Sunday, January 11, 2009


While doing a spot of research I came across a website called Game Design Central. The owner of the company, Keith Meyer, has recently released a book entitled, Getting Paid to Play: The Business of Game Design, aimed at helping young designers break into the competitive board game industry. There was a brief excerpt; suggestions for the five things newby designers should avoid saying when drafting introductory emails and cover letters or making telephone contact with game companies. Being nosy, I had to click through to that page. By the time I got to number one of Keith's five phrases I was roaring with laughter. If you take out the industry specific details they were some of the pet peeves literary agents and editors talk about all the time.

With Keith Meyer’s kind approval, here is his list of ‘The 5 Phrases You Should Never Use’, with my comments after each...

5. “This game will be the next Monopoly”

For the writing industry take out Monopoly, put in ‘Twilight’, ‘Outlander’, ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’ or any other best-selling book title of your choice. And, according to Keith, because of Monopoly’s scope, this claim is even bigger...more along the lines of ‘Lord of the Rings’ along with its entire franchise, and ‘The Hobbit’ thrown in for good measure. You’re more likely to be struck by lightning than have that kind of hit.

4. “This game will sell (or make us) millions”

Keith Meyer says in his notes this shows not only hubris but a decided lack of knowledge of the industry. The chances of everything in the universe being in just the right alignment for a board game to become a runaway best-seller of that magnitude are small and extremely hard (almost impossible) to predict. Sound familiar, writers???

3. How can I be sure you won’t steal my idea?

I’m not even going to comment on this, except—HAHAHAHA--which is what I said when I heard an agent say a writer had asked her the same thing!

2. My game is highly educational.

This, Keith explains, is not a bad thing to say, unless it is untrue. The players having to add the numbers on a pair of die and move the right number of spaces doesn’t mean it teaches math skills! This is analogous to claiming a book is spicy, inspirational, funny, erotic or any other number of descriptors, when it isn’t. Of course educational (which he defines as “working with current curriculum course plans”) is a great deal less subjective and easier to quantify, but research into the line or imprint you’re targeting will usually show what they are looking for. Trying to fit a manuscript (or a board game) into a niche it hasn’t a hope in hell of filling is just plain silly!

And, the number one phrase you shouldn’t use???

Wait for it...

1. “I’ve played it with all my friends and family, and they love it!”

(Anya falls off the couch laughing, unable to continue the post)

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