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WHAT WE LOST WITH COVID

JONATHAN FLIKE

I like to stay positive as much as possible, but I'm also a to-a-fault realist. Sometimes always looking for silver linings ignores the real negative within those glistening lines. COVID has done some damage to the board game industry, and now I find myself trying to makes sense of what was lost and where we go from here.

ROUTINE INTERRUPTED

Pre-pandemic I used to go to Starbucks after work and chip away at my games and chat it up with other side-hustling creatives. That all ended in March 2020. There were whispers of cases and people were following the news, but things didn't get real immediately. My routine was abruptly interrupted by a state of emergency in California.

I immediately stopped going to Starbucks, but they closed up shop anyway. Work moved us to a shortened schedule to reduce exposure, and I used that extra time to pour myself into my games. Other people followed suit as I found other designers looking to meet up via Zoom and work on games together.

The productivity boost was short-lived as designers in the group fell off the wagon, and I gave up trying to wrangle them. There was a collective deflation that happened, and I felt it to. Creating a board game from start to finish has these lonely stretches, they affect you after a while.

SERVICES INTERRUPTED

Before I completely gave up to the disillusionment Gods, I was able to put together playtester beta copies of Fate Weaver Zadarra and Her Unfortunate Misfortune for playtesting services. This was a way for myself to cover my bases, but both services that I found and that were recommended had shut down.

I was left with playtester copies and nothing to do with them. I moved on to working on Zadarra's Tabletop Simulator, but I got the bright idea of painting the entire panorama background, which took an ungodly amount of time and emotional energy. I finished, but not without subsequent burnout. 

KICKSTARTER CHAOS

If there was one thing that frightened off the most, it was the Kickstarter chaos I saw. There were unexpected delays, which backers were not too happy about, shipping skyrocketed, which was another hurdle. Then there was the overall poor performance of Kickstarters that should have done well. I had friends that didn't fund and even really established designers like Ryan Laukat struggled. He pulled his game Rift Knights (I was pretty bummed about this). Not that all of this was COVID, but it really didn't help. 

I was left with a lot of uncertainty, and I made a business decision to wait it out until things got better (it didn't). So I sat on my hands waiting for a perfect market that just wouldn't appear. That really killed the timelines of my games.

THE HUMAN TOLL

This has been and still is for many people an emotional and difficult time. Many designers I've made connections with have completely dipped out of the industry. Some became "one and dones" and others shelved their projects. Projects that were due a Kickstarter re-release never saw the light of day.

Nearly every boardgame creator on Patreon that I support cancelled their projects whether it was a podcast, videos, or playthroughs. COVID created a draining effect on creators that left a permanent hole. It's sad to see.

DUSTING OFF THE DEBRIS

If there was one thing COVID taught me, it is that some things are beyond your control and you need to be okay with that. Now that I've more or less accepted this truth, I need to dust myself off and get these games to market. I don't want to be another creative victim to the pandemic, so let's hustle. Whatever we lost to COVID I'm not pining to get back (sorry Starbucks time), it's time to move forward and get back to making great games.