Archive of ‘Blathers’ category

I Want a Girl With a Long List and a Small Suitcase

Pete and I are starting to gear up for our honeymoon – in my case, literally. My “proper” suitcases that I used all throughout my teens and in college were stored in our basement where they mildewed really badly. But beyond that, I’ve wanted to be a “one bag traveler” for a long time, and have a universal packing list for forever. So this is my chance to play world traveler for a bit.

We’ll be in Paris for three weeks, so obviously I spent a few days searching “three weeks in Paris in a carry on” and only found a handful of articles. So I thought I’d throw my own mix into the mix in hopes that it helps some other obsessive searcher plan their own bag:

Three Weeks in Paris
  • 3 lightweight button down shirts
  • A long-sleeved t-shirt
  • 2 short-sleeved t-shirts
  • A tank top
  • A short chambray skirt
  • A long maxi skirt
  • A red jersey dress
  • A gray cardigan
  • Some neutral jewelry
  • Black mary janes
  • Brown flat boots

I’m also planning on bringing a couple of pairs of leggings, a black jersey dress and possibly a very lightweight pair of running shoes. A travel pillow, iPad, journal, scarf and (empty) water bottle round out everything I think I’ll want on this trip.

While I’m normally a  big color fan, I decided to go super-neutral on this trip. I have a couple of punches of pattern to keep everything somewhat interesting, but for the most part, everything goes with everything else. I did some math and I counted up 88 outfits without getting creative.

I’m planning to stash all of this in the eBags TLS Motherlode Weekender convertible bag which I LOVE so far. I had my heart set on a Tom Bihn bag, but the price was just not doing it for me. For the same price, I got this bag, the travel pillow, two of the button downs I’m taking on this trip, an extra pair of leggings, and a handful of other odds and ends. A pretty great deal.

I’m going to review the bag both before and after my trip, as well as do a packing video – I think I’m developing a slight obsession with packing. If you don’t see me for awhile, it’s because I’m busy repacking…again…

What I Learned From Drawing My Face Every Day

I just finished up Fun-A-Day 2015, this crazy-fun project where you pick a project and then do it a little bit every day. Most people tend to pick something small and do one of that thing every day (as opposed to working on a big project one day at a time) but there are no real hard and fast rules. So, I spent a day drawing my face. I did this on the sly last year and had fun, so I thought I’d document my process this year. I tracked everything at DrawYourSelfie.Tumblr.com. I also learned a few good things along the way:

Jasmine Self Portrait 1

Early in the month…scary!

1. You don’t have to do it every day.

Okay, so according to the rules, you have to do it every day. For the past few years, I’d let that freak me out and I’d stop participating (this is my fourth year doing Fun-a-Day). After letting this get me down two years in a row, last year I decided not to “formally” participate, but actually wound up doing it every day. This year, when I decided to document, I was worried that I’d let my old tendency freak me out. But not so much. I’ve realized that I can still consider myself a participant even if I’m only participating most days. Having the flu and not feeling like doing anything, much less drawing a portrait, is okay. Needing a day where nothing important happens, not even art, is also okay.

More generally, this was a great experience because I’ve often struggled with self-defining, because I don’t do ANYTHING all the time. Like, I didn’t consider myself a “game designer” for awhile because I’m not published and I wasn’t working on designs frequently. But that doesn’t mean I can’t identify with this activity and subsequently, this identity and community.

Jasmine Self Portrait 2

About halfway through – really not terrible. This is clearly a human person and not a monster.

2. However, doing something most days means you get better at it, especially if you take it lightly.

That said, it turns out that practice does indeed make perfect. If you take a look at my first few days, they’re…a little scary. But, having done this last year, I knew that it didn’t really matter, and that in aggregate, the drawing would look pretty cool. This year, toward the end, I actually got quite a bit better at drawing, so you can see improvement as time goes by. It doesn’t happen all at once, and certainly some parts of some drawings are better than in others, but doing this every day really did boost my skill level.

Jasmine Self Portrait 3

Say, who is that nice-looking dame?

3. Posting your work every day is really freeing.

Part of what I did this year was document my process, which is a scary new thing for me. I tend to keep my creations private, because I don’t really want to put them out there. But I found that sharing everything, good and bad, was really freeing and made me feel, in turn, more creative. I knew that not everything I was posted was amazing, but the act of just putting it out there, regardless of whatever judgment would come my way, was really helpful.

 

I think each of these aspects of Fun-a-Day are good to put into practice in other areas of my life. For example, when it comes to game design, designing more games is a great way to get better. Putting stuff online as a print and play means you can get more thoughts on your ideas more quickly. Waiting until you have “the perfect game” means it might take awhile before you put anything out there…if you ever do.

 

 

How to Reach Out to Reviewers

Earlier today, Macktholemew (designer of Killer Croquet and owner of a name that is probably not “Macktholemew”) asked about resources for figuring out how to reach out to reviewers on the Card & Board Game Deisngers Group on Facebook. Since my day job is in digital PR (aka finding and emailing people basically all day), I figure I’m pretty qualified to discuss this. Reaching out to reviewers is just like reaching out to anybody else who’s a human being that you don’t know. You need to be:

  • Polite
  • Inquisitive
  • Interested
  • Brief

You absolutely do NOT want to be:

  • Pushy
  • Talkative
  • Scammy in the slightest (we’ll get to that)

The email template that I base most of my “cold call” requests on is this one:

Hi Reviewer,

My name is Name Naminson, and I’m the designer of a game called The Gamey Game. I’m wondering if you could tell me a bit more about how you select the games you review?

The Gamey Game has mechanics, and takes this many people. This is where I would write about the theme, and basically give my “elevator pitch” in 3 sentences or less. I would also link to my website here, as a plain link, not as a hyperlink, here: http://www.jasmineadavis.com

[OPTIONAL: I’m reaching out to you with this game because of reasons (see below).]

Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions! Any information you can offer would be tremendously appreciated.

Thanks,
Name

This basic template can be customized with your information and stylistic preferences. It’s polite and short without asking for too much. If you simply state, “I want you to review my game,” you may turn off potential reviewers. After all, you don’t know how they select games to review! They may only review games for money, or perhaps they only pick games that they know they like. They may have been burned by past, scammy designers, and may be less open to new “pitches” from other designers.

Don’t Be Scammy

As I mentioned earlier, you want to avoid any whiff of scam. There are a few ways you can do this. First of all, do not attach images or any other documents. If a reviewer wants them, they will ask for them. Many email programs treat attachments with extra caution, too, so attaching anything makes you more likely to go to spam.

Also, do not hyperlink your website. Think about it – if a stranger sent you an email, would you click a link in it? Probably not. Give them the URL for your website or Facebook page outright. If it’s a really long URL (ie, more than about a line and a half), either give them the top-level domain (with brief directions if required) or send them to one of your social media profiles for the game instead.

Advanced Tip: Why You?

Some reviewers are perfectly happy to take a chance on an unknown designer, or review lots of games and are willing to take yours. Others are less willing to do so – so you’ll need to do the legwork for them and explain why YOUR game is awesome. However, you should still do this briefly – 1-2 sentences at the very most. You’ll want to do research and get creative here. Consider things like:

  • Do they always review a certain type of game, and your game fits that category?
  • Have they expressed a preference for a certain theme, and your game fits that theme?
  • Have they expressed a preference for a certain type of mechanic, and your game has that mechanic?
  • Does your game fit their demographic, ie, family game, “gamer game”?
  • Do you think your game fills a gap in their current roster of reviews? For example, if they’ve never covered a deckbuilder, and you have one, you could mention that.

Meanwhile, if you know a reviewer hates deckbuilders and you have one, consider not reaching out to them. Your game is probably not the one that’s going to change their mind.

Following Up

If it’s been several weeks (2 – 3 weeks and no sooner) and you haven’t heard back, you can follow up politely. Here’s my typical email for this:

Hi Name,

I reached out to you a few weeks ago to learn more about how you select games for review on Your Game Review Website. I just wanted to follow up and see if you needed any additional information about The Gamey Game, or if I can help in any way, let me know.

Feel free to get in touch, and have a great weekend!

Thanks,

Name

A Few Extra Tips

  • You pay for both the cost of the prototype and shipping. If you want it back, you pay shipping both ways. Depending on your game, you could send self-addressed packing materials for your prototype’s return.
  • They’re doing you a favor. Remember that if you happen to get frustrated. Unless money has changed hands, you don’t get to dictate their timeline for reviewing or publishing the game.
  • They’re not obligated to give you a positive review. Don’t ask for a positive review.
  • Check their website for a page that explains how to submit games for reviews. If they have a page like this, then do that, instead. Always follow the process that the reviewer prefers (especially if that includes not soliciting reviews – in that case, don’t reach out. They don’t want to hear from you).
  • People are people. Think about the kind of info you’d want, and the kind of stuff you’d want to see, from a total stranger. Make yourself legitimate.
  • Put your name, email, website link, Twitter handle, etc, in your email signature. Not only is it something that will mark you as a pro, it’s also a way for them to check you out.

Wondering how to find reviewers? James Mathe has put together a list of reviewers, along with their follower counts, email addresses and websites. You can find it here, and use these tips to reach out to them!

Should you buy art?

One of the questions I’m struggling with now is something that lots of new game creators run into – should you buy art for your game? Of course, there’s two sides to that story, and I just fell on the wrong side.

NO! Don’t buy art!

When you ask most game designers where they stand on the question, you’ll hear that you should definitely not, never-ever purchase art for your game. “Publishers don’t care about your art,” they say, “and they’ll just replace it with their own artist.” That’s what I bought into, and I still actually think it’s true, in many cases.

That’s because often, art takes a backseat to the mechanics – does the game work? If not, no amount of art is really going to save it (unless it’s from a really good IP). This focus on mechanics, rather than art, is a good thing – after all, the mechanics are what make a game fun and replayable and etc etc.

Plus, says everyone, when you put too much time and effort into your art assets, you’re showing the publisher that you’re “too finished” and that you’re so proud of your baby that you won’t want to make any tweaks or changes. When you show up with a game that looks too nice, it could be a sign that you’re inflexible.

Plus, getting art for an entire game can cost you thousands of dollars. Yikes.

But wait…why NOT buy art?

geek card

This is literally the extent of my artistic and digital skills. The pinnacle of everything I have achieved can be seen in this card.

At first, I fell in line with the “don’t buy art” crowd – after all, it makes perfect sense. Then, Cool Table got accepted into the Tabletop Deathmatch, and I thought, “Okay, I need to put enough design time into this to get it off of index cards, but it doesn’t need to look great. It just needs to be functional.”

So when I finally saw my episode of the Tabletop Deathmatch (especially the rough cut), they spent a large chunk of time talking about the art and how bad it was. That was incredibly disheartening to me. I didn’t realize that we were supposed to be so far along, and that your art was an important component of this.

And they were absolutely right – my demo copy of Cool Table last year was a mess. The colors were all over the place and everything was bland and flat. I did the best I could, but it just wasn’t enough. I’m not an artist. My rudimentary skills in Inkscape are laughable, even a year later. I make stuff, but I’m not an artist.

So this year, I worked and reworked my cards and tokens and demo copy, and finally got the game mostly presentable and slightly more-well-designed, but it was still missing life. It was missing the cliques. For Cool Table, theme is important – perhaps not as important as mechanics, but it’s still a key piece of the game. And I’m definitely not capable of drawing these highly-specific cliques (nor are there images I can draw from online – YOU try finding a goth-kid-wizard-math-genius!).

After worrying about it a little, I finally decided to just pay for art. My artist friend, Cynthia Lee (who is amazing), is giving me an incredible deal (and she’s doing it incredibly fast!) and I’m absolutely thrilled. This isn’t a permanent solution, but it’s a really, really good way for publishers and playtesters to get to see a nice, better-executed game. After all, understanding the Geekroids is critical to game-winning success.

The trouble with Logitech

When you buy someting, you expect it to work properly. This is what happens at Logitech when something you purchase doesn’t work properly.

I had a Treat Yoself kinda day earlier this year, and made a huge purchase – a new iPad Air. Obviously, the first thing one acquires post-iPad purchase is a case. Having been a previous iPad owner, I’d been researching cases for a couple of weeks and I’d settled on the Logitech FabricSkin Folio Keyboard. I saw the bad reviews about the clip cracking, but I figured that if I was REALLY careful, I’d be fine.

Of course I was wrong, it cracked within 2 weeks.

I contacted their customer service department (well within 30 days, which becomes important) and after about a week of not getting an answer (I even called them, and the person I spoke with said a supervisor would call me…which never happened), I finally heard from them. They wouldn’t refund my money, but they’d give me a replacement. Oh, and they’re out of the awesome color I bought, but will send me a black one.

10341535_601885890112_3074119928107893650_nAfter waiting about a week to receive a shipping label, I finally got one and mailed it off. Just four short weeks later, I finally got my replacement! And look, conveniently, there’s no power button cover! Just jagged pieces of plastic where it’s been clumsily melted off!

So I got back in touch with my customer service guy, Gian, who is a champ at repeating the exact same thing over and over, because they’re refusing to give me a refund, even though I contact them within their 30 days.

Meanwhile, when I buy something, I expect it not to scrape my cuticles every time I want to use it. Because of course the magnets that turn it on and off are broken. And according to Gian, “It’s just designed that way.”

I really don’t ask for a lot when it comes to the things I buy. I recognize that no one product is magically going to solve every need. But I do ask that things work like they’re supposed to, don’t arrive broken, and don’t break within two weeks of light use.

So, no more Logitech for me. My hope is that they’ll redesign this and I’ll get a new case that won’t immediately break. But regardless of how this resolves, I’m definitely not going to purchase anything else from them. They don’t care about their customers, don’t care about making a good product, and don’t care about making anything right.

 

 

My journey into game design

Cool Table gameI’ve only recently gotten into board games, at least in the grand scheme of things. It was only about three years ago, fresh out of college, that I discovered the whole huge world of board games. The first game I ever purchased and owned was Carcassonne. I was combing Amazon, looking for a birthday gift for the Boyfriend That Never Should Have Been. He was notoriously hard to shop for, but I remembered playing Ticket to Ride with his family, and I thought he might appreciate a weird copy of Monopoly or something.

Sifting through the “related products”, I came across Carcassonne. It was totally different from any other game I’d ever seen. I read everything about it that I could get my hands on. I learned about the Euro game “phenomenon”. I learned what a “meeple” was, and how a tile-laying game worked. Most importantly, I learned that there was a whole world of board games beyond Monopoly or more recent family games like Ticket to Ride.

Never one to half-ass things, I bought the Carcassonne Big Box. It cost an exorbitant amount of money – by far the most I had ever spent on a gift for somebody else. I waited in the mail for the game. 10 days later, it showed up in the mail. The Boyfriend That Never Should Have Been dumped me the day it arrived. I kept the game.

I didn’t actually play the game until perhaps three months later. My good friend – let’s call him Josh – had broken his jaw, and he couldn’t eat or do much of anything. He asked if I wanted to come over and run stuff through his juicer. I grabbed all the dubious produce in my fridge, along with Carcassonne, and walked over to his house. It was the beginning of an era.

Josh had invited his other friend, Mick, over. It sparked three straight months of hanging out every day, making juice and playing board games. We played Carcassonne and all the expansions several times over. I bought Fluxx and Zombie Fluxx. Josh bought Talisman. We even played a little Pathfinder – the thing that eventually broke up our friendship. I was – and I mean this totally literally – threatened with an actual, real-life axe.

Desperately in need of somebody to share my newfound hobby with, I took myself down to a gaming group I’d found online, Obscure Games. My first night there, I met my friend and eventual partner-in-game-design-crime, Stentor. It was about a year later that Stentor debuted a creation of his – a Monopoly mod that added dinosaurs. He called it “Dinosaur Hunter Monopoly”. I playtested it and was amazed. He’d turned Monopoly into a completely different game, beyond even the craziest of house rules. I came up with ideas for other games in the Dinosaur Hunter line. Stentor and I started working together on a “dinosaur mod pack” that people could buy to instantly double their collection of household games. Of course, now there are dozens of these, but we had no idea. We were excited just to create.

