Introduction

I have had an exciting life as far as careers go. I was Director of Marketing at a couple different places and then went into IT where I worked as a consultant for one of the largest IT companies in the world. About 6 years ago, I was laid off from that large company and without anything lined up for my next step in life, I decided to go back to school. Last May, I graduated from the University of Memphis with a degree in Communication and a minor in Philosophy at 42 years old.  Since graduation, I’ve been doing some consulting in the areas of IT and Marketing just trying to figure out what adventures lie next for me. Well, a couple of my old friends I used to work with (and play MMORPG video games with) called me up a few weeks ago and told me about this incredible tabletop gaming project they have been working on for over a year now. Being pretty much a total newbie to the world of tabletop games and loving to hear stories on how things began, I decided to write a blog about how this thing came to where it is now.

In addition to the designer blog for my friends, I plan to use this site to blog about the things that inspire me in everyday life. Being middle-aged (almost 43), I have found there is still so much great stuff out there to learn and to share, it just takes a child-like spirit to jump in and see what it’s all about.

I approach everything as a total newbie, someone willing to learn looking for people willing to pass on their knowledge to someone else and have some fun in the process! =)

Being the new guy — Best practices for entering a new community

Growing up, my father was often transferred and I found myself in a brand new neighborhood and school as the dreaded “new guy” way too many times. Being an only-child and an introvert at heart, this experience — as painful as it was — made me a lot better at socializing with people. It taught me communication and social skills that carried me far into adulthood — even to the point that people are shocked when I tell them I am an introvert because I seem so outgoing.

Being the new guy is never easy. But being the new guy online adds even more obstacles to fitting in. Online, there is no  body language, voice tonality, or other cues we use to communicate with each other to form bonds. Online communities are a real “space” — in academic communication terms — just like the place where you work is a real “space” where people interact and do things. Each “space” has it’s own set of unwritten rules and etiquette which should be learned before jumping right in. Each community is different and it can be tricky to navigate at first, but it is worth it. You can learn some incredible perspectives.

Everyone that knows me knows I love learning about things — and I have found the best way to learn something is to go to the people that know about it — go to their communities. This act will get you the best information the quickest way — but it will also have you playing the role of the “new guy” over and over again — this doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing and it is definitely not something to fear. While I’ve been researching tabletop games and slowly introducing myself to the tabletop gaming world, I decided I would write about some best practices for entering a new online community. This list is in no way exhaustive and I am sure I have left a lot out. Feel free to post your ideas in the comments — more than likely it will help someone out.

What NOT TO DO:

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–Don’t promote– This should go without saying but it is something that obviously needs to be addressed based on the amount of people that still do this. We all have things we are working on and projects we are proud of and we want to share those things — with ALL the people!! However, jumping into a new forum, Facebook Group, Discord, or whatever with a link to your channel/website/etc is equivalent to eating dinner out with your family and having a strange guy walk up and try to sell you a used car right at the dinner table. It’s beyond annoying, it’s rude and inappropriate. More than likely, there will be a time that someone will ask about your project and you can share it — until then, be patient and follow rule #6 — be helpful.

–Humor– Being funny or throwing a joke out there is a strategy that works great to break the ice in most face-to-face situations, but it is something to be weary of while online — especially when you are the new guy. Without body language and voice inflections, jokes often lose their luster when typed — worse yet, they can come off very different than what was intended and actually offend people — the exact opposite of what you had in mind. Anything other than slight self-depreciating humor — such as, “can you explain that again? I’ve got 2 brain cells left and they are waving goodbye to one another” or something of the like — should be thought about very carefully before posting.

What TO DO:

–Get to know the rules– Whenever entering any online community for the first time, it’s best to take a peek at the rules. Sometimes, they can be hard to find or they aren’t posted at all. Even if the rules aren’t posted, if you follow these other best practices, you should be just fine.

