The Most Important Thing: A Guest Entry by Aaron Belmer

26 June 2014 | 1 Comment

IMAG0642In your local gaming community (game stores, meetups, conventions, etc), can you think of someone who extremely welcoming to new folks, someone who went out of their way to meet you and find a game for you? Someone who is so passionate about games and the community built around them that their enthusiasm is contagious?

In St. Louis, that person is Aaron Belmer. (There are others too, but Aaron is on top of my personal list, and probably many others.)

Aaron is a game designer, and recently he branched into the exciting world of game development and publishing with his first Kickstarter campaign for A Fistful of Dinero. When the campaign went live, I asked Aaron if he would mind sharing his passion and enthusiasm on my Kickstarter blog, as I think he has a lot of wisdom and insights we can all learn from. I hope you enjoy it!

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Jamey, thanks for having me on!  We currently have our Kickstarter for A Fistful of Dinero running, and am glad to take some time to chat with you and share some things I’ve learned through the process!

The first question I asked myself before anything else happened was:  What’s the most important thing? 

What is it?  Why am I here?  Why am I publishing a game?  What’s my mission statement?  What is driving this, and what is THE most important thing.

That’s a pretty heavy thing to just define in a few words, so let me outline the journey it took to get there, and hopefully it can help a few other designers who are trying to take the next step towards publication.

Integrity: What I learned from my buddy Brandon Porter, a JAG in the U.S. Air Force

We’re sitting at a bar one day, and Buddy says, “The air force values are: Integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all you do.”

We ran a small play-and-win contest at Origins for everyone that played/demo’ed the game, they’d be entered in a drawing for a chance to win the game after it funds.  It’s tiny little things like that test your integrity in life constantly.  How easy would it have been to just ignore that at the end of the day?  But the bad karma would catch up to you I’m afraid, plus someone DID play your game and possibly DID give you invaluable feedback.  Giving back to the community, both through kept promises, and even charitable donations, will come back tenfold.

Sometimes it’s mentally hard to give something away for free.  You’re a small company with pennies as margin, and you think ‘lose money’.  But really that’s the wrong approach.  It’s build community.  Invest.  Do the right thing.  Keep your promises and instill trust. Serving others is a tough one, but aren’t those the folks that really shine through?

f1N2SFamily: What I learned from the Bluth family

“What do we always say is ‘the most important thing’? – Michael Bluth

“Breakfast?” – George Michael

“No, family!” – Michael Bluth

My mom still sends me notes all the time on how (with a mom accent), “how creative you area, very proud of you!”  That’s a cool mom thing to hear.  My grandma still reminds me how SHE’S the one that first got me into games by playing Scrabble.

Your family is (hopefully!) your base of support, and invaluable resource of love and encouragement.  Don’t be afraid to share your passion and goals with them, and ask for help when help is needed.  As crazy as your family is, they love you and will help you should the need arise.  And of course your mom will always pledge!

You Are Your Own Gatekeeper: What I learned from Jamey Stegmaier

This post by Jamey was a huge breakthrough piece of motivational writing, and I applaud Jamey for a great list of things, especially blogging his kickstarter lessons, and this gem of an entry that spoke to a great many people, myself included.

Before I ready this, I was 99% sure I wanted to move forward, but there was SOME THING that was keeping me back, keeping me afraid.  And that something was ME.  As soon as you can release your fears, shed your self consciousness, THEN you can really start to get to work.  I won’t even try to summarize this post, please read it if you haven’t already, and prepare to be inspired.

Passion: What I learned from Richard Launius, designer of Arkham Horror, Defenders of the Realm’ and about a million other amazing games

Passion.  Passion for the industry, for the design, for the people that play them.  Richard EMBODIES excellence.  Excellence in attitude, kindness, playtesting, design, approachability.  He’s the whole package, and truly an asset to our community.  His love for (not only) his designs, but the PEOPLE that play them exceed all things, and it’s a truly inspiring sight to behold.  I’ve met a lot of designers, all of who are amazing people in their own way.  Richard just happens to be kind of the supreme commander of awesomeness when it comes to our industry.

Watching people, studying their body language, watching them enjoy the game is simply priceless.  That’s what we’re here for, bringing joy and excitement, a strategic suspension of belief, a moment of cardboard bliss.  I absolutely love watching people enjoy the games we make.

Get to Know Your Customer: What I learned from Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon.com

In Fortune magazine, Jeff Bezos gave an interview where he stated how PASSIONATE he is about his customers.  He wanted to do anything and everything, bend over backwards, get to know, get to love his customers.  Returns? Yes.  Price exception? Yes?  I’m listening.  I’m here, listening to you.  Feedback?  Yes.

Jeff is dead on right here.  Every design/publish bone in my body is motivated by what YOU want to play.  I hear some designers say “I make what I want to play” and I think that’s admirable.  I mean, I DO want to play what I make, but I want YOU to play it too.  I’m obsessed with YOU and YOUR enjoyment of the game, your likes and dislikes.  What makes you tick, what are you looking for.

And most of all, I want to make/design a game that you will NEVER want to trade or sell from your collection.  If I think that this is just a typical game that after 1 play will see the trade table, I won’t want anything to do with that project.  I’m making this game for you and your family.

I’m here to tell you that if, as a game designer or budding publisher, that you want to design or publish a game.  You can do it.  You ARE holding yourself back if you’re not pushing forward.   Push forward with excellence and integrity in all you.  Lean on your family, they love you!  And have a raw passion for your craft that will be contagious to those around you.  And listen to the people that play your game, and play games in general.  They are our entire world.

Oh, and eat breakfast.  Cereal was actually the correct answer.  Cereal is the most important thing.  George Michael was right the whole time.

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