Jessica Berlin is not only a stay-at-home mom to a three-year old son and newborn baby (congrats!), she’s also the Chief Operating Officer of Galvanized Studios, a San Diego-based game design company that recently ran a California Unpub Mini. Yes, you did the math correctly – hosted an Unpub while pregnant! Jessica was kind enough to share their experience hosting this event.
If I told you that I hosted an Unpub Mini event in San Diego last November for tabletop game designers to run playtests of their prototype games, you might think I’m part of a big game design studio, that I’ve done this before, or that we even have a published game. You’d be wrong on all counts, but we did it anyway!
In fact, I’m one-third of a small game design company, Galvanized Studios, which also includes my husband, Dave Berlin, and our friend, Ryan Beck. We have one game, called Micromanage, that’s actually made it to a place where we’re trying to get it published. Late last summer we decided we really needed to kick our playtesting of Micromanage into high gear, but we weren’t quite sure how to do that.
We heard about all these great Protospiel and Unpub events, as well as other gaming conventions all over the country, although none of them were happening anywhere near us. So, we decided to host our own event and see if we could help out other Southern California game designers too.
HOW DID WE DO IT?
While we were researching playtesting events, we came across a couple blog posts by Sarah Reed, another game designer, about planning an Unpub Mini event in the Sacramento area and her lessons learned after the event. Her posts and other discussions with her were very helpful and inspirational to us in our planning efforts.
Unpub also has a list of the steps to host an Unpub Mini event, and we basically followed that list in order to plan our event:
HOW DID IT GO?
Overall, the event went very well. We had a total of 17 game designers with 22 games registered before the event. Playtesters trickled in at the beginning, but by about an hour or so into the event, we had a pretty good attendance and everyone had people playing their games. We had about 50 to 60 people show up throughout the day and playing games until the very end.
We provided copies of the Unpub feedback form to the designers to use with their playtesters. We were also inspired by Luke Laurie’s blog post on How to Playtest and what he did to prepare game designers and playtesters for the Celestispiel event he hosted. We made our own version of his flyer with dos and don’ts for designers and playtesters and handed that out at the event.
The schedule we had set up mostly worked, although as the day went on, things got a little flexible and moved around, depending on who was still there and who needed playtesters.
The game designers were all very happy with the event, the number of playtesters in attendance, and the quality of the feedback they received. They all said they wanted to do it again and were very appreciative of the event. Playtesters also had a good time and several said they stayed a lot longer than they thought they would because they were just having such a good time playing the games.
- It’s a lot of work, but definitely doable. It helped to have two of us working together on the event. I could focus on the event planning and marketing and Dave could keep working on our game to make sure it was ready for playtesting at the event.
- Game designers are out there and looking for ways to playtest their games. We had absolutely no trouble filling our schedule up with game designers. There could be events like this every couple months and there would always be designers that want to sign up.
- Finding playtesters takes some work, but is also doable. Going to where there are already gamers is a good idea. Pair A Dice Games really helped us to get playtesters there and I also think the board gaming Meetup groups were a good resource.
SHOULD I RUN AN UNPUB MINI?
If you are a game designer looking for ways to get your games playtested and there aren’t any playtesting events going on near you, I would definitely recommend that you host your own event. It takes some effort, but is really not that hard and has a lot of benefits. Team up with a friend, your spouse, a fellow designer, or a game store owner, and you can do it!
For us, in addition to getting our game heavily playtested that day, we also met some other great designers, made some great connections in the board gaming industry, and got our name out there. We were very happy with the event and were glad we were able to help out other game designers too. We received great feedback on our game and ended up making many changes after the playtests we ran.
We do plan on hosting more events in the future, but don’t have a set schedule for the next Unpub Mini San Diego. If you’re interested, you can sign up on our email list at unpubminisd.com to get updates on future events.
Galvanized Studios is working on its first game, Micromanage, a corporate-themed social card game for 2-6 players, currently seeking a publisher.