Lurker–Lurk for a while– This might be the biggest trick of all. Just reading and observing allows you to get to know the people, the leadership, and the regulars. It allows you to learn the topics and how you might fit in. If you see an easy post to respond to such as a new leadership announcement, respond with a congratulatory message just to let them know you are there. Think of lurking like being at a party where you don’t know anyone — typically you listen for a long while before you jump into conversations and you only do so at the most opportune time. Pro lurkers are some of the best members. They are helpful, know pretty much everything that is going on in the community, and almost never are the cause of drama. 

CoolStory–Stay on topic– This is another one that should go without saying but still needs to be addressed. Every community is different and some are more stringent when it comes to staying on topic versus others — this is something you can learn during your lurker phase. For a best practice, it is best to only post on the topic the community is interested in — posting off topic is like having a conversation with your friend about crowdfunding and suddenly someone jumps in and slaps their phone in your face showing you a funny meme about dragons — don’t get me wrong, dragon memes are all the rage — or that might just be me? — but they have their place and time. Stay respectful to the community by staying on topic — at least until you have established yourself.

–Humanize yourself- I know, I know. Usernames are an opportunity to express yourself — and  as tempting as it may be to sport that uber-cool “xX420MiLeHiGhXx” profile name, it can easily become another obstacle when attempting to fit in a new community. I mean, usernames are fun and all — but it is hard to take someone serious when their profile name looks like something an edgy twelve year old came up with. Think about creating a name that is either your real name, or incorporates your first name. Something cool — like LogicianTim,  Hah! — if not, think about signing your posts with your first name — something like “~Tim” at the end — these things can go along way with building credibility. And while you are at it, using your real face as your avatar humanizes your profile. There are way too many trolls out there and a real picture can help build trust within the community quickly. 

help–Be helpful The one thing to remember about any community is that it is made up of people — people that have all different backgrounds and skill sets. At times, you will run across a question you know the answer to or have a different take on it — in these cases you need to answer it. People are posting to get the feedback and/or gain the knowledge of other people — and once you join a community, you are one of those people.  A strong community is made of people dedicated to helping one another. Being helpful and sharing your knowledge with others in a respectful way will have others in the community thankful you are there.

As I said, being the new guy can be intimidating — but following this list of best practices can help you become an upstanding member of just about any community over time. We live in an age — I hate that phrase — where face-to-face friendships are becoming more and more rare. At the same time, we have access to virtually anyone on earth with an internet connection. As we learn new things, gain more hobbies, and push the boundaries of our comfort zones — we open ourselves up to others — which, surprisingly can make some of the best friends you might never meet in “real life.”

Please like, follow, and share — leave a comment on what your best practices may be for joining a new community. I am sure I left some things out.

 

Nexus #4- Making a Dream Real

Dreaming a dream is one thing — making a dream become reality is a whole other story. Transforming a game from an idea into a physical thing is a big step — where does one even start? Well, this week I asked our two heroes Jay Goike and Scott Rumptz these types of questions and we get to hear their experience with the making of their new game Nexus.

MAME1I’m a fairly handy guy. I have built all types of things from furniture to a full MAME arcade machine complete with coin door. Whenever I think of a project, I can spend weeks or months doing research looking at designs and what other people have done before I ever start on it. So, when I asked Jay and Scott about how long it took them to get started on Nexus, I was quite shocked. Jay said, “we started working on the game immediately. From that discussion over lunch we were working on it the next day.” And Scott added, “yea, the next day I was all in. I think I did most of the core mechanics that weekend and it has consumed every day of my life since.” — Holy crap! The next day they started working on mechanics? How could you possibly start on something so fast? Scott answered, “we already knew we wanted to create a dice-based heads-up combat strategy game like the one we made up as children.” Oh, well that makes some sense. They already sorta had the game idea in their head and just needed to modify the home-brewed games they played as kids. But, surely — don’t call me Shirley — they had to do some research first — right?

