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Whom do you thank?

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jwarrend
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Joined: 08/03/2008

I was reading the latest issue of The Games Journal, and there's a letter from Jim Deacove (of Family Pastimes games) observing that many games now seem to have an extensive list of "thank yous" in the rulebook. I am wondering, both from the company's and the designer's perspective, who can/should be thanked in the rulebook?

My personal feeling, as a designer, is that rulebook space is cheap enough, and a company should be willing to allow a designer to thank as many people as he wants to, so long as the designer feels that the individuals played a substantial role in getting the design in its current state; after all, the company is certainly benefitting from their efforts!

However, for some of us, that can be a pretty long list. I'm pretty sure that my game "Disciples" has already been tested by at least 25 different people. Should one thank every single playtester in the rulebook, or just those who played multiple times, or just those who offered feedback?

For my own testing, I'm appreciative of the time of all of the playtesters, however, some people were really just "warm bodies", people who played the game but didn't say anything of substance about the game afterwards, not even "I liked/disliked it". However, because I myself learned things about the game from each session, I feel like their efforts should still be acknowledged with a mention (although, this again doesn't distinguish between the people who were "truly helpful" and those who were just "a little helpful", but that's probably just the way it goes...)

It's my understanding that if a game is published, you'll get some complimentary copies to give to playtesters. Here again, the question becomes, "who's entitled to a copy?" What procedure do you use for deciding who should receive a copy?

I welcome any insight from published designers as to their experiences, as well as any opinions from those of us who aren't published but still have an idea of what seems fair to us!

Thanks,

Jeff

rkalajian
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Whom do you thank?

I would say to thank key contributers and have a general "and to all who helped make this product what it is" kind of message.

My thanks would be simple enough.

Thanks to my wife for all her love and support.
Thanks to all who helped make this possible.

The End :)

Anonymous
Whom do you thank?

Many games I have seen recently go both ways. Knizia's LotR and expansions include a very short list of credits, whereas Testimony of Jacob Hollow has a pretty expansive list.

My personal feeling is to thank everyone possible. I try to acknowledge everyone who has playtested a game for me. I always acknowledge anyone who's ideas add mechanics to the game (credited with "Additional Design"). Like you said, space in the rulebooklet can be cheap, and it probably won't matter to the production company if you want to fully credit everyone involved.

Who get's a free copy once it's produced? That's another story! I would reserve copies for my main playtesters that I go to regularly and who contribute the most. I'm fortunate that many of my playtesters are families, so one game would suffice for 2-4 playtesters at a crack. I would not give a free game to someone that happened to be at my friend's house and offered to sit in a playtest session. Only to my regulars.

Chip
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Whom do you thank?

For our first game, Coopetition, we included virtually everyone in the thank you list. The names actually appear on the sides of the inner box, not in the rules. We thanked everyone that playtested, or provided other types of advice. For anyone that hosted a testing session, played regularly, provided monetary support, or was worthy of additional consideration for some reason, their names appear in the special thank you section on the bottom of the box itself in plain view of anyone that picks up the game. (The other names can only be seen once the box is open.) In all, I suspect there are about 100 names on the box, about 10 to 15 appear as a special thank you. I intend to do something similar with our second game which will be introduced this holiday season.

I can't think of any games that I've given away (except those that were used as holiday gifts, not thank you gifts). I didn't have to draw the line and decide who received a complimentary copy and who didn't. I simply decided not to give any away. People that were involved in the development process, even those that were heavily involved, purchased the game rather than expecting to receive a complimentary copy. I think people recognized the financial importance from my perspective of people buying the game. They knew I couldn't afford to be giving games away. They were more than happy to purchase the game and to physically hold this product they had helped create. In many cases these people purchased multiple copies to give as gifts to friends and family for the holidays.

In subsequent printings of the game, Coopetition, I'll likely remove most of the thank you names expect those that deserve special recognition.

Chip

Anonymous
Re: Whom do you thank?

jwarrend wrote:
I welcome any insight from published designers as to their experiences, as well as any opinions from those of us who aren't published but still have an idea of what seems fair to us!

I think you've got it about right. It diminishes the contributions of those who provided (positive or negative) criticism if you decide to name everyone who ever played it. People who substantially highlighted problems or suggested improvements get a special mention from me, as do people who were particularly involved and provided momentum/encouragement. In Media Mogul, I end by naming two people; Richard Murphy who I'd never met, but was a stalwart tester for JKLM Games, providing great feedback for no financial gain, and Chris Boote, who encouraged it to be published and championed it as a tournament game for Intergame.

As for free copies, I only got 2 myself in my capacity as designer (it's a small publisher), so I haven't really had that opportunity.

Best wishes,

Richard.

Joe_Huber
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Re: Whom do you thank?

jwarrend wrote:
However, for some of us, that can be a pretty long list. I'm pretty sure that my game "Disciples" has already been tested by at least 25 different people. Should one thank every single playtester in the rulebook, or just those who played multiple times, or just those who offered feedback?

For my own testing, I'm appreciative of the time of all of the playtesters, however, some people were really just "warm bodies", people who played the game but didn't say anything of substance about the game afterwards, not even "I liked/disliked it". However, because I myself learned things about the game from each session, I feel like their efforts should still be acknowledged with a mention (although, this again doesn't distinguish between the people who were "truly helpful" and those who were just "a little helpful", but that's probably just the way it goes...)

FWIW, the credits for Scream Machine include the people without whom the game wouldn't have been there. Megan doesn't do much playtesting for me, but without her, the game would never have seen print. Frank Branham's the one who saw enough in it to bring it to Jolly Roger. Mark Jackson provided significant help in making the game manufacturable. Mike Kagen, Michael Tsuk, Ruben Castelino, and Ken Schalk put up with the initial version, and continued to playtest it anyway.

