot from it as well.