When I asked Jay about what research they did before starting, he chuckled and said, “once again, we did everything wrong in the modern sense. We didn’t research other games much at all. We knew what we liked and what the feeling was we wanted to obtain. ” Wait, that can’t be right. Come on Scott, I know you had to do some research first. Scott said, “not until ours was almost completed. Even then it was just to make sure we didn’t inadvertently duplicate something that already existed. We didn’t find anything like what we have created.” I can understand that I guess. I mean if you kind of had an idea for the game from when you were kids and wanted something different than what was already out there, refraining from doing research for the sake of ensuring originality seems the right way to go. If you did research on the front end, you might run the risk of taking ideas that are already out there and using them for your project — not that doing so is a bad thing — just sounds like you were going for complete originality — which is cool. So, you guys didn’t do much research beforehand, but were you guys active in the gaming community?

dream-to-realityWhen I asked Scott and Jay about their activity in the gaming community when they started designing their game Nexus, Scott was first to answer. He said, “yea, in the 80’s. We Rip Van Winkled 30 years away and now we are trying to play catch-up. In some ways I think that is a good thing. ” Then Jay added, “yea, we definitely were not involved in the gaming community in the sense that we were not active on forums and other groups. The two of us really just lived in a vacuum. It sounds sad, lol. But we felt comfortable just doing what we were doing.” Jay and Scott both admit they weren’t in the gaming community in recent years. I could see where not being in the community for a long period of time could possibly result in a game that is incongruent with modern trends. When I questioned Scott about this he said, “I look at what is being put out now and I feel we have a fresh take on things that the gaming community just might enjoy. Or maybe we will land flat on our asses <shrug>.” I guess it is refreshing to see a couple of guys make a game that they enjoy instead of trying to follow some market trending data. They might just have made something both nostalgic and new by not being overly involved previously.

I asked Jay what he has found the most rewarding since re-entering the gaming community. He answered, “since the project has started we have been putting ourselves out there and we really do realize what we’ve been missing. We have already met some really exceptional people and that as been very rewarding. Working with artists and creative minds on a daily basis has really been amazing.” See, this is something I have to agree with wholeheartedly. In all my adventures in life and all my projects, it was not the adventures or the projects themselves that made the most impact on me, it was the people I met along the way. If you think about it, you’ll probably agree. Think back to any conference, event, or vacation you have ever been on. Sure the scenery is beautiful, but the family, friends, and even strangers who you ran into make up most of the stories you tell others about your experience.

I know Jay and Scott have put a lot of time and effort into their game Nexus and they really can’t wait to share it with the world. As they are getting re-acclimated to the gaming community, they are meeting some great people — and so am I! As things continue to progress, I look forward to meeting the new characters we will meet that will ultimately be the stars of future stories we will all tell about this experience.

If you like what you see, be sure to follow, like, and share — comments are always nice too!

To learn more about the game of Nexus, go here: https://d-verse.com/nexus/

 

Pre-Origins Jitters from a noob

I leave my cozy, comfortable house and my super-awesome family to attend Origins for the first time on Tuesday. Having had a career in marketing, I am no stranger to attending conferences – but this one feels different for some reason. This time I am attending a conference with a subject I am actually interested in but know very little about. I am also attending Origins with a Press Badge — something I’ve never done before. All this unknown triggers anxiety inside me, but it is not all bad anxiety.

It is just so easy to sit in my comfort zone and be knowledgeable on the topics I deal with from day to day and I rarely have to worry about looking stupid. But I know that by doing so, I will not be growing as a person. Besides, this is a chance for me to meet some really cool people and write about how gaming has impacted their lives. All the excitement about the adventure ahead and the stories to be experienced and retold also give off some good anxiety. I get to go in, be the new guy and — hopefully — meet some people who want to show me the ropes. From what I’ve seen of the tabletop gaming community so far, I don’t think that will be a problem at all. Everyone has been incredibly helpful and so willing to help others — unlike any other industry I’ve ever been in.

