A couple of weeks ago, I asked the readers of this blog to send in answers to the question “what confuses you most about board game development?” And, wow, did you all deliver! Now I have a three-month backlog of questions to get through!
The first topic I want to write about comes from a guy identified only as Matt in the comments. In it, he says that his biggest struggle right now is having the confidence to run with his ideas.
This topic is close to my heart, so in this post, I’m going to talk about how to find the confidence to turn your ideas into reality!
Just to give you some additional context before you read, here’s my origin story, my biggest failure, and how things wound up going two years after that. I encourage you to read these three articles that so you know where I started too!
Turning Your Ideas into Reality (By Starting Badly)
Creating something new is scary. That’s true whether you’re making a board game or book, recording a video or podcast, starting a new job, entering into a new relationship, buying a new home…
You get the idea. Any change to the status quo is frightening. But for some reason, starting creative work is notoriously hard. Procrastination is a huge problem for authors, musicians, and game developers alike.
So why is this mental hurdle so formidable? From whence does this procrastination arise? To me, it’s a simple answer: fear. People procrastinate because they’re afraid. We’ll get into why people are afraid to create in a moment.
If you’re afraid to create, treat it like a cold swimming pool. Just jump in. Create something badly.
Hold yourself to no standards and just start writing or drawing. Picasso’s first painting was probably crap, too, so you have nothing to fear by screwing up. Not trying is infinitely worse.
Why Turning Your Ideas Into Reality Looks Scary (But Isn’t)
Creating something new is a little rebellious at its core. In a way, you’re saying that nothing that exists currently is what you want, and you must make something on your own.
Believe it or not, though, the creative impulse, rooted as it is in rebellion, is one of the noblest instincts in human nature. It’s how we created automobiles and the Great Wave off Kanagawa. It’s how we eradicated polio and how we’re going to do the same to COVID-19 on some sunny day in the future.
Our society glorifies creators. It makes them out to be deities when in reality, they are flawed men and women who follow their noble impulses and take advantage of the resources provided to them. To imagine yourself among them, even in some small way – such as creating a board game, novel, or film – well, it feels bold. Like you don’t belong.
That’s impostor syndrome. It’s basically a psychological pattern where you doubt your accomplishments. Left unchecked, impostor syndrome will leave you in perpetual fear of judgment, an obsession with your perceived inadequacy, and the specter of the possibility of being exposed as a hack.
Tom Hanks has it. Michelle Obama has it. Lord knows I’ve had it. It comes with creativity and boldness.
The only thing you can do is recognize your fears for what they are, and keep creating. If that means setting quotas for yourself to meet every week, do that. If it means you set an alarm for 6 am and make your board game until you have to go to work, then you do that.
To turn your ideas into reality is to run a marathon, not a sprint. It will take time, and persistence is key.
Inspiring Others to Turn Your Ideas Into Reality
Getting started is the hard part. It gets easier with time. However, it will take a long time to inspire others to help you turn your ideas into reality. I’m not going to sugarcoat it or pretend that this isn’t the case.
Before you ask others for help, see how far you can get without help. It’s not a good idea to try to turn a board game into a complete consumer product alone. It is, on the other hand, a good idea to learn as much as you can before you reach out to others.
The thing to remember when networking or asking for favors is that you ultimately want to be valuable in the relationship. That’s why it’s so important to keep creating on your own time, learn new skills, and experiment on your own. This gives you a chance to build up useful skills that you can use to serve others.
Once you do this, then you can think about inspiring others to turn your ideas into reality. But remember: it’s not about you, it’s about them.
Dale Carnegie spelled it out nice and easy for us in his super-famous 1936 book, How to Win Friends and Influence People. Here are a few golden bits of advice to remember straight from the book:
- Give honest and sincere appreciation.
- Become genuinely interested in other people.
- Be a good listener.
- Talk in terms of the other person’s interest.
- Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely.
Applying this Advice to Play-Testing
Now circling back to what Matt had asked about finding playtesters, here’s how you might apply these principles. You can find people who absolutely love play-testing games by searching online. That is, give people a chance to critique the game because they enjoy doing so. (There are a lot of people like this.)
Alternatively, you run a giveaway for a board game bundle. People who play-test your game get a chance to win. That way, you may get a more general audience.
Lastly, you may choose to find a group of people who mutually agree to play-test each others board games, such as a Protospiel.
In all of these scenarios, people have a good reason to help you turn your ideas into reality!
I know it’s scary to create your first game. Believe me, I’ve been there. Start now, start badly, and keep going. You’ll get better with time and persistence, believe me!
Over time, you would develop a skillset that will be helpful to others. When it’s time to reach out to inspire others to help you turn your ideas into reality, you’ll be in a much better position to do so. After all, you’ll be able to give them compelling reasons to support you (by supporting them)!
Good luck, Matt, and good luck to anyone else who is reading this post. I believe in you!