A Week in the Life: Poisoning my Family at Easter

The game design work of a regular guy with a full time job and a family with 3 small kids who designs games in some of his spare time

  • April 10, 2021 10:53 AM

I want to spend time most weeks talking about my design work both as an encouraging example of how someone challenged for spare time can make progress on game designs, and to offer some incidental insights into how I view the design process that could be interesting or helpful. I intend this to show how I break down my process into digestible nuggets of work that can be done between my job, family, and other responsibilities.

So here's what I worked on the past couple of weeks.

I visited my parents over an extended Easter weekend and my brother who lives far away also came down with his family since we cancelled Christmas last year. My sister and her family were there too. That's 19 people in one house. 11 of those people were children younger than 10 years old. Maybe you can imagine how much game design work I was doing there. It wasn't none!

I used this opportunity to play Poisoners' Soirée with the adults in my family. This is a good group to test family style games with because we are like a real family. I've got a brother-in-law who is a software engineer who loves playing complex strategy board games, my sister who lives with that guy and likes games but none of the same games he does, my brother who hates games but will play one if I tell him it's going to take 20 minutes or less and won't be complicated, people worn out from wrangling children constantly who don't want to burn their brains during the only calm part of the day once the kids are in bed, and my dad who is retired and likes playful things but doesn't have much experience in board games other than what I've shown him. The perfect group to playtest a game about killing your husband in the Victorian era.

Knowing that I'd be held to a tight budget of half an hour including rules, playing the game, talking about the game, and random chit chat, I had prepared in advance the version of the game I wanted to play with. Everything went well. Of course some of my ideas were flops, but as a playtest it was good. I consider it a significant success because after the first play half the people stuck around to talk about ideas and what seemed to work or not, then volunteered to play another game. Including my brother who doesn't like games. This suggests that it's getting several things right.

Outside of the family weekend, I updated the spreadsheet that I had set up to create the cards for Culmination, and in doing so realized that I only set it up for one card type. I have one type of card for objects and another type of card for events. Since the object and event cards behave differently I want to make sure they are laid out differently. I planned out what I want the event cards to be, but I haven't yet created a template in nanDECK to generate the cards from a spreadsheet.

I feel good about several designs currently. I plan to attend a few conventions later this year, and given my lack of time I'm already trying to keep this schedule in mind. I need to have games in a pitchable state within the next few months including physical prototypes in hand and convention meetings scheduled. Many things rely on prior steps being completed, so I'm making efforts to prioritize work based on dependencies. I have a process that works for me, and I think I'll spend some time doing that this week, so you'll hear about it in more detail soon.