As I embark on my journey to a place many hours away into the unknown, I can’t help but think about how I relate to some of the games I’ve learned about recently. I’ll be that little meeple who starts off on a quest with no clue what awaits me. And much like that little guy, I’ll probably face some obstacles along the way — and if I keep my explorer spirit — I’ll come out the other side a bit stronger, wiser, and better prepared for the next adventure.

If you are attending Origins this year and see me wandering around looking overwhelmed, come say hi to me! The best part about about any adventure is the people you meet along the way!

If you like what you see, please like, follow, and share. Comments are always nice too!

Is the Kickstarter spirit dead?

kickstarter_headerI want to talk about what I always thought the spirit of Kickstarter was about. Kickstarter is a great platform for new, innovative companies to test public interest in their new product as well as gather funding to get their new company started. People that think the product is a good idea will give money to the company. To say “thank you,” the company will normally give something in return such as schematics, a prototype, or a finished product after manufacturing is set up. This process allowed many innovative new companies to get the capital needed to get their company started and bring their product to the market. This seems to still be happening in the tabletop gaming industry, however the process seems to have been tainted somewhat.

Where before, Kickstarter was dominated by small startup companies trying to get off the ground, large or established companies have entered the Kickstarter market which is something that I would argue goes against the spirit of Kickstarter. They recognize the reduced risk and somewhat predictable return on investment they can achieve on the platform. Established companies have larger marketing budgets to be able to advertise their games a lot more than startups. The larger companies also have established manufacturing lines which in some cases can allow them to sell their games at a cheaper price than a startup company. The combination of these two factors hurts startup companies by taking market spend away. Backers have a limited budget and they too recognize a lower risk and better value by backing a large company versus a new startup designer. This pattern of larger companies using Kickstarter and lowering the funding of smaller companies is not necessarily bad. It forces savvy startup business owners into changing the way they do business if they want to make a break through.

If small startup companies are to survive and compete in the Kickstarter market, they cannot continue the old ways of running their campaigns. They have to find new ways to market and develop their products. They have to innovate in every aspect of their business now, not just in their product design. Gone are the days of putting up some sketches and rough drafts along with a description of the product. Now, backers are used to seeing professional graphics along with well thought out and tested marketing trigger words all designed to attract the attention and promote action by the viewer. Startup companies need to spend a lot more time — and sometimes money — in these areas if they want to have a chance at a successful campaign. I’m currently doing some marketing consulting for my friends on their upcoming game Nexus — if there is interest, I can share some secret strategies we are incorporating in a future blog. Anyways, even though larger companies have entered the market with some obvious advantages, it doesn’t mean that the smaller startups can’t take advantage of a natural weakness.

Large companies, in fact have a natural weakness. You see, they have a smaller tolerance for taking risk. Steady and predictable return on investment is what most of them are looking for. This avoidance of risk lends itself to products that are reproducible and somewhat predictable. This is not to say they aren’t cool or fun to play, it’s that they leave a lot of room for innovation by risk-taking entrepreneurs. I know it is tempting to follow trends that big companies are setting — after all, it is working for them. As we discussed earlier, the startup is outgunned in the “tried and true” market. This is where startups need to look for things that have never been done before. For instance, I have found many ideas buried in the comments section on Kickstarter on how customers want to purchase things a certain way or ideas on how to make products unique or better. Smaller companies are more agile and can take the risk to see if there is a big enough market to support doing business a particular way or making a product available in a different way. This is their secret weapon. Yes — you will have more chances at failure, but you will also have chance at incredible successes by finding niches that large companies haven’t carved out yet.

To sum it all up, the Kickstarter spirit is not dead, but it certainly has been changed by the influx of large companies. Smaller companies can’t follow the trends set by large companies, but instead need to be able to compete in the areas of marketing and need to take advantage of their risk-taking abilities by being innovative in product design and offerings. For the entrepreneur that can listen and learn from failures and successes, Kickstarter can still be a great place to both test ideas and raise capital for your new business.

I am sure I have left out a lot of angles on the intricacies of the Kickstarter market. Comment below and let me know your thoughts on the condition of the Kickstarter spirit.

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