Once you have finished your game, your job is not finished.
Let’s say you have done really well and you have published, kickstarted, print on demanded or what-have-you) your awesome new game “Bunny Jungle”*. Now you can go hang out in the “designers” club. Your game now exists on the shelves of at least 1 person: the good ladies and gentlemen around this world have more games thanks to you – but your job as a designer is not finished.
I was speaking to some of my Pyschology friends and have found out that, in doing this, you have successfully set up an Ingroup. In psychology, an Ingroup is a social group where someone can psychologically identify as being a member. Id Est “I play Catan”, “I am a Catan player”. (and we all know what Catan players are like …)
Now you have released your game: you have opened the doors to your club house, and it will soon be filled with the Ingroup that decide to settle there. Even if you have sold 5 copies – there are 5 people that can now declare that they are (hopefully) fans of Bunny Jungle.
This group has been brought together by your game, and so: by you. If you find yourself in this lucky position, you now have a responsibility that lies outside of simply designing your game.
Retail companies call this “after market care”. Big corporates can call this “growing the franchise”. Marketeers call this “social media content creation”. Whatever the name of it, it involves you giving attention to your Ingroup.
Rules assistance, “fan service”, periphery content, news, events, new game modes, submission acknowledgement – all of this stuff is your job.
There is 1 negative point, and 2 positive points in undertaking this task.
- It takes ages and might never stop. If your game is a hit “classic” game that gets very well received by the community, you can expect to be answering rules questions years after you have released your game. Your attention will still be required in speaking to your fans long into the future. This is the same reason why celebrities sometimes get irksome about taking pictures and signing autographs with their fans – they have been doing it for so long. But realise that if I ever saw James T. Kirk or Jean-Luc Picard (apparently they have real names too!) out on the town, lord knows I would want a signature, a picture, and to just “hang out” with them a while. N.b Let it be known that the last Star Trek episode to feature the original James T Kirk went out over 40 years ago. Here, I am essentially asking for “aftermarket care” 40 years down the line.
- Happy fans beget happy fans. Aka “Growing by referral”, ”building a fanbase” or a multitude of other such insipid slogans, meaning: people will often go out of their way to try and persuade you to join their club. They enjoy their club – and they want you to enjoy it with them. Remember the first time you ever played a boardgame? Who was it with? Are you still friends with them? Do you “owe” you’re love of games to them? I certainly do, mine was my Dad, and I am eternally grateful to him for it. I bet Games Workshop was thankful for it too.
- It sets you apart from a LOT of other designers. Not many people do this. Think how many publishers or designers you have had genuine contact with? How many microbadges do you have declaring your Ingroup allegiance to a certain game, designer or publishing house? When people DO engage in a bit of “aftermarket care” they are set apart from the sea of faceless back-room designers. To their fans: it shows that they actually care. Indy Boards and Cards is a publisher that has produced some notable games (The Resistance, Haggis etc) and also maintain a very active presence on Internet Forums. Owner, Travis Worthington is good at this, and is the reason behind my respect and appreciation of his company and his games.
An interesting part of this aftermarket care also is formed in the shape of releasing more games. Some people don’t identify as Game Fans – but of Game Designer Fans. I’m sure you could list at least 5 designers that, if they made a game today, would sell like hot cakes: regardless of the game. You can even expand this to themes or ideas too: “I’m a fan of Co-op games” or “I’m a wargame Grognard” or “I only play serious games” – part of the responsibility you have as a designer is, weirdly, to make more games!
So don’t worry guys, I’ve already started working on Bunny Jungle 2 and its spin off Dog Forest. See you over at the bunny jungle forums and if you would like a free bunny jungle poster, just let me know.
*Each player is a lost bunny trying to navigate their fluffy way through a terrifying jungle! Dodging hunters, toothed beasties, and trying to stay out of your hutch as long as possible at night** – it is a chit-based action game that combines simultaneous player navigation with interesting rabbit-based player powers
**I swear my fionce’s bunny is like an excitable, defiant child when it comes to going to bed at night