Some of us have the desire to create. Pictures, words, structures, ideal communities, or songs chase us into our dreams and demand release from our mind into the world. Some of us fight those ideas using our self-doubt as a weapon of mass destruction. Others of us find ways to quiet or embrace the voices enough to bring art into the world.
I recognize that others are filled with self-confidence and seldom question their choices. I have no idea what that’s like so I can’t offer much insight there.
Taking a chance
In 2017 I submitted, at the urging of my best friend Wendelyn Reischl, an application for the Indie Game Developers Network (IGDN) Metatopia Sponsorship. I knew that Metatopia was a design convention but I assumed that it was for people that were better than me. You know, more experienced, better designers, well known, and maybe just an unknowable “better.”
The one thing I was sure of was that I would never win. I had the beginnings of a weird game about empathy and bringing hope into a child’s life that I was sure no one would ever want to play.
Like some many things that I decide are true, I was wrong. I couldn’t see my value as a designer but my friends and a group of strangers did. That group of strangers saw value in my words and gave me a chance to be seen and celebrated.
I thought that they had made a terrible mistake. My opinion didn’t stop me from getting on the plane and taking a chance on my art. I’m not sure why I took the risk but I’m grateful that I did.
From dreams to reality
Looking back at the last 10 months I realize that my growth as a game designer began the moment I got the email saying, “You’ve been chosen…”
I threw myself into getting my game ready, organizing playtests, and dealing with the logistics of last minute travel. I didn’t have time to try to make my design perfect so it just had to be functional. There wasn’t enough time to sit around and come up with reasons that I shouldn’t go. I made sure to find time to list all of the reasons I wasn’t good enough. It didn’t stop me.
My personal life exploded in the middle of the work and preparations for Metatopia. I spent many days writing through tears. I struggled and fought to keep moving forward. Despite everything feeling impossible and hopeless, it didn’t stop me. You can read about this time in my life here if you’re curious.
In a world filled with great ideas, special stories, and new voices most people won’t share theirs. The act of creating art and sharing it with the world can be a difficult journey and it’s not for everyone. I believe that everyone has at least a small glowing spot of art inside of them. It’s up to you if you want to tend it and put in the endless hours of work to see it grow.
Who should apply for the Sponsorship?
For all of you out there that don’t have someone around to encourage you to apply, I’m here to give you some guidance and support.
If you have an idea for a tabletop game to test at Metatopia you’re already part of the way there! It doesn’t matter if the game is an RPG, LARP, board game, or card game. There is room for everything. The important thing is that you’re bringing as much of yourself to the project as possible. The point of Metatopia is to get feedback, provide feedback for others, and learn. Bring the game that you’re proudest of and not only what you think others will like. You might be surprised, like I was, about what the community is looking for.
The tabletop gaming world needs a variety of voices. We need more people of color, the spectrum of gender and sexual identities, and people from a variety of cultural experiences in the industry. If you’ve ever been homeless, struggled with a serious mental illness, or lived in a unique circumstance then you have seen the world through a lens that most don’t ever realize is there. I believe that bringing those viewpoints are not only valuable but necessary to seeing the gaming world grow. You application to the Sponsorship is one way to make that happen.
Tips for your application
- Don’t be afraid to talk about your life when you’re answering questions. This is a place for you to tell the truth of your experience and where you’ve come from.
- Be specific when you describe your game and your plans for it moving forward. You don’t have to have all of the answers but offer your best ideas.
- At least one part of your game needs to be playable in a two-hour block. You need to have enough there for people to provide constructive feedback. You can test different parts of your game while you’re there.
- If you need time to plan your answers, get help with the language, or any other accessibility issues download the PDF before you apply. You can copy/paste your answers from an electronic document into the online form.
- Be yourself! I was my natural weirdo self on my application and it served me well. I talked about my racist experiences at conventions, struggles with gaming groups, and my family lineage. I’m sure that I said some goofy things too because that’s who I am. Let them see you.
- Don’t give up. There are only a limited number of spaces each year so not everyone that deserves a spot gets one. Don’t think that not being chosen says anything about your value or the worth of your ideas. Keep creating and try again next year.
How things have turned out for me
It has been almost 10 months since I attended Metatopia via the Sponsorship and my professional life is in a much different place. I’m lucky enough to become a regular contributor here at Gnome Stew, published an adventure for Savage Worlds, I’m preparing to Kickstart my game this year, and I’ve been a featured guest at several conventions. Winning one of the Sponsorships was where that all started but it keeps moving because of a tremendous amount of work. I’m learning to be more social in a convention setting, limit my self-deprecating language, and how to grind through the days when I feel worthless. I work to improve so I can grow and bring a clearer voice to my work. I am constantly overwhelmed by the support and encouragement I receive from the people I’ve met on this journey.
To quote Martha Graham, “No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.”
Donate or Apply
You have between now and August 15th, 2018 to get your application submitted. Take your time, be brave, and give the world a chance to meet you.
You can also support the program with your donations. The GoFundMe is up and running. 100% of the donations received go to the Sponsorship program. Up to eight designers will get to attend their first Metatopia, for free, and get ongoing mentorship from a professional that’s already in the industry. It’s your chance to change the gaming world and ensure that cool games get made.