My friend Patty and my next door neighbor came over and helped me pack figurines into boxes for 3 hours. It would have taken me five hours, that’s what friends are for. I’m feeling relieved to finally have the pieces in boxes and ready to go. 17 days until D-Day, gotta get this stuff in transit. Finished reading / skimming Blasphemy (I skipped over 1600 to about 1880), a few interesting nuggets: In 1942, the Supreme Court ruled that profanity is not protected speech (Chaplinsky vs. New Hampshire); it seems a Jehovah’s Witness named Chaplinsky called all religion a “racket. ” A cop confronted him, and he called the cop a “God damned racketeer” and a “damned Fascist.” Chaplinsky was convicted because of his profanity, and the Supreme Court upheld it. In 1941, the Supreme Court ruled that an Oklahoma City law that made it unlawful to “reproach or ridicule God, Jesus Christ, the Bible, or the Christian or any other religion” was indeed constitutional. So much for freedom of speech, goddamn it. Interesting. The book concludes by saying that though blasphemy laws are rarely enforced these days, they are still on the books in many places, and are legally speaking enforceable.
Began reading a book called Blasphemy: Verbal Offenses Against the Sacred, From Moses to Salman Rushdie, by Leonard Levy. It’s been on my shelf for years, but I figured it was time to bone up on it, as it’s possible I’ll be called a blasphemer at some point soon, so I might as well know what I’m being accused of. I won’t bother to summarize it, but I learned a few interesting facts about the history of insulting gods: 1) “For most of history, blasphemers have been devout Christians” — it’s usually different sects of a religion that consider each others blasphemers; only rarely and recently are non-believers considered blasphemers. 2) Many sacred texts including the Hebrew Bible, declares that blasphemy, like idolatry, cannot be endured; 3) In fact, in strict Jewish tradition, merely saying God’s name is considered blasphemy (hence they use the letters “YHVH” instead).
Welcome to a blog about Playing Gods: The Board Game of Divine Domination. It is the world’s first satirical board game of religious warfare. If you don’t know about the game, the best place to check it out is of course the Web site: www.PlayingGods.com. This is more of a behind-the scenes look at the process of inventing a board game, producing it, and marketing it. As I write this, I am only a few weeks away from its World Premiere, a month away from actually getting the game in stock, and about two months away from its official “street date.”
This is my first blog. I have always resisted doing a blog, for several reasons, including: 1) it seems pretentious; many bloggers seem to think that their personal thoughts on the minutiae of life are pure literary gold and must be of interest to others; 2) I don’t really have the time to write or update a blog regularly; and 3) what little time I do have to write should really be spent on writing for money to keep the lights on, instead of for free for my own amusement, or that of a handful of literary voyeurs.
Most of these reasons not to write a blog are quite valid, but it’s also true that I have been asked by several people who are fascinated by the game. They wonder how a regular (or kinda regular) person actually creates and markets a board game more or less by himself. In truth, I have no idea, and in some ways I’m figuring it out as I go along.
One thing that won’t really be reflected here is the hours. The board game is done on my own time; I have a part-time job, which leaves me with a little more time than most people have, but that’s mostly filled up with writing columns. Working from 8 in the morning until 11 o’clock at night is typical for me, and has been since March 2007 or so. I’m not complaining (nor bragging) about the 14 or 15 hours days, just being honest about the time commitment in case you’re wondering. I am doing this basically by myself; I have gotten help from various wonderful people (especially regarding the Web site and graphics work) and supporters, for which I am very grateful, but I am the only one who deals with marketing, starting a small business, distribution, creating ads, flyers, tournaments, orders, e-mails, Paypal issues, Web questions, setting terms, mailing flyers, and so on. I’m risking my parent’s money (and much of my own) and I’m determined to do all I can to make the game succeed, or at least break even.
To be honest, I never really wanted to be a businessman. Some people get a massive hard-on over business and negotiation and the art of the deal; I don’t. I can do it, and am doing it, but I consider myself more of an inventor. It gradually dawns on me that the reality of the situation is that it’s my game, and if I don’t do it, no one else will. I don’t have the money to hire someone else to do it, and it’s clear that Parker Brothers and Hasbro won’t be offering to buy me out. Fair enough.
So here it is… I’m not quite sure what people may find interesting or useful, but I hope this may provide some insights. Feel free to drop me a line or offer feedback.
This is very much a work in progress. I’ve never done this before, and though I believe in my idea and the game, I don’t know how it will be received. Some people love it, others will refuse to play it on principle. I could be successful, or I could wind up deep in debt, with a storage space full of thousands of unsold games. I might get death threats, and/or people might get the satire. I don’t know, but I’ll keep you updated as I can.
What Has Come Before (The background)
I sent out letters with my business plan to friends, family, and other potential investors. I had done a lot of research on board games and the industry and costs and target audiences, and I was asking folks for anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000 to help cover my expected expenses of about $50,000. I don’t have anywhere near that kind of money, and was hoping that friends of the family might be willing to loan me (at reasonable interest rate) some money to help my dreams take flight. I included color flyers, little figurines, and everything. I wasn’t expecting much, and that’s what I got. In the end, I didn’t get a dime from anyone other than my parents and one Christian friend (thanks JCat!). I had already spent about $10,000 over the years on graphics, artists, prototypes, and so on, and borrowed about $40,000 from my parents.
After much anguish and searching, and many stops and starts, I found a fairly reputable game manufacturer. (They are really a middleman between me and a Chinese printer and manufacturer.) That in and of itself was a fucking nightmare; one game manufacturer actually lost my prototype, and didn’t own up to it for weeks and months, ignoring e-mails and calls.
I decided that the game’s World Premiere will be at this huge event called Dragon*Con, in Atlanta. I was a guest presenter there last year, and will be returning this year as well. It’s got 35,000 people, from Goths to nerds to B-list celebrities to fantasy and sci-fi authors. Oh, and a whole Gaming track. I figure that this is a crowd that would dig Playing Gods, and not be offended at all. I had originally been told (and therefore expected) that I’d have the games in time, as the typical production run is 3 months including shipping. I got contradictory answers about whether the games would or would not be in on time. One day I’m told all should be fine, the games will be in before Dragon*Con (D*C), the next day I’m told, well, what I meant to say is that they might be in a week after that… I have literally gotten three different answers in one week, which makes planning very difficult. I need to know whether I will or will not have any games to sell at my World Premiere; this is not a minor issue.
I won’t go into the tortuous history behind it, but as of July 1 this was the situation: My run of 5,000 board games could NOT be done in time for D*C. But, due to quick thinking and lots of begging, I COULD have the first 250 games pulled off the factory line and shipped directly to Atlanta. These games would be complete—with the very significant exception that they would not have any of the pawns / idols / god figurines. Having 250 games (even without pawns) at the World Premiere is better than having zero games, but this also meant that I had to figure out how to get 250 sets of the pawns to Atlanta on time, so that I’d have complete games to sell. I ended up having 250 sets of the Limited Edition, hand-cast figures made locally. They cost me nearly $3 each, instead of the regular pawns which will be made in China for 20 cents each, and I’d end up paying about $500 to send them to Atlanta. I would end up cutting the profit on my games in half, but at least I’d have 250 games to show and sell at Dragon*Con. Or at least that’s the plan…
Enough of the backstory… I’ll pick up my journal / blog entries on July 1: