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Lean Coffee for Game Designers

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I went to Strategicon/Orccon a week ago. Although a good portion of the weekend was spent working the Monkeyfun booth to sell Threadbare, I also spent some time talking about game design!

Sunday morning at the convention tends to be a “refuel before the last hard night of fun” kind of day, with a lot of hangovers and slow moving folks. Games on Demand doesn’t have any scheduled sessions, so with Tomer‘s blessing, I hosted an 8:30 AM Lean Coffee event for game designers and those who are “game design adjacent.” The idea was for game designers to bring either a Games on Demand pitch for an unpublished game, or a game design topic they wanted to discuss. If they got traction, game pitches would run at 9. Otherwise, we’d just have some structured “shop talk.”

Everyone was a little slow moving and overbooked, so while pretty much everyone who attended brought a topic to discuss, nobody had any game pitches. Which was fine– we had a few latecomers, but generally we had a good discussion about various topics in game design, including:

  • An idea for a Great American Novel game
  • Level up mechanics
  • Consent and Charm in RPGs

I started out by explaining how a Lean Coffee runs– we all write down our topics on index cards, vote on them, and sort them by most votes. Discuss for 3 minutes, then thumbs up or down to decide if we want to keep talking about the topic. If yes, keep talking for 1 more minute, then thumbs up/down again.

Typically, the topics are put into columns: To Discuss, Discussing, Done. I like to add a column called “Take Aways” for ideas that were especially compelling, resources people mentioned, URLs, or follow up items.

I found that we spent about 6-7 minutes on each topic and had a good chat for just under 30 minutes, at which point everyone was ready to move on to their next game sessions.

We’ll definitely do this again at the Strategicon in May, and I am looking forward to seeing some good discussion from those who take up the challenge Jim Sandoval (RPG coordinator) made at the Happy Jacks convention meetup, to make a game between now and Memorial Day and bring it to the next Strategicon and enter it for a prize!

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