The BGDG of Utah’s Discord is a great way to get to know those in the guild and discuss all things game design! If you’ve not joined yet, we’d love to have you come and participate with us!
BGDG of Utah Social Media
We have an active Twitter and Instagram account now! Please follow and start using #bgdgofutah in your game design related posts and they will be liked, retweeted etc!
ProtoCON 2024: In Person Event
ProtoCON is scheduled for January 26-27 at the Valley Fair Mall in their event hall! This will be a great location that will allow ProtoCON to continue to grow in the coming years! You can pick up your badge here.
What does it cost to attend ProtoCON?
Playtest access to all events
Designer Triple Session
Three 3-hour prototype slots
Designer Double Session
Two 3-hour prototype slots
Designer Single Session
One 3-hour prototype slot
Open Gaming Designer
Playtest During Open Gaming
Youth Designer Badge
1.5 hour session
Media and/or Sponsor
Early bird pricing ends on January 1st, 2024.
Below are our current sponsors! Thanks to all of you who are willing to support ProtoCON and provide support!
Below are a few of the success stories we are aware of regarding past participants of ProtoCON and/or ProtoCON Online. We are excited to see the success of games that have participated in ProtoCON and are happy to shout out additional success stories as we learn about them! If you know of an example of a success story from ProtoCON, online or the in person event, please let us know and we will add it to the list!
Gempire: Zarmund’s Demands, designed by Paul Elpers, 2023 Ion Award winner
Gnome Hollow, designed by Ammon Anderson, 2023 Ion Award finalist
Septet, designed by Dustin Dowdle, 2021 Ion Award finalist
Contest information gathered from https://cardboardedison.com/contests
Guild Related Videos, Games and Podcasts
The Board Game Community Show podcast
Game Design Highlights Interview with Joe Slack
What’s your backstory? Tell us about yourself and how you got into game design.
I’ve always loved games – video games, card games, board games. I started getting into modern board games a little more than a decade ago and my group of friends were playing a lot of party games at the time. I enjoyed them at the time but everyone wanted to play the same one over and over and it started to lose its appeal to me.
I began thinking that I could make a game that was similar but had a lot more creativity and originality. So, my first game was born. Then I started getting about converting a card game my family used to play during the holidays into a much faster-paced dice game. From there, the ideas just kept flowing and I got better as a game designer with every new game idea and iteration.
Can you walk us through your design process? Do you start with specific themes in mind or want to utilize certain mechanisms?
It depends on the game, as each one can start out differently. I may have an interesting theme, component, or even a name pop into my head and I sit down and try to figure out how it would work as a game.
However, I try to focus my attention more on the vision for my game early on, that is, what experience I want players to have when they are playing it. Do I want players to feel clever through solving some type of puzzle? Do I want them to feel a lot of tension? Or am I aiming for a relaxed, chill environment?
If you could pick 3 games that every designer should have to play, as a sort of game design curriculum, what would you choose?
Ooh, tough question. There are so many great games and I know there are some classics that I have still yet to play, so I’ll focus on a few that I have played and learned a lot from.
First up, Pandemic. This is the game that really got me into modern board gaming. It opened up my eyes about being able to play cooperatively and needing to collaborate in order to win. There is such a great push and pull between what you need to do to win (gather cards to research cures) and what you need to do to avoid losing (not keeping outbreaks under control), all while using a great system of action points to meet your goals.
Second would be Splendor. It’s such a clean engine-building game. It’s a great example of simplifying something down to the very core and still making a really interesting game experience.
Lastly, I would recommend Azul. Another simple concept that just works so well. The drafting mechanic is really clever and allows players to go for what they want or really turn the screws on another player by forcing them to take a bunch of tiles they can’t use.
Game Related Questions
Tell us about any current gaming projects you’re working on that you are able to talk about!
Mayan Curse is my latest game, which recently wrapped up a successful Kickstarter campaign. It’s a puzzly adventure game for 1-6 players where you explore ancient ruins on the way to a temple in order to try and view a lost secret city that is said to only be viewable from a distant temple. So, you match up symbols from your sacred stones, slide slabs, and make pathways to try and reach the temple, picking up knowledge along the way. However, as you travel further, you’ll trigger boulders, which will roll back and try to block the entrance, trapping you forever!
What design challenges have you faced when designing games?
All sorts! Game design is essentially a series of problems that need to be solved, which is something that really drew me into game design.
The sorts of challenges that often arise are: How can we tie the theme and mechanics together more tightly? How can we incentivize players to take certain actions? How can we make turns faster and improve the flow of the game? How can we make this game a better product (including good value for the money)? How can we simplify the game? How can we explain the game in an intuitive way that doesn’t have players constantly checking back on the rules? What needs to be cut to make this a better game? And, of course, how do we make this more fun?
Do you have any advice for others when it comes to game design?
The one piece of advice I always give is to get your idea to the table as quickly as possible. Don’t try to make the perfect game in your head because no matter how much time you spend thinking about it, your game won’t be perfect, and it probably won’t be nearly as fun as you imagine it will be. So, you’ve got to create a minimum viable prototype (MVP) with the fewest components and least amount of work possible just to try out the concept to see if it works. Don’t create the whole game. Just put together what you need to get an idea of how it would work. Then you can figure out what’s fun, what’s not, and make changes to help this evolve into the game it wants to become.
Final Wrap up Questions
How did you come to be involved with ProtoCON?
I met David Gonsalves at Breakout Con in Toronto a number of years ago. We were both playtesting our games in the Proto T.O. area, which was a smaller version of one of our game design events here in Toronto. He loved the concept so much that he brought the idea back home with him and started up ProtoCON.
I loved that enthusiasm and I tried to help support the event by sponsoring and providing some helpful resources to attendees.
I hear you are helping to support ProtoCON by providing some prizes. Take a moment to highlight what you are donating to ProtoCON.
Sure thing! I’ve donated 2 copies of my book The Board Game Designer’s Guide to Careers in the Industry and 2 copies of my book The Board Game Designer’s Guide to Getting Published, along with a couple of games, including Kingdom’s Candy Monsters.
Do you participate in any game design guilds or playtest groups?
I’m a regular at Protospiel Online and you’ll find me moderating and playtesting at every event they hold. I’m also a semi-regular in the Virtual Playtesting Group and I host a monthly online game design event as well. In terms of in-person events, I’m the lead organizer of Protospiel North and try to attend whatever game design events in the area I’m able to join as well.
If people wanted to contact you or follow your game designs or other projects how should they go about that?
These lenses from Jesse Schell’s book The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses, is a great way to view game design with new and varied perspectives. Each newsletter will feature a lens from the book and you are welcome to join in a discussion on the topic in the BGDG of Utah’s Discord!
Published by Dustin Dowdle
Dustin is the Assistant Clinical Director for a residential treatment facility but doubles as an indie game designer in his spare time with his design studio Odd Fox Games. Dustin is also a member of the Board Game Designer's Guild of Utah, and a collaborator for both ProtoCON Utah, a board game prototyping convention in Salt Lake City and ProCON Online, a virtual board game event. Dustin has also had the honor of being selected twice as a finalist for the Ion Award for two of his designs (Scoundrels and Septet).
View all posts by Dustin Dowdle