Quarantine sucks. It sucks as a friend, father, husband, human. And, it sucks as a gamer. Back in normal times, I had anywhere from one to three gaming events each week. I looked forward to them with a sweet excitement. Not only did I get to play games, but I was able to interact with my friends and family in an analog, face to face, genuine way. Now, of course, those opportunities are nearly non-existent. There are weeks where I barely leave the house. My wife’s willingness to play games with me has dwindled over the years, and I’ll be lucky if I get a game on a table more than once a month. It sucks. I know my experience is not unique, and I feel empathy with both the gaming community and humanity as a whole.
As a game designer, though, it’s had a different effect. I’ve been privileged enough to find several digital playtesting groups online that meet weekly. Through these groups, I am able to sit down virtually and play test my games as often as four days a week. The designers in these groups are talented and committed designers who do tremendous work and provide excellent, thoughtful, and critical feedback. It’s been a pleasure working with these groups, and the development of my game designs has become a primary focus of my process, replacing the spend-my-time-designing-new-games-because-I-couldn’t-find-playtesters-for-my-old-games approach that I was resolved to. Since the pandemic, I’ve seen one of my designs get signed, and one requested by two major publishers. I’ve refined others to a point where I feel confident that they are ready to be signed. The invaluable feedback that I’ve gotten and the designers I’ve worked with have taught me so much about the process; what makes a game good and how to make a good game better. It’s been so incredibly productive, and I’ve gotten closer and closer to my goal of being a “real” game designer. It hasn’t been all that bad
But if I had to choose, I would (of course) let my design career pitter-patter along, with my mediocre games and lack of access to productive playtests. The quarantine has been a dismal affair, and I can’t wait until we return to normalcy. It’s been nice that I’ve been able to find this silver lining as a game designer, and I encourage any other designers to get involved in virtual playtesting. To that end, I will post links to the discord servers I participate in where I do that playtesting. And as we wait for life to resume, perhaps we can keep finding ways to support each other in whatever means we have access to. Here’s to that future.
Seattle Tabletop Game Design: