Is it possible to make a living creating board games?

Do you have an idea to make a game: desire for a theme, universe, mechanics? Pathfinder I wanted to know more about the stages, difficulties and methods of the authors, whether amateurs or professionals.

First, it’s Roman. Young author, inventor of a miniature play system using simple Lego bricks (or other bricks). Then there’s Alexis Allard, a successful collaborator Welcome to the moon. He is part of a select club of 150 writers who are paid for their games. How do these two creators approach their work? What weapons do they use? We wondered what brought them together and separated them.

Romain and his Lego

His creation: brick combat system (previously MOA), adaptable minifigure battle rules for simple Lego. “I’m actually a Lego fan, not miniature games.Roman explains. I had crates of Lego characters sleeping in boxes and wanted to find a way to use them. » So Romain came up with a game with simple rules, easily adaptable to the legendary toys. “In 2018, I was browsing the Wargames YouTube channels and learning about games like Warhammer, Eden (now extinct) or Briscar. There is also another unofficial Lego play system that is very active in the United States. (Zero mobile frame). I was inspired by all this, always preferring simplicity and fluidity. »

Huge Advantage BBC lies in the very nature of these components, which give an advantage not only to the player, but also to the creator of the game. “The elements are there! A child from 8 years old can assemble his squad and play. In addition, there are much more creative characters here than in the classic miniature game, because here you can modify them as you wish. »

As an author without a budget, Romain discards all concept and sculpt work on the original miniatures for his game. BBC has also been designed to fit the maximum number of universes covered by the toy range. “In my game, the characters work as generic profiles, which allows for a lot of flexibility to adapt different Lego universes. However, by obvious logic, the rules are divided and adapted into two broad categories: medieval fantasy and modern/futuristic period. »

One-man orchestra venue

Roman doesn’t have an editor. On the other hand, Lego does not recognize any of the games taken from its range. Also, the author BBC has little lucrative prospects to expect from its establishment. “From the beginning, I didn’t have a profitable prospect. My goal is first and foremost to unite the community around my game.” To do this, Romain has to be on all fronts: being present at various figurine and game fairs all over France, creating a Youtube channel, posting on various social networks… “I had to learn everything on the job! The fact that there is no structure obliges me to be present everywhere. »

This extensive participation aims not only to make himself known, but also to protect his work as an amateur author. “My presence at all these fairs and in the media ensures that no one can appropriate my work without being disavowed. This is a useful strategy because someone tried to impersonate my work in the first year. BBC Since then, I have been very suspicious of intellectual theft. »

After failing to join the working group at the publishing house, Romain develops a benevolent community that can occasionally render him services for the good of the common cause. As for the hope for a reward for this titanic work, the traces are rather thin, but they are there: “I’m asking 5 euros for the PDFs of the rules and 10 euros for the next version, which will be released in September, and it will be much more complete. I am also increasingly being asked to make animations in toy libraries, which allows me to earn some money. »

Alexis Allard, Winning Professional Writer “slightly above the minimum wage”

In cinema, nothing prevents an ordinary citizen from sitting at a computer and writing a script. However, in order to qualify for the title of screenwriter, you must sign a contract with a production company. You can be an author for a game, but the title of game designer (or designate) automatically passes through the editor window. Alexis Allard is one of the playful creators who have managed to turn their passion into a profession. Solo version author Welcome to (successful roll and Wright) and Small islandhe continued with Tanuki Market and especially Welcome to the moon (together with Benoît Turpin), one of the boutique sales triumphs of 2021.

For Alexis, the term “professional writer” is much more vague than one might think. “Obviously, since the publication of the game, you are a professional writer. But if you include only those who do this for a living, then things become much less obvious. » After all, surprisingly, only a handful of professional authors live only at the expense of their creations. “Of the 100-150 authors who publish regularly, only about thirty live on a sustainable basis, considering them large”Alexis Allard says “I started this job as a professional four years ago. I can say that over the past year, my fees have brought me a little more than the minimum wage per month. »

In this regard, it is very difficult for a game designer to risk living solely on his work. “I quit my part-time job today because the publisher (JD Games) is paying me to develop. The question when you receive your first royalties is: “Do I give up everything to devote myself only to games? Will this reward be maintained on a regular basis in the future?” » Many authors walk this tightrope, hoping to achieve lasting success that will dispel their doubts. “The game is like 7 wonders sold just as well for ten years. Its author (Antoine Bauza) is in a much more comfortable situation because he is stable. »

Industry Boosts

The process of amateur and professional begins with the same single work of creativity. “At the moment it is difficult to distinguish them from each other. Some amateurs will have a very professional approach to their project: knowledge testing stage, presentations at fairs and festivals, campaigning with publishers… We overcome the barrier when a publisher calls you to develop a game that is not your original. creation. This is the ultimate criterion that separates the two worlds. »

As is often the case in somewhat exclusive circles, the fact of “knowing the world” often makes the difference between those who are “in it” and the rest. Naturally, starting out in the professional world means being able to strengthen your relationship with the industry. “Obviously when you publish, you make connections with other publishers and other authors. We are also much better informed about the next game mechanics that will be released. For example, when we created Welcome to with Benoît Turpin, we insisted that the game be released as soon as possible. The reason was that we already knew there was going to be a whole wave of Roll & Wright games and we wanted to be among the first in stores. »

©MOC box

This association with playful utensils allows the professional writer to save time above all else and not propose a universe that will alienate all publishers, or propose a mechanism that is already overused. This knowledge is also valuable for the equipment you want to put in your box. Due to manufacturing difficulties in China and soaring raw material prices, publishers are more aware than ever of what the game will be made of.

“Let me give you a simple example.Alexis Allard says I met a young author who wanted to put an hourglass in his game. And yet, it is impossible to find someone who will do this for you in Europe. And even in China, this is a rather expensive object for construction. So I advised him to skip it. When you don’t have that kind of information, you can waste a lot of time and energy because it can make you rethink part of the game.”

Alexis Allard also notes that many games consist of a deck of 50 cards. “Machines in the print shop are calibrated to produce 50 cards on cardboard. Therefore, abandoning this model costs the publisher more. » Whether you are an amateur or a professional, passion and imagination are the absolute foundations. Otherwise, an experienced author will save time on developing his creation, avoid pitfalls and be able to immediately communicate with the right people.

“Time dedicated to our game is a good sign that distinguishes an amateur from a professional. concludes Alexis Allard. The more professional you are, the more efficiently you work. We know how to design our games so that they don’t appear incomplete to a potential publisher, and we know how best to calibrate them to the public. »