Eventually, Stentor and I branched out into unique designs. He did it first, with a super fun game called Who’s Your Heavenly Father? I started coming up with my own ideas – a game about stacking things! A game where the board shifts around! A game about exploring the moon! – and even designing them. I never really got past the idea stage. I had a few crappy prototypes and not much else.

Stentor and I founded Pittsburgh Game Designers to provide a better place for people to playtest their own creations. By that point, we’d met several other people who also designed games. We were part of the inaugural class of the Game Engine, an awesome design project/collective dreamed up by Connor Sites-Bowen. On a whim, I decided to submit my most heavily-themed game, Cool Table, to the Tabletop Deathmatch competition. At that point, I was working with three different games and not getting very far ahead with any of them. Each game was stalled in a different way.

Then came the Tabletop Deathmatch. I’m going to write about it, just not here – I penned a post for Games & Grub about the actual Deathmatch experience. You can find it here.

Oh, and check out this recap that Team Weasel wrote about their Deathmatch experience. It’s a great look at the contest!

One Step at a Time

Did you know there are lots of things you need to do to start a blog? You have to:

  • img_1Design a totes bitchin’ theme
  • Write like, three months of posts and backdate them so you look prolific
  • Come up with a bajillion topics
  • Have something super, duper interesting to say
  • Take fantastic pictures and know how to edit them
  • Make like, ten Internet BFFs so you can interview them on your blog

I’ve started and stopped and done half of half of these steps a million and one times. I could count on both hands and probably some toes the number of blogs I’ve started, written in one time, and immediately abandoned. There was the fashion blog, the social media blog, the personal and realistic “gritty real life” blog, and even the blog where I methodically calculated (just one time) all of the items in my purse.

img_2There are a few things that kept me from going. The main one, the thing I still battle, is that running a blog feels a lot like vanity. “Me, me, ME!” they seem to scream. “Pay attention to my life! I have something INTERESTING to say!”

I don’t want to do that. Talking about how I feel so many feels seems overwhelmingly self-indulgent. But blogging, as well I know, is about more than that. It’s about solving problems, helping people, building relationships, networking – and sure, showing off a few pictures of your OMGsocute new shoes.

A Bit of Background

img_3I’ve been a professional blogger for several years now. Yes, I get paid to write blogs. I can take your list of keywords and make them sound legitimate and more than that, interesting. I’ve been spicing up corporate communiques and written thousands of words on how, exactly, grant funding in Australia can help you achieve your highest goals, all with a healthy sprinkling of SEO goodness.

Until I got my most recent job, I lived the keyboard-for-hire existence and learned the hard way that writing isn’t always about having something fascinating to say or knowing exactly how to structure your words. This is the Internet. You’re not trying to write Moby Dick. Sometimes, putting your butt in a chair,  opening your laptop, and typing 120-words-a-minute for two hours is what you’ve gotta do.

So Why Now? 

img_4I realized that I’ve had this WordPress registered for damn near two years. It’s kind of sad that you can sit on something that awesome for that long without actually taking steps to make it happen. Why have this teeny, tiny dream in the back of your head and never act on it?

The first step is the hardest. The first draft is always the most painful. The first cupcake tastes the worst. Sometimes it sucks to do the things you most want to do. But if you don’t lace up your shoes, open your laptop or buy the stand mixer, you’ll never be a runner/blogger/cupcake genius.

So now, with a few hundred thousand words of corporate blogging under my belt, I’ve finally decided to take the first step into running my very own, for-realsies-this-time-I-mean-it-you-guys blog.

You’re Not Very Interesting So Far

Excellent point, Internet.

What in the Ever Loving Hell Are You Going to Write About?

Oh man, Internet, you are really on the ball today. In the past, I think my online ventures have failed because I tried to focus too hard. So instead, I present to you a melange of things that I’m interested in:

It’s time to write about things that are interesting to me instead of to some corporate audience out there that I’m not entirely sure exists. If you like it too, hooray! Welcome to the club.