I've playtested a few dozen games that have eventually been published; I don't think my name appears in any of them, though to be fair I haven't paid close attention. And I believe I did provide significant feedback for some of them. But I don't think I've been slighted by not having my name appear; I wasn't playtesting so as to see my name in print, after all, but because it's fun...

Quote:
It's my understanding that if a game is published, you'll get some complimentary copies to give to playtesters.

You get some complimentary copies, yes; what you do with them is up to you.

Quote:
Here again, the question becomes, "who's entitled to a copy?" What procedure do you use for deciding who should receive a copy?

A much harder question, IMHO...

I can tell you that Dan Blum will be getting a copy of Ice Cream. Why? He's the one that suggested that I show that game, in particular, to Face2Face - which deserves a copy if anything does.

In the case of Scream Machine, I kept some copies, gave a few to playtesters, gave a few to family, and a few to friends, and sent one to American Coaster Enthusiasts to see if they'd review it.

If I received enough copies of a game, I'd probably give one to each playtester - but you don't generally get that many copies.

At The Gathering of Friends this year, Richard Borg sold off a number of foreign-language copies of Heave-Ho! and Hera & Zeus he'd received from Kosmos; I picked up many of them for prototype parts and boxes...

Verseboy
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Whom do you thank?

I can't speak to this issue as someone who has sold a game (though I'm working on it), published a game, or helped someone else create a game. I can, however, draw upon my experience in publishing the quillting books my wife writes.

My wife designs quilts and then publishes the patterns in her own books. Sometimes she will have other people sew some of the quilts. In those cases, the people are acknowledged in the applicable photo captions. They are also acknowledged at the front of the book. And they all receive autographed copies of the book. As the author/publisher she has more flexibility in such matters than if she were just the author. I think it's appropriate for the publisher to handle this responsibility.

Since my wife is the most prolific pattern designer in the world (For those of you old enough to remember The Guns of Will Sonnett, as Will would say about his shooting prowess, "No brag, just fact." ), her designs often appear in the books of others. In those cases, she expects to be acknowledged and given a comp copy. Recently we had an instance where an author requested a photo of a quilt from my wife. Later, when the book was published, she wrote and said she couldn't afford to give free copies to everyone who helped her. Instead she was going to make the book available to contributors at the cost at which she could get them from the publisher. We thought this was extremely tacky on her part. Later still, we received a comp copy and the publisher called to make sure we had gotten it. Apparently the publisher intervened and made sure everyone who helped with the book got a copy. As I said above, I kind of view that as a publisher's responsibility anyway. However, if my wife wrote a book for another publisher and that publisher didn't comp enough books for the people who helped, I am quite certain my wife would get them free books, regardless of the cost to her.

Admittedly, the scales are different and perhaps the expectations should be different as well. I don't know. When we put out a book, our initial print run is 15-20,000 copies. So if I have to send out 20 or 30 or 40 free copies, it's no big deal.

A listing in the acknowledgements is the minimum that should be done, in my opinion. We have even listed people in the acknowledgements when they didn't end up contributing anything. With the last book of quilt block patterns my wife wrote, she had a bunch of ladies in her guild make whatever blocks tickled their respective fancies. Then she used the ones she liked most in photographs. But everyone who took the time to make a block was listed.

Anyway, as I said at the top, it's a different field. My experiences my not apply. I think they provide a reference point, though.

And if any of you are interested in great quilt books....

http://www.judymartin.com

Steve

Chad_Ellis
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Credits page

Thank-you space is cheap but if you thank TOO many people you can cheapen the value of credit.

I think it's important to distinguish between designers, developers and playtesters -- but to credit all of them. It's (modestly) helpful for you to do so anyway, because a large playtest group sends a signal to anyone reading it that you've done some work on your game. Plus, they like it and are more likely to tell their family and friends about the game if it has a credit in it.

I also think that the credits page can be a good place to have fun if the flavor of your game allows it. My first game, Succession, has the following line in the credits page:

David Humpherys contributed nothing whatsoever to the making of this game.

It's a private joke that only a minority of Magic players will get, but even people who don't get it often laugh and then ask me what the joke is. There's also a heartfelt dedication to a good friend of ours who died shortly before I came back from Germany (and who otherwise would have been very involved in our game development) as well as a special thank-you to my best friend from high school, who inspired one of the game's characters back in the day when we played Dungeons and Dragons.

Regards,
Chad

Zzzzz
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Joined: 06/20/2008
Whom do you thank?

Well I agree with many of the comments already posted, and I tried to thank everyone that I can, but I want to add in one thought.

Does the size/scale/complexity of a game justify having "more thank you or credits'?

Think about UNO and think about MTG. Does the size/scale/complexity of MTG justify listing more people? (actually do they even list anyone, I dont know off hand).

From my personal experience with the RPG game I co-designed, you need to find a cutoff point. For me, this cutoff is usually based on the amount of input/impact a person has in the game. Whatever the criteria, enough feedback, some donated art, someone grammer checked the rules, etc,

But I also think these people deserve more then a thank you, they should be listed in the credits. Under various sections as stated by Chad_Ellis (artists, proofers, testers, designers, etc). This is more then a thank you, in my mind.

As for a thank you, go for it, unless you really try, I dont see how anyone can really have over 2 (maybe 3) general/special thank you's.

Does anyone have an example of a game that has over 3 thank you's listed? I would like to see what the thank you's include.....

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