Talking and Improving Knowledge

I've just had a big weekend.  On Sunday it was another Playtest UK meetup, which I'll write about later, but Saturday featured something special: the snappily titled, "Convention to talk about Board Game Design and improve our knowledge", which ended up on Twitter with the hashtag #BGDevCon.

This event took place thanks to the efforts of Bez Shahriari and Andy Yiangou, building largely on the Playtest UK network.  I didn't do a head count, but there were between 25 and 30 attendees, with a wide variety of backgrounds and skills, but all with the common interest of tabletop game design and development.  While many of the attendees meet at other times for playtesting sessions, the rule for the day was that there was to be no playing of prototypes until after the end of the scheduled programme.  We would just be talking and listening for the day.
I seem to do weird things with my hands when giving a talk.
Thanks to Matthew Dunstan for the pic.
The doors opened, and for the first hour or so there was an opportunity for chat, grabbing a drink and a biscuit, and to work through a "getting to know you" puzzle that Bez had prepared, which was an amusing little diversion to get us to find out snippets of trivia about each other in order to crack a code.  With that done, we assembled in the main meeting room and got into a series of 5 minute microtalks given by about half of the attendees.

Subjects for the microtalks varied widely.  I gave a very quick (and somewhat gabbled) look at nanDECK, the software I find very useful for creating prototype cards, but other folks were talking about things like Kickstarter (from a couple of different perspectives), graphic design in games and the way it seems to be underused, and experiences with pitching games to publishers.  One of the attendees, Matt Evans from Creaking Shelves, has already written up a good summary of the microtalks, though he misses out his own talk, which was very helpful advice on getting reviewers to look at your game.

The microtalks were, for me, the highlight of an excellent day, giving a good idea of the breadth of interests within the room.  The pace was really kept going, and the lack of time for questions on the talks worked very much in the meeting's favour, as the session was followed by lunch, which quickly burst into discussion as groups formed up to discuss the various subjects introduced during the morning.  I really hope that future events, if they happen, also use a microtalk session like this.

In the afternoon there were longer talks, with associated discussions: again, a couple on various aspects of Kickstarter, one on the past, present and future of Playtest UK, and one on some of the design decisions that led to the creation of the Really Rather Good game Waggledance.

We then split into a couple (or was it three?) of groups for smaller discussions.  The group I was in was led by psychologist Christian Nica, who presented some of his thoughts on how we can use psychological principles to examine the development of boardgames and challenged us to think about how we design games in the context of these ideas.  We didn't have enough time to fully explore this subject, but there was some really interesting chat about interaction, trust, uncertainty, skills, and more.  I would have been more than happy with another hour in this group.

Finally, the day was rounded off with some thoughts on the subject of collaborative game design from Matthew Dunstan, himself a serial collaborator, and an opportunity for us to discuss some ideas within the group to see if there were any potential teams in the room.  I wouldn't be surprised if one or two collaborations emerge from that session.

So this isn't really the most insightful write-up of an event, but hopefully I have managed to communicate my enthusiasm for the event.  This was the first time that I have really been able to talk shop with so many game designers (and others) or in such depth, and it felt good.  It also felt great that, as a relative newbie, I was still welcomed as a peer and my input listened to with as much respect as the seasoned, published designers in attendance.  There is a real sense of community at events like this, and it is a real honour to be becoming part of it.  Hopefully there will be more of these -- if there are, I will do my very best to be there.


  1. Thanks for the write-up! Somehow I managed to miss it until last night.

    A pleasure to have you and your energy over and I hope you can make the next one. :-)

    1. The pleasure was mine! :) I'll be at the next one if I can.